ChatGPT and Mātauranga Mihinare

 Hirini Kaa | Acting Director Kurahautū

Kurahautū Director Dr Hirini Kaa has written this article exploring the potential for an Artificial Intelligence Chatbot to be used as an ally for a proclamation of the Gospel that is a korero unique to who we are and where we are.

The chronologically challenged amongst us will remember the 1990s and remember them as a miraculous time. Not only did we have the end of the threat of nuclear war (for the time being), but the invention of the internet. I remember spending minutes waiting for Netscape to download various pictures of Homer Simpson, and when I downloaded one of Homer’s songs thinking I was in technological heaven!

There is the possibility we are in that time again, with the release of ChatGPT and its siblings.

ChatGPT is an Artificial Intelligence Chatbot. It answers our questions and carries out information tasks. It is so exciting because it enables natural language processing. In other words it can carry out complex tasks based on our everyday language, whereas previously one would have needed to know complex coding languages to achieve the same outcomes. One thought is that English (and basically any commonly spoken language) is now the most effective programming language. Ask ChatGPT a question in te reo and be stunned at the response.

Yes there are serious concerns around the potential negative impacts of AI in general, and one very easy to see possibility is that very soon it will be impossible to discern between “real” and “fake” media, including AI generated video putting words in mouths of trusted figures.

And of course for Māori, issues around data sovereignty and the use of personal information is highly concerning, as it should be for all of us. Read More Here

But largely at this stage AI is being seen as another tool that will increase efficiency and productivity. While some of us might blanche at that statement, I personally enjoy the benefits of a washing machine over a rock in the river, and a word processor over a typewriter. They enable me to focus on the more important tasks in my life.

Perhaps think of this form of AI as the building blocks of information, enabling us to really add our creativity and innovation to a kaupapa instead of spending so much energy on unnecessary processing. I’ve generally forgotten how to spell words because that’s not actually important for me anymore.

So I thought I’d test this out with an example using the free ChatGPT tool online

Firstly, I asked it to write a sermon on the Beatitudes including a Maori perspective and liberation theology. Here’s a sample of the response:

I. Blessed are the Poor in Spirit:
In Aotearoa, the Maori people understand the concept of poverty in spirit as a deep humility and recognition of our interconnectedness with all of creation. We acknowledge that our spirits are impoverished without a genuine sense of whakapapa (genealogy) and aroha (love) for one another. Liberation theology affirms this understanding by reminding us that true blessedness lies in recognizing our interdependence and seeking justice for the marginalized.

So far, so good for me! So I asked it to Add a feminist perspective and got this:

III. Blessed are the Meek:
Taking a feminist perspective, we recognize that meekness is not about weakness but about embracing a strength rooted in compassion and justice. In Maori culture, wahine (women) have long been the bearers of mana wahine (female power) and embody the strength of humility and resilience. Liberation theology urges us to challenge societal norms that devalue and oppress women, reminding us that true blessedness comes when we uplift and empower all members of our community.

So, a very Western interpretation of mana wāhine. However, onwards. As I often preach in our Māori communities who want me to preach to their context, I added: locate this in a struggling community

V. Blessed are the Merciful:
In the midst of a struggling community, the call to be merciful becomes even more significant. The Maori concept of manaakitanga, which encompasses hospitality, compassion, and care for others, becomes a guiding principle. It is in extending mercy and kindness to those facing hardships that we find the true blessings of our faith. Liberation theology reminds us that mercy is not just an individual virtue but also a call to challenge oppressive systems and work towards a more just society.

Yes! And then, for the sake of the exercise: add an Anglican perspective

VII. Blessed are the Peacemakers:
From an Anglican perspective, the call to be peacemakers resonates deeply in a struggling community. The Anglican tradition emphasizes the pursuit of peace through reconciliation, justice, and healing. In the face of conflict and division, we are called to embody the teachings of Christ and work towards restoring relationships and creating a community marked by harmony and understanding. Liberation theology reminds us that true peace can only be achieved when we address the underlying systems of oppression and seek justice for all.

This is pretty amazing to be honest. I’d put it up there amongst the best sermon I am likely to hear on the Sunday when these are the readings. Yes, I get the quibbles over repetition and those who might not love the liberation focus. But here’s the thing: the internet just generated this for me on request. It would provide the basis for a decent kauwhau on the appropriate Sunday.

I could then put my effort into adding in some really deep mātauranga – perhaps a very local purakau or korero tuku iho. I could relate it to local events. I could ground it in the whenua on which I preach. I doubt ChatGPT will be doing that layer of work anytime soon. And that points us to where we can go with our proclamation of the Gospel. Not struggling over the basics, but really adding value to the lives of our community, to enable Oranga Ake. And that seems like a good use of technology to me.