Business, Math, and Righteous Living with Dr. Benjamin Harris – Episode 004November 10, 2023 2023-11-10 16:39
Business, Math, and Righteous Living with Dr. Benjamin Harris – Episode 004
Business, Math, and Righteous Living with Dr. Benjamin Harris – Episode 004
Benjamin Harris loves math and business. From his years in both industry and academia, he discusses how they mesh and how to navigate both as a Christian. He and Zack Johnson discuss how math enhances faith and how business can build God’s kingdom. Plus, he shares his opinion on supermarket checkout lines, the math that everyone should learn, and the future of AI.
Dr. Benjamin Harris holds a PhD in Engineering from Northeastern University College of Engineering. He worked in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning at a large technology company and taught at two universities prior to Sattler College. His current learning and research interests lie in the area of Natural Language Processing (NLP). He is Professor of Business at Sattler College.
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Mentioned in this episode:
- Northeastern University (https://www.northeastern.edu/)
- The Briefing with Al Mohler ( https://albertmohler.com/the-briefing)
- ChatGPT (https://openai.com/blog/chatgpt)
- Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster (https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/64023)
0:04 – AI’s Impact on Human Existence
11:39 Math and Physics in Business Importance
18:25 Probability, Faith, and Doubts in Christianity
28:54 – Exploring Education, Faith, and Business
44:57 – Importance of Reading in Christian Communities
51:21 – Challenges in Communication and Childbirth
57:29 – Stats and AI With Sattler’s Community
1:08:35 – Impressions on AI and Centralization
Have you ever considered the uncanny influence of AI on human decisions or wondered about the role of math and physics in business? My guest today, Dr. Benjamin Harris, is here to shed light on these topics with his rich experience in artificial intelligence and machine learning. He dissects how AI is influencing human decision-making, the importance of understanding the basics of mathematics and physics, and how they can be a boon to businesses.
Our conversation doesn’t just stop at technology and education, it takes a divine turn as we discuss faith. Drawing from his intellectual honesty and personal spiritual journey, Benjamin talks about how doubts can be a natural part of spiritual growth and how God is able to handle our questions. We also weigh the tension between Christian faith and secular institutions. This segment of our discussion is a testament to the importance of questioning and the belief that God is able to handle our doubts.
As we move further into our podcast, we dig deeper into the importance of reading classics and the benefits of physical books over digital ones. Here’s where Benjamin shares some interesting thoughts on challenges in communication, underlining the importance of humility and grace when engaging in conversations. We also get a glimpse into his personal life as he recounts his experience of delivering three of his five children. To encapsulate all these fascinating topics, join us for a conversation with Dr. Benjamin Harris.
*Auto-generated and may contain errors.
Zack Johnson: 0:04
Good morning. It is October 30th 2023. I’m with Dr Benjamin Harris. Can I call you Ben after, from now on, during this show? Yeah, Ben is fine. Okay, I’m going to read your bio and then we’ll just jump into a conversation. How does that sound? That sounds great, all right, and anytime you want to pause or correct me or explain something in the bio.
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 0:26
I hope I can live up to what’s written in my biography.
Zack Johnson: 0:28
So I’m here with Dr Ben Harris. Ben Harris received his BSMS and PhD from North Eastern University College of Engineering. He comes most recently from Boston University’s Metropolitan College, where he taught courses in the applied business analytics program. Ben taught as a member of the adjunct faculty of for North at North Eastern University College of Engineering faculty since 2012. His teaching experience covers a broad range of topics, including probability and statistics, decision making operations, research, programming and analytics. Prior to his academic career, ben worked in artificial intelligence and machine learning at a large technology company, alongside teams at all stages of the business life cycle. His current learning and research interests lie in the area of natural language processing, nlp I’ve never heard that acronym particularly in the determination of argument development and quality assessment. The introduction of large language models LLMs is transforming the business world before our eyes, and Christian business practitioners need the foundation to withstand the onslaught on unstructured data coming from these models. Did you write that? I did write that. That’s beautiful, thank you. He is a Boston native, loves to try new foods and spends lots of time with his wife and five children. Ben, thanks for being here this morning. Glad to be with you, zach. I’m really excited to have you on a Sattler podcast, no name, but we could discover it today, who it might be today. If you give us a cool name, you could ask chatGPT to name it for us. Hey, we’ll pull up chatGPT and see what comes up. I always start, do you mind just telling us a brief history of your life, how you got to where you are now and then just what you’re doing at Sattler as you sort of came into the role recently?
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 2:15
Sure. So I was born New England. I’m a New England native for the vast majority of my life. Massachusetts home Went to public school when I was a kid, engineering school after that and a number of twists and turns and I guess my personal and professional life ended up at a large technology company, but always had an academic bend to myself. I come from a family of academics. I would now be a third generation professor, so eventually found my way to graduate school, to Boston University where I was a full-time teaching faculty, and now here to Sattler which identifies very much with my worldview, which was a neat thing to find.
Zack Johnson: 2:55
And what do you do at Sattler? You’re the official title, I know it, but….
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 2:59
So I’m the coordinator of the business program here, okay.
Zack Johnson: 3:03
And your bio. It’s interesting. You have a mixture of sort of practice and academics mixed in there. How do you think about the interface between higher ed and the real world, so to speak, that some people make that distinction in your mind? I’d love to hear you talk about it.
