The future is here: Artificial Intelligence and the changing workforce

April 23, 2018

George Jetson and his family lived in a future with flying cars, a household robot, and other high-tech luxuries. The Jetsons originally premiered in 1962 as a sci-fi fantasy cartoon produced by Hanna-Barbera and relaunched in the late ’80s. The Jetsons lived a fairly simple life in the sky with all of the things that we thought the future would hold. Even with all of the luxuries and gadgets that made life easier, George often complained about his job because it consisted of pushing a button repeatedly on the RUDI (Referential Universal Digital Indexer) computer for one hour a day, twice a week. It was too much work for George and his Space Age peers.

In the Jetsons, many of the common jobs that we have today were replaced by computers and robots, leaving humans with little work to do. Is this what the future holds for us as technology continues to revolutionize the workplace? While it might seem laughable to think about computers taking over our work, this concept is a serious consideration for many in the technology field.

We don’t have flying cars or household robots, but we do have self-driving cars that are being tested. Some of us even own a personal robot that is tasked with the chore of cleaning our homes. Technology is growing at such an exponential rate that many technologists are starting to worry about and plan for how these advancements will affect our society at large, specifically as more and more of our jobs become automated. Automation is not a future sci-fi idea but a reality in today’s workplace. The future is here, and we, as the church, need to think critically about the impact that these technologies will have on our lives, especially on our work.

What is Artificial Intelligence and automation?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is an emerging field of technology defined as non-biological intelligence, where a computer system is programmed to accomplish a stated goal based on a set of algorithms or computer formulas. Commonly known examples are Apple’s Siri, Google Home, and Amazon’s Alexa. AI is also used in many distinct fields for an array of purposes. From home automation to image recognition software, AI inhabits a vast landscape and is being used more frequently to automate certain tasks or jobs. Automation is the process in which a goal is accomplished through the use of AI without the need for a manual intervention from human beings.

Think about the emerging concept of the internet of things (IoT). IoT consists of web-connected devices, commonly known as “smart” devices. I have equipped my home as a version of a smart home with certain automation tools that make life easier for my family. From turning on our porch light at sunset to adjusting the temperature based on the occupancy of the house, automation accomplishes pre-set goals without the need for me to tell the system what to do in that moment. I set it and forget it. The AI runs without my help all day and night, monitoring things and completing tasks on my behalf.

Work and AI

So how will AI and automation affect our work? This is a hotly debated question among leading theorists and researchers, but most technologists predict a massive shift in our economy and jobs in the semi-near future. Lower-skilled jobs or ones that require repetitive tasks are being replaced as we speak, and some predict that even higher-skilled jobs will be replaced by AI and machines within the next 20–100 years.

AI is already replacing some jobs we perform because it can be cheaper, quicker, and more accurate. Jobs ranging from manufacturing to data processing are being replaced daily by new technologies using various forms of AI. For example, our factories used to be full of people who worked long and hard hours. Production used to require a high level of human interaction, providing many job opportunities. But today, fewer workers are employed because of the use of industrial robots and computer systems. These have made manufacturing cheaper, faster, and in many ways, safer because they help eliminate human error and fatigue.

In addition, many jobs that were thought to be off limits to AI and technology are now open to automation because of ever-improving technology. Many jobs, such as warehouse workers, cashier clerks, cooks, and drivers, are predicted to be partially if not fully automated in the near future. For example, French officials have already constructed a subway line in Paris that operates without a human driver in the train. An AI interface manages the workflow for multiple trains that operate on the single line of the transit system. This AI system is monitored by one central human controller who can intervene in the case of an emergency or system malfunction. What once took the direct human involvement of many is now being shifted to a single operator.

Certain jobs might not be fully automated in the near future, but many of the tasks that accompany that job will be. Examples included data processing for paralegals, bookkeepers, tax accountants, and personal assistants. Today, you can sign up for an AI personal assistant called Amy/Andrew Ingram (AI) through the company x.Ai. It will help automate your schedule and book appointments for a small monthly rate. This AI assistant doesn’t require breaks, overtime pay, and never asks for a raise (unless the company decides to charge more for their services), making it more appealing than its human counterpart.

The church's response

The church must respond and think critically about the rise of AI because it will have a massive impact on our lives and those in the communities around us. From job loss to retraining, most of our people are seeing these effects now or will experience them soon, no matter how old or experienced they may be. It is not a question of “if,” but “when?” So, here are two ways we can begin to prepare.

First, we must train the next generation to think critically about what professions they choose to pursue. While a complete AI takeover of the workforce is not likely imminent or even possible at this point, many of the jobs that are currently available might not exist in the near future, or will look very different. We can join the next generation in learning about these changes in order to set them (and ourselves) up for future success. Many schools and colleges are now providing programs and degrees in technology-related fields, such as computer programming, computer development, and mechatronics. The need for these types of jobs will continue to grow as technology becomes more thoroughly integrated into our lives.

Max Tegmark, author of Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, gives three questions that I believe are helpful to think about when we talk to our kids about their future careers:[1]

  1. Does it require interacting with people and using social intelligence?
  2. Does it involve creativity and coming up with clever solutions?
  3. Does it require working in an unpredictable environment?

Tegmark’s questions are helpful because they show that there are certain tasks that AI is not able to perform at this point. The level of intelligence needed to replace humans in these things is probably many generations away, if possible at all.

We were given the ability and desire to work by God before the fall, which means work is not a by-product of sin but part of the Imago Dei.

Second, the church must help cast a vision for work that is more than a means to an end. It is an essential part of what it means to be human. We were given the ability and desire to work by God before the fall, which means work is not a by-product of sin but part of the Imago Dei (image of God).

In a technological age, we might be tempted to seek AI-based machines to work for us so that we have more time for leisure and play. In fact, there has been a rise of robots that take on our chores. From robot vacuums to lawn mowers, these devices can perform tasks for us, saving time and money. But there are downsides that come along with all the benefits of these advancements.

Growing up, I was taught the value of hard work and discipline through mowing our lawn. Mowing over one acre of land was a shared chore between my sister and me. While I would have loved a Jetson-like robot to do my work, I learned about perseverance, the value of hard work, and developing a strong work ethic through the sweat and labor. Simply automating our jobs and life for the sake of leisure misses a crucial aspect of human dignity. We were created to work, not just to provide for ourselves, but to grow us and help us become more like Christ. Work is part of our sanctification, and without it, we will actually become less human.

As the church living in the age of technology and AI, let us commit to casting the vision that work is a good part of creation, and technology can aid us in that calling. New technologies will continue to come and may even perform certain things better than we can, but technology will not and cannot change what it means for us to be a human created in the image of God. We have a choice about the type of future we will inhabit. We need to cherish work rather than teach the next generation that button pushing is beneath us and that life is about procuring leisure with our flying cars, household robots, and high-tech luxuries.  

This article is from Light Magazine. You can read it for free here.


  1. ^ Max Tegmark, Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, (Alfred A. Knopf, 2017), 121.

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