A.I., the abbreviation for artificial intelligence, is defined in its dictionary as “the modeling of human mental functions by computer programs.” The word of the year is picked depending on its use in social media, how many times people search for its definition, and how often it shows up in sources. theguardian.com reported that A.I. was chosen because it “had accelerated at such a fast pace and become the dominant conversation of 2023…the use of the word has quadrupled over the past year.”
Are you using it at all? I sure am. Here are a few ways I used A.I. this year:
- When I get stumped on a catchy title while writing, A.I. can give me a list of ten to start with, and I can work from there.
- When I struggle to come up with a meal plan for the week, I can type into ChatGPT the ingredients in my kitchen, and it gives me immediate help to plan my meals for the week.
- When I helped plan a girl’s weekend in Charleston, I typed in what was important for each person on the trip, and A.I. put an initial itinerary together.
It isn’t too hard to see why it is the word for 2023.
But what about previous years? Take a look at some of the past words we’ve had:
I decided to have a little fun and plugged in all ten words to ChatGPT, an A.I. model. I asked it to make me a short story based on those ten words. Here’s what it came up with.
Amid the chaotic backdrop of the climate emergency, a new phenomenon emerged – the youthquake. Amid a lockdown, young activists harnessed the power of A.I. and social media to combat the permacrisis they inherited. They were no longer willing to accept the post-truth narratives that had perpetuated toxic inaction. Instead, they used their voices and emoji tears of joy to advocate for change. Their selfie campaigns went viral, urging people to ‘vax‘ the Earth by adopting sustainable practices and reducing their carbon footprint, and they replaced vape clouds with conversations about renewable energy and eco-conscious living. The youthquake represented a hopeful shift in the fight against the climate emergency, offering a glimpse of a more sustainable future.
The subtle message behind this funny little story is that A.I. and the next generation can save the day. If the original human functions can’t figure it out, can we put our faith in a model of it?
It reminds me of a people long ago.
Models Now vs. Models Then
The Israelites were in a predicament. They had been rescued from slavery in Egypt only to find themselves stuck at the bottom of the mountain. They had no land, food, shelter, or leader. Moses was up the stormy mountain, supposably getting information from God, but the people were losing hope. “Who knows if he was even still alive,” the Israelites said to each other. It had been weeks with no sign of him.
Feeling lost and abandoned, they looked back to try and find their footing. Under Aaron’s direction, they melted their gold and fashioned it into a calf. But why a cow?
And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.” Exodus 32:4-5
The idol was a man-made mixture of the mighty God Yahweh and the pagan methods of worship that they had observed. The bull was an Egyptian symbol of strength and fertility. Some of the Israelites’ slaves had spent a lifetime in slavery, perfecting their skills as idol-makers. Here’s an opportunity to use our talents, they thought. We need something we can touch, see and worship.
Even though that makes more sense, I was still confused. How did thousands of people abandon God so quickly? They had just witnessed him parting the sea.
Because they didn’t think they were.
No one claimed to be abandoning God. All they said was that they were making a model. Aaron never said let’s forget about Yahweh. He maintained the name of Yahweh in connection with it. He was merging their belief in God with pagan secular practices to comfort themselves. It was a half-and-half deal, except that math comes to a big, fat zero.
Problems come when we begin calling on models for wisdom and confusing them with the real thing.
The Israelites were looking back to their days of slavery under the Egyptians to make sense of things. But looking back doesn’t give a vision or hope. All it does is provide a diagnosis. Collins Dictionary isn’t making any decisions for the future. They are reporting on the past. If we want hope, we must look forward.
Word of the Year vs. Word For the Year
Seven years ago, as the year drew to a close, I began looking forward and decided that instead of resolutions, I wanted to choose a word for the upcoming year. After some prayer and seeking God’s wisdom, I chose a word and a Bible verse as my theme for the year ahead. Then, I ordered a necklace, bracelet, or charm with the word or verse as a daily reminder. Here are a few examples of my words from past years:
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13
The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:6
I trust in you, O Lord. You are my God, my time is in your hands. Psalms 31:14
2021: DO NOT FEAR
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11
I am the vine, and you are the branches. He who remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit. John 15:5
A word for the year sets an intention. I wanted that word to be foundational in my decisions, attitudes, and actions. It’s interesting how some of these lined up precisely what was happening that year. (Covid and trust? Not a coincidence!)
Setting the Tone
My 2024 word for the year is CALMNESS. The Hebrew for the adjective calm is pronounced “ragua” (רָגוּעַ). Here’s my verse; guess what book in the Bible it is from?
He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven.
Oh, that’s right, you think. This is from when Jesus was in the boat, and he calmed the sea in the New Testament.
It sounds like it, but it isn’t from the New Testament. It’s found in Psalms. As David wrote Psalm 107:29-30 and the Isrealites heard it, they would have looked back to when God parted the Red Sea and the Isrealites escaped from the Egyptians.
There’s nothing wrong with looking back and defining God’s powerful moments. Like Collins Dictionary, the Israelites were putting words to events. But what if God’s people allowed those words not only to be about a past event but also a defining word for them in the future?
- The disciples would not have been afraid of the storm.
- They would not have been shocked at the calm.
- They would have expected Jesus to do it.
I want to be someone who expects miracles because I know what God’s Word says about my future. A.I. cannot ever be the total truth. It can only model what it’s been given. I’m not concerned about the impacts of A.I. because A.I. is a tool; it’s not God. You can program A.I. to do many things, but it will always be limited. As you look to 2024, join me in standing on God’s Word, the promise of hope and a future.
After all, you can’t program miracles!
Challenge: Pick a Word for the Year.
Here’s a few helpful tips to help you select a word for the upcoming year:
- Grab a piece of paper and make two columns. On one side, write down everything that went well over the past year. On the other side, write what you would like to change.
- Pray over your list. Listen to a worship song and spend some time meditating. Look ahead to next year. Where are some growth opportunities for you? What about some successes you want to keep pressing into?
- Write down the scripture verses that God pressed upon your heart as you pray and meditate. Choose one to five words that describe how you want your year to feel. Nouns, verbs, anything works.
- Review your scripture and five words together. Are any patterns jumping out at you? What do they all have in common? Narrow it down to one.
- Decide how you are going to set reminders for yourself. This could be a necklace, a framed piece of art with the word incorporated displayed prominently in your home, a screen saver on your phone, PostIts strategically placed around your home, car, or work, a bookmark in your Bible, a post on social media sharing your word of the year, or a book about that word/topic. However you choose to do it, ensure you see it daily.
Feel free to write in the comments below what your word is for the upcoming year.