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 3:24
Yeah, there’s definitely a gap that has always existed between what is taught in the classroom and then what you then do out in the real world. And if you went out and did some research into university hiring, you would begin to see a lot of universities are looking for professors of the practice or different academic titles that you may not have seen before. For this very reason Is they’re looking for people to come in and teach what the real world is like, and that doesn’t devalue the classic academic research tracks. But they’re realizing well, the gap between practice and academia is narrowing and that’s a necessary evolution, I think. So that was what I was hired to do back at Boston University because I had an industry experience, and whenever universities do capstone projects, it’s the same thing is they’re looking for people who know really closely what it takes to get something operational in the business world.
Zack Johnson: 4:21
Okay. Well, I saw at least one thing in your bio that’s in the news all the time of late AI, artificial intelligence. I tell a joke my father-in-law when I first met him. He says I work in AI. I knew he was from Pennsylvania. He said, yeah, artificial insemination. So you have to distinguish between those two in some communities. I’m just kidding. Can you tell me just what’s your relationship with AI and sort of talk about? I know we’re at a Christian institution and there are a ton of people talking about the intersection there. Just tell me about your relationship with AI.
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 5:03
So it came out of, I guess, a professional background in decision-making. So artificial intelligence as a math subject has been around for decades now. It’s only recently, once computers became powerful, readily accessible to most people, and so the original task was to do to make simple decisions like a person would, and so you would teach a predictive model. To take an email in your inbox and say is this spam or not spam? That’s kind of the archetypal first thing an AI student would do. Now, with powerful computers and computing capacity changing, you can go on to Amazon Web Services or any other company and rent a super computer for an hour if you want to It’ll cost you about a dollar and then do an incredibly complex computation. So AI has now moved into simulating more and more of the human decision process, but it’s still fall short in many areas. There’s things that AI just is not able currently able to do.
Zack Johnson: 5:58
Where do those supercomputers live? Where are they located, or are they?
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 6:01
cloud-based. They do have a footprint somewhere, but they are, in general, cloud-based. You could just sign in through a browser and you take your little job that you want to do, submit it to the cloud. It get returned when it’s done, but they’re globally distributed, these massive server farms that these companies own. I mean, my interface with it came from business problems dealing with decisions or questions that were posed to me and trying to find a way to have data inform the best choice that we could find, and so I got exposed to it that was probably 10 years ago now and developed some element of expertise in it over my time in industry.
Zack Johnson: 6:42
Should we fear it or embrace it?
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 6:47
That is an ongoing debate amongst computer scientists and AI people. My opinion is we should embrace it. I think the sci-fi movie eventualities that people do predict, I think, are far away. I think, there’s some major hurdles that have to be crossed prior to what we would call artificial generalized intelligence. That’s the scary part. The movies would say it’s a system that can create its own consciousness, but there’s some big-time gaps ontologically that we haven’t bridged yet and I don’t see a way that we will bridge. But then again, people have said that every time just prior to some development. So my opinion is not to worry. But then you could find someone on the street who might have the opposite view.
Zack Johnson: 7:34
Right, and we’re joined here by Clark Gray in the background. Hi, Clark. Clark mentioned that you said something to some students about particularly Christians and AI recently, Do you mind? I don’t know if you remember what you said about in front of the students. Do you mind resharing whatever that was?
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 7:52
I think it was a title of a talk in the process of writing called being a Christian or being Human in the Age of AI. Being Human In the general premise just being to tease out what makes us uniquely human. We have the image of God in us, and there’s something that’s not replicatable in silicon chips. That makes us human, and AI systems, whether they’re large language models or others, can replicate some element of our action. They can speak, presumably, but there’s something that is yet unique to us, and so I think I spent a lot of my time thinking about what are the limitations of what AI can and cannot do, and how do humans overcome those things easily where we don’t struggle with the limitations that AI does, so hopefully pulling back the layers to find out. This is actually what makes a human a human, and this is the underpinning of why AI is yet to reach that kind of capability that we have natively.
Zack Johnson: 8:56
God made us that way, got it. I’ll switch gears a little bit. Tell me about your family, and I know you have a family somewhere. There’s someone around here.
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 9:05
Yeah, so we live in the Metro Boston area, the husband to a wonderful wife, charlotte, and we have five little children. It’s just 10, 8, 5, 3, and 1. And so the Harris household is busy, there’s noise and chaos continually, but we’re really just learning to be parents as each phase goes on. Our kids are uniquely interesting, each one of them in every phase. I was telling someone just this weekend that parenting the eight-year-old phase of one child is a whole different thing from the eight-year-old of another child.
Zack Johnson: 9:40
Okay, they’re just different. Yeah, I’ve heard that the same thing. And then I bring up the question just because I know you like to talk about this. Your wife thinks you’re a nerd.
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 9:51
Zack Johnson: 9:53
And mostly because you love mathematics, right? Why is I understand? I know you teach a Probability and Statistics course here and just tell me about why you love mathematics, why it’s one of your passions and why it’s to spell, why it’s not necessarily a nerdy I’m just getting it’s kind of nerdy.
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 10:15
It is, it’s always going to be a very exciting.
Zack Johnson: 10:17
It’s an exciting nerdy topic yeah.
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 10:19
So I think God gave us an ordered world that we live in, that it operates on patterns and laws that we observe, and we have these minds that discern what is normal and what is abnormal. And mathematics is really a set of tools to solve problems, to make innovation and development for the betterment of humankind. And so I think the more that we, the more we know of the tools, the more we can do in that. And I think as you push further into mathematics, you run into things that can be potentially confusing. Mathematics shouldn’t be presented as a fully defined and finished field. You just have to learn it. People are developing new mathematics all the time, and they’re learning that some of what is built is limited. Math can’t do everything, it can’t solve all the world’s problems because it has its own limitations, and so you think about the interface between math and physics and the realization that at big enough or small enough scales there’s, we’re beyond human limitation, and it’s. But the God we serve is not in those limitations where he exists in all these realms, and so I’ve always looked at mathematics as just this it’s a God given ability to approximate what God knows and then wonder at how much bigger and more knowledgeable he is than us.
