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Brooks on A.I. and Being Human
David Brooks—New York Times opinion columnist and author of some insightful works of social criticism— recently wrote a piece for the Times entitled, “In the Age of A.I., Major in Being Human.” In reference to recent headlines about the impact artificial intelligence will have on education and work, Brooks anticipates that:
A.I. will probably give us fantastic tools that will help us outsource a lot of our current mental work. At the same time, A.I. will force us humans to double down on those talents and skills that only humans possess. The most important thing about A.I. may be that it shows us what it can’t do, and so reveals who we are and what we have to offer.
In relation to education, Brooks suggests that students (and he is particularly addressing college students) should “avoid any class that teaches you to think in an impersonal, linear, generalized kind of way—the kind of thinking A.I. will crush you at.”
Brooks recommends that students focus on courses that help them hone what he calls “distinctly human skills.” He lists six of these:
- a distinct personal voice
- presentation skills
- a childlike talent for creativity
- unusual worldviews
- situational awareness
Brooks elaborates on each of these, making the case for how these skills or capabilities distinguish a human being from A.I. and the often shallow or banal products it generates.
The sort of education he is advocating for—the kind that cultivates the distinctly human capacities in students—is exactly the sort of education we provide to students at Covenant College. Through a liberal arts core curriculum composed of courses in the humanities, arts, sciences, Bible, and theology, students develop a sense of what it means to live as whole persons, in right relationship with God, with themselves, with the society around them, and with the created order. This understanding is further developed in their majors, where courses are taught with a view to the interdependence of the disciplines and in light of the core truths revealed to us in Scripture—that the creator God made humankind in his image, and that in spite of their sin and rebellion he is redeeming them and the created order through the work of Jesus Christ.
Students emerge from an educational experience like this transformed. And, they develop the very skills Brooks advocates for: they have their own voice, they know how to share their ideas in a distinctive way, they delight in exercising their God-given creativity, they have formed an expressly Christian worldview (and what is more unusual in this day and age than a biblically-faithful worldview!), they have cultivated a capacity for empathy, and they have developed an ability to make sense of the situations in which they find themselves.
In an age when artificial intelligence threatens to render some jobs redundant, a Christ-centered liberal arts education is exactly the sort of education that equips students for meaningful professional callings and for faithful witness in the world.