Advent, a journey through time and space,
A pilgrimage to a sacred place.
With every carol, a melody's embrace,
Echoing dreams of love and grace.
So, in this season of wonder and glee,
May your days be filled with harmony.
As Advent whispers its last goodbye,
Embrace the love that will never die.
This past Thursday was ChatGPT’s first birthday. As you may know, ChatGPT is an Artificial
Intelligence (AI) computer based language model. It’s capabilities include, among others,
answering questions, writing articles and papers, telling jokes, and as I discovered, composing
poetry. But, unfortunately it was unable to blow out the candle on its birthday cake! Although
it made waves in the media over this past year, I didn’t pay much attention to it until trying it
out this past weekend. I messaged the following request to ‘Chat’: “Can you make up an
Advent poem?” and presto – out came a nine-stanza Advent poem, two of which are shown
above. Clichés? Cheesiness? Well, perhaps, but occasionally a line conveys a “thought” worth
pondering. For example: “Embrace the love that will never die.” On the other hand, it was
curious that, given the massive mines of data – ChatGPT’s diverse and extensive datasets of 175
billion parameters, the poem did not include any of the persons central to the related events of
the Advent season (e.g. John the Baptist, Jesus, Mary etc.). Perhaps a more pointed inquiry
would have included them.
Coincidentally, this past November, a global AI conference was held in London. Billionaire Elon
Musk attended and warned the world to “hope for the best but prepare for the worst” from
Artificial Intelligence. He said, with respect to employment, “There will come a point where no
job is needed…[because] AI would be able to do everything.” Everything? Well, Musk’s Tesla
offers a “self-driving” option for about $15,000. Really, just get in the car, tell it where you
want to go, sit back and enjoy the ride. But didn’t the old, yellow Checker cabs do the
same…and for much less? While ‘Soft AI’ technology (ChatGPT, Speech Recognition, Fraud
Detection, etc.) obviously can be used for good, and is, it was suggested at the conference that
‘Hard AI’ (exceeding human capabilities) could pose risks such as pandemics or nuclear wars. A
bit farfetched perhaps, but could there be a ‘Technological Tower of Babel’ in our future?
The Church is not unconcerned about technology. One of the most important documents of
the Second Vatican Council, The Constitution of the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et
Spes) addresses technological progress. In a decade where Neil Armstrong planted his foot and
a US flag on the moon, the Church was examining contemporary human progress in dominating
the forces of nature – and this was the 1960s! The Council was attended by the bright and
gifted Archbishop Karol Wojtyla, who partnered in drafting Gaudium et Spes. The document
notably states that “technical man” and “economic man” cannot tell the whole story about the
human person. Unless we are guided by what is true and good, we are in danger of being
enslaved by the very forces [we have] unleashed (GS, 9).
For the Christian, Advent certainly guides us to the true and good. Advent is the anticipation
and expectation of salvation – a salvation that cannot be achieved by human efforts through
technology, economics, politics, or any other means of our making. Advent is the recognition
that we need more, much more than ourselves, something, or rather someone to deliver us
from our human frailty, limitations and our sins and death. It is highly ironic that secular
humanity ignores these deficiencies, and strives to build a Tower of Babel of self-fulfillment in
its various forms, when God, who possesses all wisdom, knowledge, life, love and true
fulfillment of all desire, empties himself to assume human nature with its limitations!
Astoundingly, the Lord of Lords comes to us in “human vesture”. Therefore, we wait in humble,
reverent expectation to see the human face of God this Christmas when we will put human
poetry to melodious chant:
O that birth forever blessed,
when a virgin, full of grace,
by the Holy Ghost conceiving,
bore the Savior of our race;
and the Babe, the world’s Redeemer,
first revealed His sacred face,
evermore and evermore!
Come Lord Jesus!