Zack Johnson: 11:39
Do you want your kids to learn math, mathematics?
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 11:42
Absolutely I do why. I think it’s becoming more. It’s part of, I think, parental, but also just normal human stewardship. It’s like you’re to, whatever vocation you find yourself in, to be able to operate effectively in the ages to come. I think you’re going to need mathematics, and maybe you won’t be a professional mathematician. You’re not a, maybe not a contributor to the field, but you will need to be an amateur practitioner at a minimum.
Zack Johnson: 12:09
So what are the if you’re not going to be a practitioner or an engineer, a mathematician, a physicist? What are some of the basic building blocks in mathematics and physics that you think in like an average person? I don’t want to use that. That average person should develop just to have sort of an understanding of this language that’s building so many things around the world.
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 12:35
I think I would start from a very practical standpoint. If you’re like if you wanted to learn physics, I would say take a watch a number of videos in mechanics. Just how does the physical world work around you? I wrote the train here this morning. What does it take physically to stop a train that large from running into the end of the track? There’s the and the understanding, just a sense of the forces involved, and then maybe appreciating the people who spent time developing and building these technologies that we operate on. We think of our cell phones and they our entire digital infrastructure is built on mathematics. We know how radio frequencies and waves work because of math, and so, and again, you don’t have to become a cell phone designer or a RF engineer, but we can answer the question like why don’t I get cell phone reception in a concrete building? Well, it’s because radio doesn’t penetrate the concrete. And so when we, I think, the more we practically understand and you realize you have a need to go learn more. You can go dig a bit deeper, pick up the tools that you might not have had, and just to have an appreciation of what we have around us. I think Right.
Zack Johnson: 13:43
So I want to sort of cross this bridge between in your bio you have a lot of engineering and then you also have business. So there’s not in a lot of people’s minds, there’s not necessarily a natural. I mean, maybe there is a natural connection between those two, but how do you think about the connectivity between mathematics, physics and the business world and how do you sort of bring that into the way you design the program and help your students think about business? That’s a hard question.
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 14:19
Yeah, that’s fine. One of the main, I think, advantages to mathematics, physics. Moving into something like engineering, it gives a reasoned sense of what is likely to work and not work. I think that is what a good engineer intuitively understands over time. They don’t even really have to solve a problem fully to intuitively know I don’t think this is going to work. And if folks have gone through doctoral programs or PhD school, that skill is just sharpened. That’s really what it does. As you look, you can think about a solution to a problem and intuitively know whether it’s going to work or not. That’s what sharpens over time. And, moving into the business world, oftentimes the cost of development I’ll say it this way, the cost of failure grows the more time and investment you put into a business idea. And so if you can intuitively have a sense whether it’s going to work or not early, that saves you time and money regardless of what you’re doing. And so I think some of the better product designers I know have an engineering background and when they transition to business they just bring that with them. Now that’s not to say that they don’t need help from other skill sets. I’ve appreciated greatly people from a marketing or creative skill set that. It’s just not a gene I have and I desperately need those people to help get interface with the marketplace. But from a product standpoint, really having an architectural or a mathematical sense of what works, I think only helps a business person.
Zack Johnson: 15:49
Yeah, I agree, I studied OR once or operations research a little bit and I was fascinated by Q. Have you ever do Q-ing theory?
Clark Wray: 16:01
Zack Johnson: 16:01
I was absolutely fascinated by how much a person can steady lines just human lines in the world, and I think every time I’m in the line, I think about math, I think I’m thinking about what’s fastest, what line works, why did they design it this way and what’s your favorite type of line?
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 16:24
So one that is, I’ll say the question I actually, as a math guy, I love that question and so one that is right-sized. I would say, like if you go to the supermarket and you wonder why are there 20 checkout counters, that drives me crazy. Yeah, they’re all empty, they’re not being staffed. What’s the efficiency in that? But there’s a system that is rightly built so that the Q-ing model and I’m not assuming that the people who designed supermarkets do Q-ing models but when you see a Q-ing model work effectively, you realize, like how did they get a thousand people to check out of the supermarket in 10 minutes? Right, but you can. It’s a simple thing. And the mathematics behind Q-ing is on the same page is a fascinating idea, like the random process that generates arrivals at a system. And then how do you effectively predict how people are going to get it in and out of line? It’s simple. We experience them every day.
Zack Johnson: 17:18
Yeah, I think taking that I just took like an intro to OR and the complexity behind most things that we’re a part of is underappreciated in my mind. The other one that I always think about now is traffic Especially. We live in a city where traffic’s okay. It’s not the worst globally, but it’s not good either, but if you can apply good OR good mathematics, you can actually really change a city’s life and liveliness. And I think that it applies the same on the business end. I’m assuming that you can actually apply these things and make things better.
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 17:55
Yeah, and the industrial engineering field where I was educated, and many of those people transition over to transportation engineering systems or civil engineering for that very reason is they look at flow systems of traffic, for example roadways, and try and decide you don’t have the money to expand every road by another lane, but you can do it judiciously. Where’s the right systematic point of adjustment that’s going to relieve traffic pressure and help people’s lives?
