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Are We Being Replaced?

This week, an unmanned cargo train travelled for over 57 miles before being deliberately crashed in Australia. The driver of the train had stepped out of the cabin and the train started moving under an autopilot function. They derailed it in an uninhabited area and thankfully there were no injuries.

In China, viewers of the evening news watched the first digital anchor update them on world events. Wearing a red tie and pinstriped suit the computer generated anchor is able to report ‘tirelessly’ and bring people the news 24 hours per day. The ‘AI anchor’, as he is known, can speak multiple languages and looks remarkably lifelike.

If you aren’t sure what to make for dinner tonight you could turn to Chef Watson, a chef robot created by IBM. With all the knowledge of the internet at hand the robot can create and cook new recipes from scratch – just list the ingredients you have on hand.

Not a week goes by without another story about robots taking over our work. It is estimated that by 2030 robots could replace 800 million workers worldwide. Often, articles in the press wonder aloud if robots will eventually replace all of us.  What will we do once robots take all our jobs?

As a Christian I feel secure in who I am. The Bible tells me that I am created in the image of God. That knowledge gives me worth and value that can never be replaced. While I have questions about the appropriate role of computers and robots in our future, I don’t worry about who I am in God’s family. And there is one thing robots can’t yet do.

So far, no computer has been programmed to pray personally for someone else. It’s an important function that only humans can do for other humans. I picked up my iPhone and asked Siri to say a prayer for me. Her reply, “I’m not sure I understand.” Exactly. She can’t understand because it’s not something that can be programmed.

So if the world is taken over by robots, we’ll still have one thing to do – pray for one another. “And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” (Colossians 1:9) We’ll never run out of this kind of work.

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