How deepnudes reveal the pornifcation of technology

July 15, 2019

What if there was some type of technology that would allow you to undress any person you desired? Snap a picture, and then see them naked. For four days in June, there was an app for that. DeepNude, created by a developer from Estonia, sought to digitally “undress” images of women using a form of artificial intelligence (AI) to recreate the body without clothes, similar to the concept used to create deepfake videos. While the app did not show the actual nude body of the victim, it created a fake image—compiled from a data set of pornographic images culled from the internet—that gave the allure of an actual naked body. 

Thankfully, DeepNude was taken down by its developer soon after its release amidst uproar over this controversial use of AI. While this particular developer’s conscience was pricked by the evil that could be done with his app, deepnudes are another insidious form of the pornification of technology that we be prepared to deal with in our families and churches.

Fading are the days of Playboy magazine on the aisles of gas stations, centerfolds hidden in home closets, and even the videos in the private browser tab on your phone. We live in a world where the scandulous often fails to scandalize, and there is a pursuit of richer and more interactive pornography. The images and videos of men and women are leaving magazine pages and moving into our headsets, screens, and homes. 

With the rise of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), we will soon see our fantasies enter our bedrooms in hyper-realistic fantasies that use holograms and 360-degree videos. But just as magazine pages have mostly lost their appeal over time, these newer technological innovations will be replaced with something even more realistic in the future. The age-old desires for sin will remain as we seek new ways to indulge our flesh outside of God’s design. 

Pornography-driven innovation

From the beginning, humanity has sought to twist the good gifts of God in order to satisfy our fleshly desires. We use tools like technology in ways that deviate from loving God and our neighbor (Matt. 22:37-39). For example, Cain took the strength and tools God blessed him with to kill his brother (Gen. 4:8). David took the power God granted him and the weapons of justice to cover his secret sin (2 Sam. 11). The Romans took the authority God gave them and the wood of the cross to crucify the Savior (John 19:17-18).

In more modern times, we have used the printing press, for example, to produce pornography, hate speech, and misinformation. Furthermore, the internet has grown on the back of the muiltibillion dollar pornography industry and VR is gaining prominence through VR porn, which is a first-person pornography experience. Even today, we use AI and robotics to create sex robots with programmed personalities and interchangeable body parts so that we can live out any fantasy we dream up.

Indulging our desires

These sinful and prideful uses of technology are not because technology is evil in itself. We, as sinners, are the problem. Technology is amoral in the sense that it is not morally responsible like we are. It does, however, open the door for us, as humans, to expand the impact of our rebellion. 

You might be reading this as one that is repulsed at the idea that someone would enjoy “undressing” women with an app or dumbfounded that someone would choose to have sex with a sex robot. You might even laugh at the idea of holographic porn videos or VR porn that transports you to your neighbor's bedroom. Yet, just as pastor Ray Ortlund recently tweeted, we are each guilty of sexual sin, regardess of if we indulge in pornography or not. Every one of us is broken sexually and needs the good news of the gospel to overcome our misguided sexual desires (Rom. 3:23). Each of us find different ways to fulfill our longings outside of God’s boundaries.

While you may not deal with these specific issues, it’s evident all around us that the pornification of technology is perverting sexuality and leaving many in the depths of despair. Pornography has a deep-seated power over many that we interact with each day, and they are hurt and broken by the failed promises of the sexual revolution. 

The future of porn

With the advent of VR, AR, and now deepnudes, the church must be ready to engage and love those that will inevitably be burned by the failed promises of pornography. Porn promises security, fulfillment, companionship, and most importantly that our identity as a human being is reduced to our sexual urges rather than an image-bearer of God. This is one of the biggest lies of the sexual revolution in general. Pornography reinforces the societal lie that our sexual desires are who we really are. 

But the church must teach that our sexual identity and desires are not the core of our identity. We must be ready to share the hope of repentance and new life found in Jesus. We are each created in God’s image with our own sinful and broken desires that do not align with God’s design for humanity. But as a people washed by the blood of Christ, we have a new identity that is not found on the pages of magazines, the fake nude images on our cell phones, or even the realistic holograms of naked bodies in our mind’s eye. Our identity is found solely in a man who hung naked on a tree, not to indulge the flesh but to crucify it.

Jason Thacker

Jason Thacker serves as senior fellow focusing on Christian ethics, human dignity, public theology, and technology. He also leads the ERLC Research Institute. In addition to his work at the ERLC, he serves as assistant professor of philosophy and ethics at Boyce College in Louisville Kentucky. He is the author … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24