Zack Johnson: 18:21
Got it All right. We’ll switch gears a little bit here. Let’s talk about probability and faith. I know maybe I’m bringing this up because I’m assuming that many people have thought about this. When I think about statistics and probability and faith, I often think about certainty and people sort of dealing with doubts in their faith. Have you ever talked about is it okay to have doubts in your faith system and that’s sort of a natural thing? Do you walk anyone through sort of probability and statistics and faith and the Christianity, or is that a topic that you’re not?
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 19:10
I need to think about that question for a moment. It’s a good question. Maybe, I would mathematically, not from a probability standpoint per se, but from a finite versus infinite standpoint that we as Christians do in our sinfulness and our sanctification process. We do experience doubts at times Whether it could be doctrinally or with some element of assurance that we’re assailed by something around us that we’re intaking, or maybe just be part of our growth process. But the thing I remind one myself of, but then people who asked me about it, is that it isn’t the strength of faith that you’re relying on, but it’s the object of that faith that I’m me, a finite creature, and putting faith in a good and loving infinite Father that I think doubts come to us when we attribute some level of finiteness to the infinite. He will get tired, or he’s impatient, or he’s going to have a bad day and we’re just going to get unlucky, whereas we know Biblical is not true that he does not tire, he’s unchanging, he’s a beautiful, he doesn’t slumber, he doesn’t slumber, and so he is a faithful executor of his sovereign plan, and so that’s what we can trust on. So, from probability, you could see that as lying underneath all that is In my doubts. What’s Is God going to catch me as doing something that I shouldn’t be doing, or what’s the likelihood I find him on a bad day? But those are all based and built on a misconception of what Scripture reveals God’s character to be.
Zack Johnson: 20:58
Right, when I was interacting with students, one of the habits I tried to get out of people is to use the phrase I’m 100% certain, and I’m trying to get at this idea of certainty versus confidence, and that that’s sort of a probability statistics language, that it’s okay to say I’m confident about this and rarely can we be 100% certain about something, and then so there’s a gap between your confidence levels and a belief system and your certainty and that’s, I think faith is actually a good word to sort of bind the gap between those two. And then I guess my question is the other thing that I think Christians should be doing often is updating their beliefs with new information. How do you have faith while being able to update your beliefs as you interact with the world, as opposed to being, I’ll just say, sort of dogmatic about? I was taught this at two, therefore, it’s true, and I can’t interact with new information as it comes in over time. Do you have any advice there?
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 22:16
I was about to say I 100% agree with you. I’m going to avoid that phrase, because we were trying to avoid that phrase.
Zack Johnson: 22:21
Politicians say it. I’m like no, Don’t say that, Don’t say it 100% certain.
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 22:25
I think what is just a really healthy habit to cultivate is intellectual honesty and what we believe and say. And so when we construct an argument for, for example, god’s sovereignty or his immutability or his omniscience, I think what is incumbent on us as Christians is to say this is the clearly stated argument that I am making. Maybe you can’t do this in every conversation, but you have in your head. Honesty would demand true. This is what would lead me to abandon this argument. If X and Y and Z were proven to be true, that’s just honest, and you could apply that to lower, to what we might call open hand to doctrinal issues. I’m of this conviction. However, if these other things were proven to be true, I would honestly abandon that. And that isn’t weak, that’s not a lack of faith. That’s just an honesty as a finite being approaches the infinite God and how do we understand him? That we should be in taking new information, being exposed to people from different who’ve looked at the same text their whole life and arrived at a different conclusion, and being willing to walk a mile or so in their shoes. One thing I’m accused of sometimes is when someone’s presenting a different could be a theological argument to me, and maybe this is a fault of mine. I take it on almost natively and what I’m doing in my head is I’m trying to try it out and I’m speaking as though I believe it fully. And my wife will say I’m sorry, did you change your belief in something? I’ll say no, no, no, I’m just trying this because I wanted to take it to its logical conclusion and when I get there then I’ll decide if this is agreeable or if this makes sense to me or not. But I don’t think we should be afraid at all to learn something new, to change something. I think a sad, the pressure that exists around us, maybe in our church communities, is that when someone changes their belief on something, we’re afraid that they’re abandoning what we hold to be true. And I think that creates this subconscious pressure for many people like don’t question, don’t doubt. God has given us these inquisitive minds to question. And the thing like, if you look at the book of Job, the friends who gave these sort of packaged answers to Job were condemned by the Lord at the end of the book and God had said to Job. He said to Job’s friends you have not spoken rightly of me as my servant Job has Now. If you look at the book, job didn’t say everything morally correct, but he brought his doubts and his question to the Lord. We have a God who’s able to handle our doubts. We’re not going to surprise him If we’re questioning it. If we’re taking in new information and we’re struggling with it, that’s okay. Bring it in prayer, bring it in your study of scripture, bring it to trusted counsel and we’ll grow from that. We want to be growing into a unified body of Christ, rather than just saying I have my belief in my doctrine is now fixed until I die and I’m going to be in my community that agrees with me. Pray, tell. That’s not true of us. We should be growing and loving each other.
Zack Johnson: 25:51
Yeah, I agree with that statement, the fixed set of beliefs that I think a lot. Maybe some of us who are raised maybe on more of the conservative community sort of do approach life more like that than your average human and it takes a bit of time to be able to interact with someone and entertained doubts. I think that’s why you’re kind of getting it, put yourself in the shoes, like, oh, let me walk down this road. My experience is that if you entertained doubts you actually walk away with more, I would say, more confidence, more trust, a little bit more hope in the original set of beliefs than if you had just refused to entertain them in the first place. I think there is some danger in how far you go down that road and where you surround yourself and what community you’re going to surround yourself with.
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 26:50
Oh yeah, and you don’t want to do it, you don’t want to walk that road alone.
