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How a series of AI-generated blog posts went viral: A warning not to waste our credibility

Ryan Denison is the Senior Fellow for Theology at Denison Forum, where he contributes writing and research to many of the ministry’s productions.

He is in the final stages of earning his PhD in church history at BH Carroll Theological Institute after having earned his MDiv at Truett Seminary. Ryan has also taught at BH Carroll and Dallas Baptist University.

He and his wife, Candice, live in East Texas and have two children.

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Liam Porr was just a relatively anonymous college student before an experiment with a new artificial intelligence software made him famous. 

The new technology is called GPT-3 and, as “the most powerful language-generating AI tool to date,” it could play an important role in shaping the future of online content. OpenAI, the San Francisco-based company behind the program, was hesitant to release a previous iteration to the public because they feared it would be abused. 

Porr, in many ways, proved them right by using the program to generate blogs to which he attached catchy headlines such as “Feeling unproductive? Maybe you should stop overthinking” and “Boldness and creativity trumps intelligence.”

For two weeks, Porr used this process to produce a daily blog and watched in surprise as several of them went viral. The goal was to see if people could tell the difference between AI-generated fiction and the writing of a real human. With a few exceptions, most people couldn’t.

In looking back on the experiment, Porr warns that “I think the value of online content is going to be reduced a lot” as a result of the ease with which people can fool the masses. After all, the revenue from AI-generated content counts just as much as that of actual writers but comes much easier and much cheaper. 

Don’t waste your credibility

If AI-generated content really does start to proliferate on the internet, though, it will only exacerbate an already present problem. Human writers are just as capable of writing meaningless and misleading drivel as a computer, and the internet is already filled with such work. 

That’s why it’s so important for people today, and especially Christians, to rely on trustworthy sources and, even then, to follow the example of the Bereans, who unwaveringly tested the information they received to be sure it added up (Acts 17:11). 

Many of those most antagonistic to our faith already believe we’ve been duped into believing a lie, and any false information we claim to be true in other facets of life is only going to strengthen that belief. If we want to change their minds about the truth of the gospel, a necessary first step is changing their minds about our ability to discern truth in general. 

As Christians, our credibility is, in many ways, our most valuable currency. 

Let’s not waste it on conspiracy theories and half-truths simply because we didn’t want to take the time to discern fact from fiction. 

Our witness is worth much more than that.

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