Masters or Slaves? – AI and the future of humanity

  • In NEWS
  • February 10, 2021
Masters or Slaves? – AI and the future of humanity

Review by Arie de Pater, Brussels Representative of the EEA




Artificial Intelligence (AI) is becoming a part of our everyday life and increasingly so. AI can definitely make our lives easier. Just think about navigation, internet searches, voice assistants, shopping, reading, or television watching recommendations. But did you ever stop to think about AI and where you would set its boundaries? And has the Bible anything to say about this?


In “Masters or Slaves? – AI and the future of humanity,” Jeremy Peckham takes us on a journey to get a better understanding of AI and its impact on our lives and our societies. His guidance is founded on a solid basis of decades of experience in AI, and deeply rooted in a Christian worldview. But you don’t have to be a geek or a theologian to understand and enjoy it.


With AI marching on, it is about time we considered where it is benign or helpful and where it could get in the way of God’s good purposes for humanity.


Solid foundation


After an introductory chapter, illustrating to what extent artificial intelligence has already become a normal part of everyday life, Peckham lays a solid foundation with chapters exploring Intelligence and Technology. What is intelligence? And does artificial intelligence meet that definition? Is technology neutral and should we embrace all that is presented as progress at face value? These questions flow into a rich chapter thoroughly reflecting on what it means to be created in the image of God. These three chapters together form a sound starting point for a more detailed evaluation of Artificial Intelligence and how Christians could relate to it.


Areas of application


Computers are good at discovering patterns in vast amounts of information we feed them. However, they don’t bother about causality or impact, and bias is almost inevitable as the data used for training the algorithms is biased. So, should we allow these algorithms to make short lists of candidates for certain vacancies? Should we call on computers to do some predictive policing? Would that eventually replace all human engagement in these processes? What would be the consequences if that were the case?


Did you ever realise that most digital assistants have female voices? I was shocked to learn that in 2020 about half of Google’s searches these days are voice searches. These searches usually result in a singular answer and don’t provide you any options. It is tempting to take that answer as the one and only. While you don’t have to use these virtual assistants, your bank or other service providers might not offer you that option. They increasingly use chatbots to ‘serve’ their customers. How does that impact our communication and relations? And how should we react to the use of robots in health and social care, e.g. keeping an eye on our children or ageing parents?


Biometrical recognition can come in handy when unlocking your phone or your computer. But governments and police are increasingly using cameras to monitor public areas. This might help the police in fighting crime but how would permanent surveillance impact our behaviour? Surveillance is not limited to the real world. It might be even more prevalent in the digital world where some large companies with vast financial interests dominate the place. It is interesting to see how the author compares the use of data by these companies to the ten commandments.


As humans, we are endowed with the ability to make moral decisions. Self-driving cars and automated weapon systems can make their own. How does that relate to a Biblical worldview?


Experts differ on the impact of robots on the labour market. But what if robots increasingly take over our jobs, leaving us with more leisure time?  Would that be a good thing?


The last chapter on areas of application explore the use of virtual and augmented reality. Will this reality eventually replace the physical reality we live in? Are we building another tower of Babel, that could lead to digital immortality?


A different way to live


Wrapping up the chapters exploring the different applications of artificial intelligence and the potential impact on our lives and our societies, Peckham comes back with some useful guidance for navigating this increasingly digital era. How did God intend us to be as human beings and where does AI lead us in that regard? According to the author, virtue should inform our responses. That approach could appeal to a wider audience than just Christians.


In the final chapter, Peckham presents a Christian manifesto, addressing the challenges of AI as touched upon above. This manifesto should guide us in our goal of achieving a virtuous society that does justice to God’s purpose for humankind. As Christians, we need to create church communities that stand and work together, showing a different way to live. That’s by no means an easy task but we don’t have to walk that narrow path alone.




“Masters or Slaves? AI and the future of humanity” is wrestling with quite a few difficult questions however, these are dealt with in an accessible way. As Jeremy Peckham observes himself, the emphasis might be more on the challenges AI poses on us and our societies rather than on the benefits. It is not all doom and gloom though as the author keeps coming back on God’s glorious purpose for us humans. The book does not answer all questions and you might not immediately agree with some of Peckham’s positions. That’s perfectly fine as long as you have spent some time considering the alternatives. It is really important that we as Christians make up our mind about AI and its impact on our societies. “Master or Slaves?” can serve a wide audience as a valuable and much recommended guide on that journey.


Find more information on the book here:

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