Zack Johnson: 26:52
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 26:54
You want friends and family to walk it with you and hopefully do we jointly cultivate these kind of relationships. That intellectual honesty is a cherished thing. But hey, if we’re struggling we’re going to go fully, because we trust the Lord to return us to truth at some point, wherever that leads us. He’s the God and author of all truth, so we trust that he’s going to bring us there. And one thing I wanted to say is I did not grow up and probably as conservative of a background as I’ve encountered here at Sattler- as a third gen, third gen academic. You get the whatever lineage comes out of the academy for a while. But it’s like, and being here at Sattler has forced me to expose me to some new ideas and traditions, and I have very much appreciated it. My wife asked me like how’s it going? What do you think of the students? Like they’re wonderful. I so appreciate these things that I now see with them and I’m growing and evolving too. I’m learning as I encountering new traditions and groups of people and I’m thankful for it.
Zack Johnson: 28:03
Amen, I wanted to talk a little bit about. You’ll see why I’m going to ask this eventually. You spend a lot of time in academia. How much time in your training. And it was all here in Boston, right, that’s right. Can you walk me through your timeline on what it took to get the BS, ms and PhD at North Eastern and tell us where North Eastern is, for those of us who don’t know?
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 28:30
Yeah, so North Eastern University is in Boston. It’s just inland from where Sattler is located. It’s close to the Museum of Fine Arts, if you want to spot it on a map.
Zack Johnson: 28:42
If you visit, I know someone who will take you to the MFA for anyone listening.
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 28:47
It’s a wonderful museum to visit. It’s been a great day trip and there’s some other museums that are great. So for education, so North Eastern does a five-year bachelor’s undergraduate program in engineering, with some co-op, these six-month internships built into the program. So I did that, starting in 2003. I started my undergraduate studies since I can probably reverse calculate my age if you want to, I’m not ashamed of that, it’s fine and then I happen to this is not true universally I happen to pioneer what was at the time the bachelor’s and master’s joint program at North Eastern. So I did those concurrently. So I’d have my undergraduate studies and then in the evening I’d take graduate classes and be working my way through a master’s degree.
Zack Johnson: 29:36
You really are a nerd, aren’t you?
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 29:38
It’s true, it’s a compliment. I’ve embraced that title now, so I take it as such. It’s a. That’s just who God made me. So yeah, 2008, 2009,. I completed my bachelor’s and master’s, respectively, both in industrial engineering. One was just classic engineering. My master’s was in statistics area and I went to I originally started a PhD program. Just after that I figured out that I’m not quite ready in my life to do a PhD because it takes a lot of focus and intent right. I was advised this. I didn’t listen to the advice at the time that doing a PhD to put off doing real life is a bad idea because you it takes drive and a focus to finish it. And I didn’t have that. And so I was in Ann Arbor, michigan, for a for about a semester. I came home and started a job, began job at a tech company and a few years in actually it was like a year or two and I applied for a PhD program and funding through the company and was denied because I didn’t really have a problem to solve yet. And I said to myself you know what, that maybe I should listen this time. And so I listened. I worked for a number of more years, came up with a really good problem set that I thought I said I can really do work in this area and went back, applied for the same program and was accepted into the funding pipeline for doctoral studies, came back to Northeastern, started my doctorate in 2013 and graduated in 2017. Yeah, and then I had a commitment to the company after the fact. I had to because they had funded the program and so they wanted some return on their investment, and so I paid off my commitment to them and then began looking okay, what else might I do professionally?
Zack Johnson: 31:24
And then in all your years in training or learning, whatever you want to call it I know some people don’t like that. We’re training.
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 31:34
I don’t think it’s that bad. I think it’s appropriate.
Zack Johnson: 31:39
Was your Christian worldview on the sides strengthened, threatened through being in a… I’m not sure what the academic environment was there at BU. I’d just love to hear you talk about that a little bit.
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 31:56
So are you talking about both, when I was a student or in my original sort of faculty role? Maybe both, yeah, as a student, I think it was strengthened. But looking back, I think it was strengthened in a youthful sense of, you know, as a young man, unmarried and figuring out how do I have this faith that I’ve been given? Is it really on solid footing? Like, what am I really believing? Am I fighting sin in a community of faith? What am I supposed to do? And so I began to put feet to the ground and work with teams of people that I grew with love and respect. In those years and this was just in the beginning of when a lot of anti-Christian animus, necessarily, but there was always this tension on campus between communities of faith and just the prevailing tides of culture that always existed. And so I think back then we had a tendency to overinflate the tension of like that we’re on a battleground, that you know I have my enemies and we’re fighting the good fight. And you know, in years since I’ve seen that it doesn’t help anyone to conflate the conflict. Really you want to just be honest about. There is a battle going on right, there’s good and there is evil, and the battle lines have been drawn, but we fight these battles in love and care for people. So I didn’t really get that as much as an undergraduate. Now, in the intervening years I got married, began to have a family and so hopefully my perspective, you know, matured a little, ended up at Boston University as a faculty member and Boston University I think that the news would portray a secular university as sort of this battleground where anyone who’s a Christian is sort of picketed at their doors and things. That’s sort of our assumption. In my experience that wasn’t true. That, you know, especially Boston University is such a large place and while it started as a Methodist seminary in its early history, I think as largely by their own admission is left a lot of that theological backing behind. And yeah, we didn’t see the you know, the day-to-day door-to-door conflict. That might be portrayed in some places, but it definitely. You knew the risks being evangelistic and out front.
