Will the next James Bond be an AI-generated avatar?

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Will the next James Bond be an avatar? The peril of AI and the path to transforming hope

December 5, 2023 -

A general view of the James Bond movie memorabilia charity auction at Christie's auction house during the press pre-view showing large portraits of the actors who have portrayed the famous movie icon James Bond, with Sean Connery, at right, in London, Friday, Sept. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

A general view of the James Bond movie memorabilia charity auction at Christie's auction house during the press pre-view showing large portraits of the actors who have portrayed the famous movie icon James Bond, with Sean Connery, at right, in London, Friday, Sept. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

A general view of the James Bond movie memorabilia charity auction at Christie's auction house during the press pre-view showing large portraits of the actors who have portrayed the famous movie icon James Bond, with Sean Connery, at right, in London, Friday, Sept. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

In the latest Indiana Jones movie, eighty-one-year-old Harrison Ford was de-aged forty years by artificial intelligence (AI). Accordingly, Sean Connery fans might hope they’ll see a young version of the first James Bond in the next Bond film. Alas, producer Barbara Broccoli has announced that, while the next 007’s identity is currently unknown, James Bond will not be an AI-rendered actor from the past.

Fans of the Swedish rock band ABBA are suffering no such disappointment. The group is currently making $2 million a week performing as avatars (lifelike digital images projected onto a screen). The band KISS now plans to do the same. “We can be forever young and forever iconic by taking us to places we’ve never dreamed of before,” KISS bassist Gene Simmons said.

Is this a good thing? Or is it just a less ominous example of a crisis that threatens us all?

“They’re some new kind of human”

Teenage girls in New Jersey were recently victimized by such technology when it was used to generate nude images of them that were then circulated at their high school. The Department of Homeland Security is warning that “deepfake” technology is being employed to generate hundreds of thousands of pornographic images, including those of children.

Fake audio is being used to steal passwords and breach financial accounts. Deepfake videos are being used to manipulate political opinion and voters. Retired Army Gen. Mark Milley is warning that “robust space and cyber capabilities [now] allow adversaries to target critical national infrastructure” vital to our military defenses. (For more, see my website paper, “ChatGPT and artificial intelligence: What you need to know.”)

But there’s an even deeper element to this rising threat.

Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan writes:

What is most urgently disturbing to me is that if America speeds forward with AI it is putting the fate of humanity in the hands of the men and women of Silicon Valley, who invented the internet as it is, including all its sludge. And there’s something wrong with them. They’re some new kind of human, brilliant in a deep yet narrow way, prattling on about connection and compassion but cold at the core. They seem apart from the great faiths of past millennia, apart from traditional moral or ethical systems or assumptions about life.

Finding “Bethlehem” today

This is the Advent week of “hope.” I would define hope as confidence in the future that brings benefits in the present. Soldiers hope their Boot Camp training is preparing them to serve their country more effectively, and this belief sustains them in their present challenges. Students hope their years of education will lead to careers that repay their investment, and this belief enables them to stay the course.

However, the validity of our hope depends on its basis. If you have cancer but place your hope in aspirin rather than oncology, your hope is not only misplaced but dangerous.

Similarly, if we hope that humans can solve humanity’s greatest problems, our hope deters us from trusting the One whose omniscience, omnipotence, and omnibenevolence we need so desperately. As creatures of such a Creator, our most empowering hope lies in submission to his gracious sovereignty.

Like the Christmas shepherds, we need to experience personally “a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). But we no longer must “go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened” (v. 15) because it is happening in us. Oswald Chambers noted:

Every man is meant to be the “Bethlehem” of the Son of God by the regenerative power of redemption. Just as the historic Son of God became incarnate in the Virgin Mary . . . so the Son of God is formed in the life of the individual saint by the supernatural grace of God.

“With him everything else thrown in”

Paul assured us that “Christ in you” is “the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27, my emphasis). How could it be otherwise?

“In [Christ] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (v. 19). As Richard Melick notes, “Everything that God is, Jesus is.” Thus, “through him” God could “reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (v. 20). Because God died for us, God has the moral authority to forgive us for the sins that caused his death. He can thus make peace (the Greek word means to “make all things right”) in us, with us, and for us.

This is why the ultimate solution to every problem we face is found in daily submission to our Savior. When he is our Lord, his Spirit will guide us infallibly with regard to AI and every other challenge we face. We will love our neighbor as ourselves, whether they are Palestinian or Israeli, Chinese or American, Democrat or Republican. And our differences will lead not to cultural division and destructive animosity but to kaleidoscopic celebration.

C. S. Lewis advised us, “Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ, and you will find him, and with him everything else thrown in.”

For whom will you “look” today?

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