Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Augmented Reality (AR) are all extremely powerful tools that are making their way into our everyday lives, in ways that we may never even realize. These adaptations of technology are coming fast, and making its way through retail, restaurants, public transit, building management and so much more. It is happening fast enough and behind the scenes in ways that can be hard to keep up, with what is happening and how.
“With great power comes great responsibility” - Uncle Ben, from the movie Spider-Man
Thinking back to the 1984 movie, Terminator, and Skynet, we are predisposed to the idea of what can happen when technology is used in a negative way. This is, of course, fiction, but it does put a base fear of what can be, when this topic comes up.
In preparation for this article, I spoke with many colleagues and family members about what they thought about AI. The conversation tends to become quiet and uneasy, when we start to realize that everywhere we go, AI is impacting us in some way.
Industries use AI to market specifically to you, verify trends, and bring efficiency to process within their establishment. Margins are generally slim, and industry needs to understand the consumer at a level never imagined 30 years ago. This is done through ML and AI.
Most people think about church as a Sunday operation facility, but anyone who has worked at a church knows, it’s busy every day of the week. Focusing in on this, AI, and ML are able to completely transform our day-to-day operations, including our Sunday services.
One of my favorite things about the Google Pixel is the call screener function. I love the idea of what Google is trying to accomplish. If you get a call, but it's from an unrecognized number, you can have the call screener answer for you and it shows in text what that person is saying. From the text, you can decide if you want to answer, call back, or have them call you back.
When I get a call that I don't know the number for, I generally ignore it. I'm sure many others are the same way. Instead of ignoring the call, a more conversational AI would be able to check who it is for you, and let you know if it’s someone who you really need to take the time to talk to.
When I get a call at 3 a.m., I answer it every time, though. I figure that a call that late must be an emergency, but when a church member (or even not) calls in a time of need from an unrecognized number in the middle of a staff meeting, what do we do? We don't necessarily know who is calling, so AI can assess quickly the situation and let you know who it is, and what they want.
In a similar vein, I have been in many conversations with worship leaders and pastors where they asked how I thought Sunday went.
What if we didn't have to guess?
Through the use of cameras and AI, you could easily gauge the reactions to specific parts of a Sunday service, as well as an overall reaction assessment. If you want to know the overall reactions of the congregation when you bring up money, you could do that quickly and accurately.
I don't expect this to be something that takes over sermon planning, but it is something that can serve as a useful tool to verify against the data to confirm or deny your own suspicions about the service.
As we know, not everything happens in the sanctuary. Many conversations and a good portion of the morning, people spend congregating in different areas of the church. By using sensors in a facility, you can find out how many congregants are visiting your connection area or coffee area, sitting or standing, and how long they were there. This can tell you exactly how much coffee you need on a regular basis, how many high top tables to put out, or even how connected your congregants are after a service.
AI assistants, gauging reactions, and intelligent sensors are a couple of ways that AI will impact our lives.
I don’t believe we understand the full level to which technology will be implemented in our lives, but one thing is certain. While the potential for harm remains a possibility with AI, the potential for good is great as well. We as Christians in tech have the power to help shape and mold this for the glory of God’s kingdom.