Zack Johnson: 34:29
Really faith. And so I guess I want to compare and contrast that to present day, let’s just say this week or the last month where I’m eagerly reading the news about, specifically about, I’ll say, conservative donors coming on the news after some demonstrations and saying conservative people need to pull their money away from funding secular institutions, who usually this is kind of tied to Israel and Hamas type thinking. But how do you think about these things? Particularly, it seems like engineering is a safe field. It seems safe to me. I’ll just say that. But then let’s go to another institution and you’re looking at the humanities, liberal arts, politics. It seems a little bit more threatening. And so how do we think about us as Christians? Where do we want to tackle, where do we want to place ourselves and where do we not want to place ourselves? And do we need to be creating new institutions like Sattler? Do we need to be saying, all right, that’s kind of off there, let’s go do our own thing, be neighbors, yet not sort of draw some sort of distinctions between us? I’m just trying to give commentary between your experience in BU and the current environment. You just get. People are looking into Boston. Being like that place is crazy.
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 35:58
Right, and I would agree with your earlier comment that engineering and the hard sciences, I suppose, are a bit of a safer environment, because in mathematics I guess maybe this is one reason I like it is what is true is true there isn’t really too much of a debate about mathematical truth. The truth in the humanities may vary very broadly, and so I think I mean one of the things that drew me to Sattler was a renewed focus on discipleship and actually students being concerned about righteous living. Right, because a century ago most American colleges had codes of conduct that you had to live in a righteous way. They were still holding on to some element of theological backing and you had upperclassmen who would disciple, in effect disciple undergraduate students, and that was the expectation, and both in my college, my collegiate experience, and then working at BU, that has largely been abandoned. There’s no, as long as you’re not violating the state law of Massachusetts or some policy of the college, there’s no real restriction on what you do, and that’s been presented as freedom. But the question I would ask is you look at the people who are being created by the institutions and they may have a skill set and that’s what they went there to gain. But who have they been built into as people? And I looked at Sattler and said I agree with the mission that you’re trying to build the whole person. You’re going to give them skills or expertise in something as they go to begin a vocation, but not just that. You’ve cared for their soul right and that you want them to come out with their faith strengthened, not weakened, in the collision environment.
Clark Wray: 37:51
Yeah, I’m just going to be an ongoing joke.
Zack Johnson: 37:53
And then so with righteous living. Let me take that to a little bit of a point here. We obviously have a lot of our students and a lot of our community have some sort of passion problem. I really care about throwing myself into solving this problem. You go around campus. It’s different things for different people Church planning in Bangladesh or running a family business in Kansas that does well. How would you pair the pursuit of business and righteous living with being able to tackle a passion problem that people have so that we can sort of? I don’t think all business needs to be redeemed, but in a certain sense we do have a task of redeeming the field of business to make it more than just a money making endeavor, and lots of people talk about this in different ways. But let’s say that there’s a group of students choosing a major pool of them. What would be your pitch to them on why business is a very feasible avenue to add to your toolkit to tackle the problems you care about?
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 39:13
I think it gives you a very direct application of being salt and light in the world. When you take on any vocation, you’re now going to have to be involved with an organization that lives and operates on some amount of money, whether it’s high finance or you’re working in a nonprofit sector. You’re working in an organization and you have people, and so having at least a business background that exposes you to the idea of how businesses are built and operated allows you to effectively walk in and out of the hallways and offices of that place and look to apply your faith in a way that you’re known for your living love for your fellow man there. You’re not just seeking to be like a ladder run climber. That’s sort of the picture that’s presented If you get into business. You’re just looking for the next promotion. I think the Christian worldview shares that. It’s good to get promoted for excellent work, but your goal is not to just rise to the top. Your goal is to make Christ known and loved by the people around you. So having actually the business, literature is fairly unanimous in its conclusion that those who live with integrity, however broadly defined in a business context, tend to do better. There might be short-term game to violations of morality, deception or greed, but in the long term those businesses tend not to succeed. The ones that do succeed operate on high levels of integrity by their own definition. We would look at that and say I can apply scriptural principles to this, and that’s true. We don’t want to assign those to a business that doesn’t adhere to them explicitly. So I think business is a good general framework for thinking about solving the problems of the world, with the scriptures on our chest and the love of God going forward from us.
Zack Johnson: 41:14
Okay, I like it. And then do you talk about money with your students at all?
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 41:20
Zack Johnson: 41:22
How do you… what should… this is a massive question. What are the guiding principles between our relationship with money, maybe as a businessmen, and then add on the Christian lens to it? I ask this selfishly because there’s a sermon last night about Christians and money, and how much to accumulate versus sell everything we have versus accumulate this much and be investors. Do you have any guiding principles that you think about? I do.
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 41:52
I think Jesus said it well when you cannot serve both God and money. So we would say there’s the real temptation for money to become an object of worship in and of itself and we would condemn that outright. I think rightly so. But ultimately I would say followers of Christ are going to have unique roles in God’s kingdom. Some might be business people, some might work in non-profits, some might work primarily in the home, raising children, and those will have different relationships with money. And so ultimately, every follower of Christ is accountable to the Lord themselves. You operate in local communities of faith, but your conscience, in conjunction with the Holy Spirit, has to be clear with how you view and work with money. And so someone can have a real conviction of I have too many possessions, I need to sell them, but someone else may have a different conviction on that, based on what their obedience looks like. And we’re not to, as Christians, to judge or condemn one another for that. We’re to live an understanding and just maybe learn something about hey, was it wise to buy such an expensive car? And there may have been a reason, but it also might be a good sanctification challenge for someone. So we can lovingly bring those questions to the fore, and again this goes back to the intellectual honesty of here’s how I’ve built my theology of money. I think the scriptures are clear that we’re not. Our goal is not accumulation right, because we can’t take it with us, but if, whatever we bring in, we’re able to steward in such a way that we get to see God’s kingdom flourishing around us, that’s a good thing, and so I would say having few possessions is not in and of itself inherently righteous, but also having the converse is also true. How are you? All that I am is a steward while I’m here, am I stewarding well, and how? I’m accountable to the Lord himself?
