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The First Step to Handling ChatGPT

A wonderful discussion about how to handle AI is taking place, especially now that it has reached a new “generation” with ChatGPT and similar tools.

In this article, Kate Deddens suggests some ways to approach AI. In addition, she triggered a thought.

On the Ends of Education

If education is the cultivation of wisdom and virtue, then it has to be permeated by activities that cultivate wisdom and virtue and it has to protect the disciples against anything that distracts or resists that cultivation.

This is not a simplistic matter, as though we could come up with some arithmetical formulation that would ensure success. Instead it is more like a musical mystery, a dance that requires endless modulation to the partner and to the circumstances, but always in light of underlying principles, laws, and liturgies.

Nevertheless, it is a simple matter, in that we have a single goal, virtue, for which other words might be blessedness, fulness, fruitfulness, wholeness, integrity, harmony, Christlikeness, and so on.

If we set virtue as our pole star, then all of the other subordinate questions become clearer and, as we reflect on them, we will grow wiser, not only in the way we educate students, but also in the way we govern our schools, lead our families, run our businesses, make daily decisions, and pray.

The Essential Question – and some subordinate ones

Therefore, when we think about AI, the essential question we must not stop asking is, “Will this cultivate virtue in our students?”

Some subordinate questions include,

  • Is there anything included in this tool that will tempt or distract students away from the virtues they need to cultivate? What will we do to help the handle those distractions?
  • In what way will the tools require virtues, such as attentiveness, self-control, understanding, respect, courage, and justice? How will we support their cultivation?
  • Are they ready to use this tool without making it a substitute for their own activity, without which they cannot grow in virtue?
  • Will it be a means to internal harmony or discord? In what ways? What will we do to help make it a means to harmony?
  • Will it equip them for the internal struggle that modern life has not made less necessary but for which it has failed to honor or cultivate resources?

What We Need To Do

Now that we have reached the point where we can’t afford to bury our vices under our wealth, and now that our technology has empowered us without cultivating the virtues required to manage it, we can no longer ignore these questions. In the end, therefore, this post is an appeal to a Biblical concept of “ascesis”, which is Greek for “exercise” or “discipline”.

St. Paul referred to this concept with a different word when he said, “Exercise yourself to godliness.” (I Tim. 4:7). He spoke of wrestling, striving, struggling, being tempered as in a forge, and so on.

Given how important this matter is, we cannot wonder that it has become radically controversial among Christians. I will not, therefore, dictate to you how you should accomplish it. I will only insist that you must do it. If you are not sure how, I urge you to talk to your spiritual leader, such as your pastor or priest. If they cannot give you guidance, you must pray fervently to the God who answers prayers for wisdom and instruction in this matter. You cannot do it alone. You aren’t wise, humble, and good enough. Forgive me.

In an age where everything, even thinking, can be done for us by an external means; in an age where everything has become so easy and comfortable, if we do not determine to go hungry, to be silent, to temper our body and our will, to deny ourselves, to love our neighbor even though he is a threat to our progress, we will not “be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease,” as the Victorian hymn put it. Rather, we will be spit out as lukewarm water in the mouth of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.

Everything in its Place

The first step to handling ChatGPT, then, is to be unimpressed by it and to put it in its place. Not that it is unimpressive, but that, when it comes to seeing God, cultivating purity of heart, and satisfying our hunger and thirst for justice, it has nothing to offer until we reduce it to nothing. Instead, we must enter the silence of the presence of God and pray in the Holy of Holies that is our hearts. Then, having seen God, we will know what to do with ChatGPT, the internet, spell-check, the too many books published every year, and every other distraction from or obstacle to our union with Christ our Lord and our transfiguration into the restored image of God in Christ. Indeed, we will learn how to turn both suffering and pleasure into means of union with God.


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