Listen again to BBC Radio Ulster Thought For The Day

Scientists and anthropologists have often asked themselves ‘What is it that human beings can do that Artificial Intelligence can’t’? Computers after all can play chess better than most of us. They can work out answers to all kinds of questions that would take us much longer. They can write academic essays, create visual art and make financial investments.

I’m led to believe they can even write perfectly acceptable ‘Thoughts for the Day’!

There is a very real fear that AI will one day overtake us.

The writer David Lodge wrote a provocative novel on this theme entitled ‘Thinks’.

The heroine eventually discovers the answer to this question ‘What is it that human beings can do that AI can’t’? Humans can weep and humans can forgive. Two extremely powerful human activities which take place in a quite different dimension from anything a computer can possibly do, for without them we would be much less than human.

Weeping is a very raw emotion. Very few of us care to think about those times in our lives we have wept, because they remind us of the depths of despair, bitterness or grief which have been deeply embedded within our consciousness. Weeping is distress beyond words.

And forgiveness. That act of the will that choses to do what is counter to any intuitive way of behaving. To give up the right to revenge, to deliberately forfeit the right to seek repayment from the one who harmed us. Forgiveness is a form of voluntary suffering.

Artificial Intelligence can neither weep nor forgive because they neither feel nor understand emotion.

Is it any wonder then that the most complete human person who ever existed both involuntarily wept and voluntarily forgave. Jesus wept over Jerusalem the city he loved, and he wept at the grave of Lazarus his dear friend who had died. Jesus forgave those who deserted him, and he forgave those who crucified him, and as the totally perfect human being who knew most keenly the desperate depths of both grief and betrayal, Christ promises that those who place their hope and trust in him, he will both forgive their sins and wipe every tear from their eyes.

Many fear Artificial Intelligence will one day overcome us. Not so, because the perfect tears and the forgiveness of Jesus Christ are more powerful still.

– Frank Sellar