Zack Johnson: 43:50
Yeah, and I think about it all the time and I was laughing because we’re built on these three Cs right, core, christian character and cost and we made this announcement about exciting things and how we’re dealing with cost and a student came up to me afterwards and he said it sounds kind of like kingdom socialism. I was like, oh, that’s not the right, it’s not what I want to go with. But how we deal, interact with money kind of changes the way we build institutions and how we run them and I think a lot of students will end up facing many of our students end up having this sort of pull over. What do you do with money? And it’s probably it’s an age old question, but I’ll move into another field here what books, magazines, literature, podcasts have shaped you in the past? And then what continues to shape you today? Are there any resources that you like to talk about with people, that something that sort of changed you or that you give to people, or something like that?
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 44:56
Yeah, that’s a good question. I think I was having this conversation this weekend with someone that I prefer books written at least a generation ago. I feel like modern and this is not a blanket condemnation, but I feel like a number. There’s been a trend in writing recently to make it with the goal to make it broadly accessible, and in that you sort of lose some of the clarity and the mental strength that it takes to tease out complex arguments If a book is too. If someone says to me, read this book, it’s a quick read, I’m like I don’t really want it. I want this to be hard because I know that I will get lazy if I’m not reading things that challenge me. And so I like podcasts. I like some world view podcasts. I listen to Alamolers, the Briefing fairly frequently, but I also want to and I tell this to my kids too. They ask to listen to audiobooks all the time. I have nothing against audiobooks, but I challenge them like pick up a paper book, right, because I think we’re even seeing modern research that suggests that opening the pages of a physical book does something more to your body than listening or reading any book and have a Kindle right.
Zack Johnson: 46:05
One of those Kindle too.
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 46:07
But there’s something different about reading a book. So authors that have helped me think so Francis Schaefer was one in the 20th century, dorothy Sayers was another, even folks like Richard Foster Celebration of Discipline, things like that to just. I may not agree on every doctrinal point with these authors, necessarily, but if they make you think about how do I follow Christ more closely with what he describes, right, I think it’s a good push, and I think even reading, like reading books that are flat out in opposition to what your worldview might be, is helpful. Right, you pick up books by atheist authors Richard Dawkins, amongst others just to see okay, here’s what is being presented in the world around me. Right, I don’t think we should fear that kind of writing and reading, as though in some sense it might infect us. Right, we want to read this, be able to tease it out, bring it to the Lord and say what do I make of this? Right, even this writing seems compelling in my missing something. And bring it to other people to help us understand that we just know the world around us. Right, people who walk into our churches are going to be exposed to all these things, and I think it’s our responsibility to have a reasoned view of a broad section of the world that we encounter.
Zack Johnson: 47:25
Yeah, we used to send out a marketing email in on the bottom. I researched the phrase. I could say I don’t agree with everything here, but I still think it’s relevant to the meats fed out. The bones is what. We reserve the right to present things to people and say I don’t agree with everything in here, but there’s some things that are valuable in here as well. Is there a specific? You can say no this. Is there a specific book in those authors you mentioned that you sort of returned to or you say would shape you or not necessarily?
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 48:03
I think, yes, I would say the. It’s not a specific author, maybe a specific genre that I return to often and it’s probably by historical biography reading, biographies of oftentimes for me Christian figures in the past. I’m still working my way through the biography of Jonathan Edwards and it’s a long, voluminous tone, but it’s insightful.
Zack Johnson: 48:27
Is there a title for that, or is it just the biography of?
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 48:29
Jonathan Edwards. I think it’s just called Jonathan Edwards. Marsden is the author. But just reading again, not venerating or idolizing these people, but understanding what their lives were like. This is the environment they grew up in, and how is it differing from the environment that I see, but still seeing some of the same challenges or world conflicts that we experienced today. Nothing new under the sun, right?
Zack Johnson: 48:58
Very, very true. Very lamentations, very lamentations of you. And then we have this pearl of wisdom here at Soutler where, over time, different of our faculty and students get up and get to give like a nugget, a pearl of wisdom. Have you given one of the? I’ve not given one yet. Have you thought about what you might say if you were to give a pearl? You don’t have to spoil it. But what are some nuggets of wisdom or pearls of wisdom you like to weave, or, if anything, it’s hard to come up with something clever right on the spot.
