Central to this article is the question, Is there a connection between the Biblical account of the Canaanite city Ai and our current unease regarding the rapid advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the world? In other words, can we make a link between Ai and AI, or is it just a coincidence?
Because I have a strong Biblical worldview, and I believe that God is intimately involved in our daily lives -- just as He was in the lives of His chosen people in the Bible -- I believe that He wants to show us things so that we can align our spirits with Him, and partner with Him for His glory. So I began with a look at the city of Ai, first mentioned in Genesis 12, as a city where Abram pitched his tent as he journeyed to the land God promised him and his offspring. There he built an altar to the Lord and "called upon the name of the Lord".
NOTE: Let me digress for a moment, because our understanding of what it means to call upon the name of the Lord is important for the sake of this connection I'm trying to make between Ai and AI. To call upon the name of the Lord means "to pray earnestly in order to know how to serve Him in obedience; to submit ourselves to His authority and will; to repent of our sins, asking for mercy, compassion, and salvation/deliverance from our circumstances".
But what is the significance of that Canaanite city of Ai in terms of our relationship with God? Historically, it is the site of a consequential defeat of the Israelites due to the open rebellion of a single man in Joshua's army. Here's the setting: The Israelites, with Joshua as Commander of the army, is on the precipice of taking possession of the land of Canaan, just as the Lord God had promised. Joshua and the people bind themselves in covenant with God to obey all of His commands, declaring that whoever rebels against any commandment will be put to death. The test of their faithfulness came in the battle for Jericho, a heavily fortified city, and a key component for conquering all of Canaan. If defeated, Jericho would open up the interior land and cities for easy conquest.
You will recall the history of Jericho ... the Israelites were to march around the city walls once a day for six days, accompanied by the priests and the ark of the covenant, with trumpets blaring. On the seventh day, they were to march around it seven times, seven priests blowing the trumpets, and with a great shout from the people, the walls of Jericho would fall. Result: the city of Jericho was given to the Israelites by the Lord, with the command that everyone and everything within was devoted to the Lord to be destroyed. (except for Rahab and her family, the prostitute who helped hide the Israelite spies). There was a specific commandment that nothing was to be taken as spoil from wicked Jericho because it would make the camp of the Israelites a target for destruction and "bring trouble to it". Furthermore, "all silver and gold, and every vessel of bronze and iron, are holy to the Lord; they shall go into the treasury of the Lord".
Unbeknownst to Joshua, there was an Israelite man, named Achan, who willfully disobeyed the command of the Lord and coveted a beautiful robe and some gold and silver, taking it from Jericho and hiding it within his tent. Because Achan disobeyed the Lord regarding His commandment, "the anger of the Lord was kindled against the children of Israel", and He orchestrated their humiliating defeat at the small city of Ai. Joshua was distraught, not understanding why they were defeated, until God revealed that someone had violated the covenant and taken things from Jericho. God instructed Joshua to give the people a night to consecrate themselves and give the guilty party time to admit their wrong-doing. Until this was done, the Lord would no longer support the Israelites in battle.
The next morning, the tribes of Israel were called before Joshua to be questioned; tribe by tribe, clan by clan, and man by man. When he stood before Joshua, Achan did not repent, even though he confessed to his disobedience. And God's justice was swift. All of Israel stoned Achan and his family and burned them with fire. Then the Lord turned from His burning anger and delivered the city of Ai and its king into the hands of the Israelites. Their destruction was complete and Joshua renewed the covenant of the people with the Lord.
It was an important lesson for Joshua, and it's one we need to understand ourselves ... the nation of Israel had entered into covenant with God, and when one man transgressed, the relationship of the entire nation was at risk. In this ancient story we can clearly see God's Nature and how important His principles of obedience and repentance are to Him. We see His holiness and the consequences upon nations whose citizens are disobedient.
Can you see the connection between the Canaanite city of Ai and the danger of today's AI? The field of Artificial Intelligence research was founded at a workshop at Dartmouth College in 1956, and the US is a world leader in the high-performance infrastructure of AI research and has developed the world's most advanced AI systems [think GPT-3, for instance]. Increasingly, we are being warned of the dangers of AI, and the inherent destruction of our nation, all humanity, and the world. AI is a creation of man, and there is no identification with the spirit of God.
The ancient city of Ai points to the humiliating defeat of God's chosen people due to the consequences of breaking covenant with Him. It also is evidence that what God designated as holy was stolen from Him. Add to the list of sins the disobedience to His commandments and the refusal to repent. So, could the defilement of our covenants as a Christian nation, and our agreement with the modern-day AI lead to our own destruction? Remember, a whole nation is held liable for the ungodly actions of one man, or a few. Matthew 25 tells us that Jesus will judge between the sheep and goat nations [not just individual people]. Sadly, our leaders refuse to repent for the unholy laws we have instituted; have violated the sanctity of life; have stolen and lied to God, keeping His bountifulness for themselves; and opened us up to invasion and ruination. What can we do about it?
I think we must continue to do as 2 Chronicles 7:14 instructs us ... Call on the name of the Lord as a people -- praying earnestly to know how to serve Him in obedience; to submit ourselves to His authority and will; to repent of our sins, asking for mercy, compassion, and salvation/deliverance from our circumstances. As Scripture says, we must humble ourselves and pray, seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways, praying that He will hear and act on our behalf. But as the tale of the Israelites and their battles with the city of Ai show us, we, as a nation, may still be held liable for the sins of the unrepentant. Will the modern-day AI be the tool of our final destruction? If Chaos-GPT (an autonomous implementation of Chat-GPT) has its way, it will achieve its goals to destroy humanity, establish global dominance, cause chaos and destruction, control humanity through manipulation, and attain immortality. Sounds like it is in league with the devil, doesn't it?
But never forget or lose hope! Our God is still greater than anything man and Satan can collaborate on! Jesus, our Savior, will forever be with us and is our Stronghold, Deliverer, and Protector. He will be going before us in battle and leading us to victory. Praise Him! Confess and Repent! And trust that we will be saved from our enemies. He is Jehovah-Chereb, The Glorious Sword!
Let us consider [for ourselves] if what the Lord taught Joshua through an ancient city called Ai, could be relevant to us. Could our version of AI be the means of our destruction? Listen to what the Lord said to the Israelites:
Joshua 7:12 That is why the Israelites are running from their enemies in defeat. For now Israel itself has been set apart for destruction. I will not remain with you any longer unless you destroy the things among you that were set apart for destruction.