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1. AI Did Not Write This Newsletter

What it is: ChatGPT became the internet’s robot darling this week, with curious users asking the interface questions and being bemused, surprised, or creeped out at its high functionality.
Why it’s different from its predecessors: Allow the bot to introduce itself: “GPT, or Generative Pretrained Transformer, is a type of artificial intelligence algorithm that uses machine learning to generate text. It is trained on a large dataset of text, such as books or articles, and can then generate new text that is similar to the text it was trained on. This allows it to perform tasks like translating languages, summarizing articles, and answering questions.” People familiar with the tech industry have long predicted that AI could replace a number of jobs. But previous chatbot versions haven’t ever sounded this, well, human. ChatGPT’s texts sound a lot like a journalist in a hurry, or a college student on a deadline—a huge improvement from the stunted, overly formal way AI has presented information in the past. Observers wonder what this could mean for a number of white collar workers and the nature of searching for information on the internet.

2. Missing the Old Kanye

What it is: Ye went on Alex Jones’ InfoWars podcast and talked about his commitment to Christ and loving others. Unfortunately, these statements were framed by a disturbing anti-Semetic tirade.
Why it’s tough to talk about: Ye has a documented history of mental illness, and the InfoWars footage makes clear that his symptoms are not well-managed at the moment. A dismissive attitude toward the Holocaust, an embrace of conspiracy theories, and a sympathetic view of Adolf Hitler can be borne out of paranoia, isolation, and manic behaviors.  But Ye has long been a culture maker, and a hugely influential figure in the music and fashion industries as well as US politics. A person of his status, and a professing Christian at that, making these kinds of statements is going to make people pay attention and want to respond. Ye says he is trying to follow Christ, but it doesn’t seem like he is in fellowship with believers who care about his well-being and could intervene in his current state. We can pray for Ye’s recovery and a future where he turns this around while we reject his association of Christ with anti-Semitism.

3. A New Lens

What it is: Earlier this month, Lensa became the #1 app in the Apple store’s “Photo and Video” category after releasing a feature called “magic avatars,” customized pieces of AI-generated digital art.
Why it’s an ethical conundrum: Lensa asks users to upload a minimum of 10 photos of their face to its app before it can generate a magic avatar. It then takes these photos and uses open-source tech called “stable diffusion” to produce artwork of the user in several different styles. These attractive-looking avatars are perfect for profile pictures, dating profiles, or just sharing online, and #lensa already has over 600,000 posts tagged on Instagram. Magic avatars aren’t free—it costs at least $3.99 to get access to the feature, and that’s if you sign up for a free trial with Lensa. The technology has been trained on over 2 billion images, many of them copyrighted, which raises thorny questions about whether the tech is built off of unpaid labor. Digital illustrators and artists are also concerned that Lensa devalues the creative work that they do. Prisma, Lensa’s parent company, claims that AI art will not replace human artists. Regardless of how magic avatars impact artists, teens will probably still love the way that Lensa’s portraits make them look.

Song of the Week

“Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” by Brenda Lee: unseating songs by Drake, Taylor Swift, and even Mariah Carey, Brenda Lee’s 1958 Christmas jam is back at the top of the charts. Recording the song when she was just 14 years old, Lee serves as a predecessor for young musicians today, like Olivia Rodrigo. With lyrics about caroling, dancing, and mistletoe, the song is enduringly nostalgic—even for those who weren’t alive when it came out. For the lyrics, click here.

Translation: Missing the Old Kanye

To say that the ongoing situation with Ye is complex seems a vast understatement. There is no simple, appropriate way to react to someone who seems to be experiencing a mental break in a very public setting. Add access to media exposure and publicity to the mix and it becomes all the more infuriating, confusing, and tragic.

Still, there are a few things we can definitively say about what we’ve seen from Ye these past few weeks. First and foremost is that Ye’s attitude towards and statements concerning Jewish people are wrong. Any sympathy toward the actions of Adolf Hitler is unacceptable. Second, we must recognize that mental illness can be overwhelming and life-altering, but that there are millions of people all over the world who choose to take the necessary steps to get help when they are suffering from a severe mental health crisis. Just because someone has a mental illness does not mean they bear no responsibility for their words or actions.

Finally, we as Christians must be aware that when anyone—particularly someone with the status, wealth, and influence Ye has—professes faith in Christ and claims to be doing His will while sympathizing with hatred or violence (particularly towards the Jewish people, who have been and remain beloved of God), the attention shifts to others in the Christian community. The public is watching with judgment to see what we, as Christians will say or do to respond. When this happens, it is essential that we draw near to God and to His word, that we cling more tightly than ever to the gospel and the teachings of Jesus, and that we commit to show the world the Savior as He truly is.

This, of course, should always be our daily practice, whether or not there is a public scandal where someone is preaching the love of Christ alongside statements which Christ Himself would certainly denounce. We must be aware that there is an enemy set against us who desires that the world remain hostile to the good news of Jesus Christ. But God has tasked us with carrying the light of Christ to the darkness of the world, and this mission, though difficult, will not fail. As John 1:5 says: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Questions to spark conversation with your teens:

  • How have you heard people talking online or at school about Ye? What kind of feelings are people expressing?
  • How do you think Christians should respond to the kinds of sentiments Ye is promoting?
  • If Jesus were around in person today, what kind of things do you think He would say to Ye?