"We gave each other a beautiful gift."
Throughout the year, the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ produces the Daily Lectionary for use by churches. These are the suggested readings for Tuesday, March 24th: Psalm 146; Isaiah 42:14-21; and Colossians 1:9-14. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
I don’t subscribe to HBO so I have never seen Westworld. I did, however, read an interview with Jeffry Wright in Parade Magazine. He plays the role of a programmer in this science fiction program. These characters, the programmers, are the people behind the hosts who inhabit the artificial-intelligence-engineered theme park of Westworld. In other words, Westworld is inhabited by robots, but these robots are so advanced that they have crossed the threshold to artificial consciousness. They are computers who are aware.
Alan Turing was a giant of the age when computers were born. He foresaw the immense possibility ahead for these machines. This caused him to wonder if the machines could ever achieve human-like intelligence and awareness. He developed what is now called the “Turing test.” If a person is interacting with a hidden person and a hidden machine, and the person cannot distinguish which is which, then human and machine will have become indistinguishable. This would no longer be Westworld-like science fiction. It would be science.
Some extremely intelligent people now believe that artificial intelligence will distinguish itself from humans by surpassing us. Take as an example my web search of “Turing test.” In a half a second, Google’s search engine found links to over 32 million sites that mentioned this topic! Computers can already best us at assembling facts and beating us at games, but they have not yet gained artificial consciousness. What a ride it will be for religion when they do. I hope I live long enough to witness the interchange.
But back to the science fiction where this has already been accomplished. Season Three has just begun. The cliffhanger at the end of Season Two was this statement of a programmer: “We gave each other a beautiful gift: choice. We are the authors of our own stories now.”
God has created us with the freedom to choose. This is why the world is not perfect. Too often too many choose wrong. That gift of being able to choose, however, cannot be compromised even by God because if it is the gift is destroyed. We lose the priceless gift of authoring “our own stories.”
And lest we think it is only a gift to us, I think we should also look at it like Westworld hints: it is a gift “we gave each other.” Our freedom is a gift to God because it means that our faithfulness is a choice to be with God. It is not mandated. It is not coerced. It is chosen. And that makes it meaningful for us and sincere for God.
We are writing “our own stories now.” God has given us this privileged responsibility. But we are never in this alone. We read in the beautiful passage from Colossians: “May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from [Jesus’] glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.”
Always, but especially in trying and uncertain times like these, let us trust in Jesus, and let us share our way forward with Him. We don’t have to do this alone. Thanks be to God.
Faith, love and chitchat.
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