Texts: Galatians 3:21-25; Leviticus 18:5; Romans 3:9-19; 1 Corinthians 9:20; Romans 3:1, 2; 8:1-4
Facebook researchers shut down two artificial intelligence robots after they started communicating with each other in their own language. The robots, Bob and Alice, originally communicated in English, then switched to gibberish. The researchers realized that they had developed their own, more efficient language.
This new communication, unintelligible to humans, is a result of their programming. Bob and Alice are programmed to negotiate and only undertake actions that result in a “reward.” When English stopped delivering the reward, developing a new language with exclusive meaning to them was the more efficient communication. “At the end of every dialog,” explains Facebook, “the agent is given a reward based on the deal it agreed on. They can choose to steer away from uninformative, confusing, or frustrating exchanges toward successful ones.” The problem is that no one knows what Bob means when he (it) says “i i can i i i everything else.”
Bob and Alice deemed human English as inefficient for communication compared to its own language. They have taken English to another level. Since Bob and Alice are designed to interact with humans, the researchers shut them down to reprogram them to stick with English only. To some, however, this reinforces Elon Musk’s recent warning: “AI is a fundamental existential risk for human civilization, and I don't think people fully appreciate that.” This incident makes the argument that robots could be smarter than humans someday. In the meantime, it’s nice to know that AI can be switched off with the pull of a plug.1
Just as AI language is incomprehensible to us, our lesson this week takes an unusual track on the topic “The Road to Faith”—the law, of all things, leads us to faith. The two seem incompatible at first, like trying to decipher an AI conversation. Just as Bob and Alice discovered that the English language wasn’t adequate to reach their destination, so we see that, although the law may show us our need for Christ, it alone doesn’t deliver us into the kingdom. We need the next level of spirituality—our salvation comes by grace through faith in Christ.
The lesson shows how law and saving faith, in their proper context, are indeed compatible. The law is not an end in itself; it shows us our need for grace. It leads us to the agent that fulfills the promise of salvation by grace, and that agent is faith. The law can also serve as a guardrail to keep us from falling off the road of faith. “Faith” in the Bible can often be translated as “faithfulness.” Relying on law alone, though, can be as dangerous as letting Bob and Alice run amok. Just as English provided the framework for Bob and Alice’s new language, the law simply provides the framework to help us to live our lives based on faith.