As I’ve been reading about the rise of artificial intelligence, one common concern that has been coming up is that it will possibly create a massive disruption in the job market. Researchers from OpenAI have estimated that if these programs are widely adopted that “around 80% of the U.S. workforce could have at least 10% of their work tasks affected by the introduction of LLMs (large language models, which are the basis of our current AI technology), while approximately 19% of workers may see at least 50% of their tasks impacted.”

This impact on work does not discriminate based on income level, educational attainment, or industry. In fact, higher income jobs may be most exposed to the possibility of job losses through the widespread adoption of this technology.

Part of the current strike by the Writers Guild of America is to prevent studios from using AI to replace human writers. Our current iteration of the technology can pass the bar. It can record meetings, write accurate notes, provide talking points from the meeting, and assign work tasks. It can be a paralegal, it can be a translator, it can be a personal assistant. Search engines powered by AI means most online journalism will lose significant traffic and will need to come up with new funding models in order to survive. It can write music and emulate voices to the point where an AI-generated song based on the musician Drake was streamed over 600 thousand times on Spotify before being removed from the service.

So, the pressing concern is that AI could replace a significant portion of the workforce.

I saw a post on Facebook the other day that said something to the effect of, “Did you ever think about how bad we had to mess up to create a world where robots taking our jobs is somehow a bad thing?”

I’ve been thinking a lot about the problem of job loss due to widespread AI adoption. I keep coming back to the concept that this isn’t a problem of the technology, but rather a problem of our culture.

One of my least favorite tasks is coming up with a checklist of items for an event to be successful. That sort of event-planning work is neither fun nor gratifying for me. I do, however, really like spending time with people in a pastoral role. What would happen if I never had to generate one of those lists again? There are only so many hours in the day, and the reality is that I would love to be freed from some of that work. When the work we dislike is automated, then we can be free to do the work that is more edifying.

But also, why do we feel held prisoner by the 40-hour work week? By two-day weekends? By the cult of busy-ness? What happens if overnight we are able to make it so the same work we do now can be cut down from 40 hours to 30? Pragmatically, that would mean we’d consolidate a lot of jobs, put a bunch of people out of work, and see profit margins shoot up. But why? Why couldn’t it instead mean that we pay people the same amount of money for the same amount of productivity and give them a chance to have an extra ten hours in their week. We spend so much time wringing our hands about our cultural decline; decreasing participation in institutions, decreasing senses of community, decreasing ability for parents to spend with children, chronic burnout, and work-related mental-health crises. How many of those things would be helped if we were able to spend more time together, seeking purpose outside of the survival-mode mentality of our daily grind?

I know this sounds utopian, an advance in technology being seen as a way of making people’s lives better rather than to make people rich; but our faith compels us to seek this sort of utopian vision. We have a tradition of valuing rest and self-compassion. The exploitation of laborers is one of the sins that the prophets continually return to. The purpose of our lives is not to spend it toiling, but rather to spend it in service to God and others. Sabbath is, in fact, a commandment for us.

Genesis 2:3 “So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.”

Exodus 20:8 “Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.”

Proverbs 23:4 “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; be wise enough to desist.”

Ecclesiastes 2:22-23 “What do mortals get from all the toil and strain with which they toil under the sun? For all their days are full of pain, and their work is a vexation; even at night their minds do not rest. This also is vanity.”

Ecclesiastes 4:7-8 “Again, I saw vanity under the sun: the case of solitary individuals, without sons or brothers; yet there is no end to all their toil, and their eyes are never satisfied with riches. ‘For whom am I toiling’, they ask, ‘and depriving myself of pleasure?’ This also is vanity and an unhappy business.”

Matthew 6:31-33 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

1 Timothy 6:6-8, 10 “Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these… For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.”

I know it seems far-fetched, but I hope we can imagine a world where this technology can provide us more time to do meaningful things. I hope we can see a world in which the technology can serve us all, rather than enriching a few. It doesn’t have to come at a cost, but it will if people of faith sit idly while people are exploited.


Twelve Corners Presbyterian Church is located at 1200 S. Winton Road in Brighton, NY. We welcome you to join us for worship on Sunday mornings at 10:00 a.m. in the sanctuary (and via YouTube). If you have any questions, please contact us by calling 585-244-8585 or sending an email through our secure contact page