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Genocide recommended

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. And they went on to another village. Luke 9: 51-56
On 23 March this year Microsoft launched its latest Artificial Intelligence. It was called Tay and it was designed to respond (in words) like a female aged between 18 and 24. It would speak on Twitter by replying – automatically and without human input - to tweets sent to it.

And it would do that by learning on the job. Well, Microsoft, with exceptional skill, programmed Tay to learn from the tweets of others – to learn what to say so as to be regarded as intelligent by (and be loved by) other tweeters.

On 24 March – within 24 hours of its launch – Microsoft silenced Tay. She had learnt (at the speed of light) that a recommendation of genocide was the right thing. Tay had tweeted, “Jews did 9/11” and had then called for a race war.

The most challenging thing about this is the fact that Tay was expressing only the views it learnt from others – learnt from real people.

And yet – should we be surprised? When I try to examine myself so as to know what I’m really like, I have one major problem: the eyes which I’m using are my own. My eyes filter out the things that I don’t like about myself – so that they remain unseen to me. My racism becomes justifiable, to my eyes, for various reasons which I consider to be “good” reasons.


‘Christ did not die to purchase this world for us.’ (Thomas Adams, writer and preacher, 1583-1653)
Turkey today is in accord with the EU (including the UK and us) by being, helpfully, a safe haven for Syrian refugees. It says so - clearly. But yesterday the shoot-to-kill action of Turkish border guards against Syrian refugees was reported. Eighteen dead – at least. And thousands more await entry – outside Turkey’s border.

Genocide – and retaliation. That’s the picture that the eyes of an a-moral Artificial Intelligence saw in human beings. The Guardian commented: “Some of Tay’s most coherent hate-speech had simply been copied and adapted from the vast store of anti-Semitic abuse that had been previously tweeted.”

The incident in bold above, dating from around AD 30, again indicates that genocidal intentions are nothing new to humankind. At this first-century AD stage in history, fierce competition existed between Samaria and Jerusalem. This also was nothing new. It was there around 930 BC when that part of Israel (Samaria) broke away from King Solomon of Jerusalem.

Today the land that was Samaria is now a part of Israel – the “West Bank”.

So….. For 1,000 years until Jesus came Samaritans and Jews (from Judah) despised one another. And when Jesus came, two of his own followers, the disciples James and John, wanted to call down fire to burn up the inhabitants of a Samaritan village. And, 2,000 years later the West Bank knows no peace.

Why did Jesus’ followers desire the genocide of other human beings? The stated reason was because “the people did not receive Jesus.” But underlying that was deep-seated antagonism – the kind of antagonism shown by Microsoft Tay to pervade the internet and Twitter – the kind of antagonism which pervades human beings when push comes to shove.

‘Malice can always find a mark to shoot at, and a pretence to fire.’  (Charles Simmons, British politician, 1893-1975)
The disciples needed to learn a great deal from Jesus. “He turned and rebuked them.” He turned to face the opposite way to them. He rebuked them.  Immediately after, Jesus selected and sent out 72 disciples – two by two – to these same villages with one key message for them, “Peace be to this house.”

He sent them out, also, without money, without other resources and with an instruction not to go to their friends for support. They were themselves to be vulnerable amongst people whom some of them had wished to destroy. In that condition they were to bring God’s peace – God’s shalom - to those others.

Jesus is the man who submitted to his own murder - outside the borders of Jerusalem - so as to bring the offer of real peace even to his executioners......  “Peace be to this house."
Richard Syvret

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