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 49:36
So no, I’ve not given one yet. It’s on the top of my email inboxes. Here’s the link to sign up to give a pearl. I still should do that. I think the I guess one topic that has come up recently, both in my local church community, has been the phrase like unity in essentials, diversity in discussion and non-essentials in charity and love and all things that we and followers of Christ didn’t have. You know, I think our record of charitable love for one another has been speckled over the centuries that you know, we Christians of various flavors, have not been able to get along, and the extreme of that is just the abandonment of truth and the pursuit of ecumenism, which is not the goal right. The gospel is should always be valued and never tampered with. But how do we, how is our love displayed so compellingly that, you know, even someone who’s not in Christ would look at a pair of Christians who disagree on some major points but both wholeheartedly adhere to the gospel. How do they love each other so well? And so I think what it? You know, if I were to give a pearl quickly, it’s how do we cultivate that love and grace for one another, even if someone disagrees with us and they might, and their disagreement might prey on our insecurities. Right, I think they’re smarter than me. I think they’re. They might think less of me if they knew what I, how much I understood of this topic, that we would be content with their identity in Christ and be able to talk about things we just don’t know as well. I think that’s sometimes the challenges that people. People get onto a specific question that they’re considering deeply, and they do for a while, and then expect someone else to have been considering it by the for the same length of time and depth, and people feel out of their depth all of a sudden and say I’m not comfortable with this, whereas I think our biblical mandate is to you know, extend grace and, if we don’t know something, to be open to saying like I don’t know. I think that’s the probably the least, sadly, the least said phrase in the whole round of these. I just I don’t know. Because we want to think that we know and prove to people that we know, our pride gets in the way of saying that I’m confused. I’ve learned from a dear brother-in-law of mine, who’s a very smart guy, that he’s got. It’s been very helpful for him in his career to be able to say I don’t know something. I think we should cultivate that.
Zack Johnson: 52:11
I love that pearl. It’s actually you should give it. Our first ever graduation speech was an extended pearl on that very idea, on the ability to say I don’t know or I don’t know. Let me get back to you on what I think. Give me some time to go read and think about it. And there’s this running joke, particularly with someone studying biology, that they’ll show up back home and someone gets a cut. Hey, can you stitch this up Like there’s actually a perceived gap between what you can do and what or what you know and what you can do and being able to be like. I have no idea how to stitch up your finger. I’m not. I, yeah.
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 52:49
We’ve. I’ve run into that from time to time. You know, when you, when you have a PhD, you can officially put the title doctor on things, and people who aren’t from, who don’t know you well, are like you’re a doctor. Aren’t you Different kind of doctor? Sorry, I’m not gone to medical school, so you do not want me stitching up your finger.
Zack Johnson: 53:05
So if the plane was going down and or if someone was giving birth on the plane and they said, is there a doctor, you wouldn’t stand up.
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 53:12
I love. I love that you asked that question, because I’ve actually delivered three of my children.
Zack Johnson: 53:17
No way yeah.
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 53:18
So of three of my five children, you have to say some so the so in our, you know, our the process of pregnancy and birth, the my wife’s labors have just gone fast and we’ve we’ve, because of that we tend to have home births now, like we just can’t get to hospital in time. And so they, the early ones, came so fast that the midwives couldn’t even get there on time. And the first, the first child that was born, this was our second, our now eight year old he was. You know, I had even called the midwives on the phone and said, hey, can you come? I think the baby’s coming. They said, yep, we’re on the way. And they were not there in time. And my wife looked me in the eyes and said this baby’s coming. Like, what are we going to do? And so now I had. I had been told three things to. You know, if you ever have to deliver a baby, need to know three things. One is get mom load to the ground. Two is don’t let the baby’s head hit the ground. And three is don’t worry at all about the umbilical cord. Now, I should provide you with that. That’s not medical advice, I’m not a medical doctor, but just if you’re. If you’re in that situation, there’s three things that you know. And then get medical actual care right. You want everything to be cared for, but that happened with my my eight year old, the five year old and the three year old.
Zack Johnson: 54:36
My level of offer you has skyrocketed in the last two minutes.
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 54:40
Well, you, you happen to pick a medical situation, that most medical situations. I’ve not had any experience in that one. I actually have.
Zack Johnson: 54:47
Well, we should, we can talk. I was. I did a gap here in college and I was in Mozambique and we were getting a field hospital hospital open that had been closed down after a flood. And the first day that this field hospital opened there was a. At the end of the day, there was a woman laying on the road and someone pointed her out to me and said there’s a woman laying on the road screaming in agony. And so me and another guy ran up and she was laying on the ground with a baby. She had just given birth on the road and I was like I’m not a doctor. And then I saw, I screamed for help and a Portuguese, a Portuguese doctor, ran over and yelled out she’s having twins in Portuguese. So I sat there and helped deliver. I wasn’t, there was a doctor there and I just helped and I was like I’m never going to do this ever again and it was miraculous, sure, sure. I was like I’m never doing this again. So, with my own life, I’m like we have to be in five minutes of the hospital because I don’t want to do that ever again. So, man, I don’t even know, clark, what else do I ask about that? Yeah, it’s good. Yeah, it’s good.
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 55:59
It’s my awe and respect for my wife grew in those days, seeing that I’m like thank goodness that God made you able to do that and strengthen you for these things. Like I play a very small role, but you’ve carried this child up to this point.
Zack Johnson: 56:13
After watching your wife give birth, I tell everyone I’m like women are pure heroes. They’re amazing, it’s miraculous.
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 56:21
The physics of it. Studying mechanics, I’m like I don’t quite get it. I still don’t get it. I’ve seen it now a number of times.
Zack Johnson: 56:28
There’s not a mathematical model that explains it.
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 56:33
It’s whatever it is, it’s God ordained, yeah so you definitely think our experiences form us and that’s why that medical piece I have seen in the past.
Zack Johnson: 56:45
All right, so you want to be on a plane with Dr Harris?
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 56:50
Only if you’re super pregnant, anything else Nope.
Zack Johnson: 56:54
Are there any other questions you want to that you thought we left out that you’d like to chat about, or any other hobby horses you have right now.
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 57:04
Not really, I think the things I’ve picked up around Sattler’s campus over time of the. We live in New England here and so you get to spend time like your diversion time, where you have the mountains close by. When you’re up here and spending time enjoying God’s creation, new England’s a unique place. My wife and I like to hike as much as we’re able to to spend time together. Yeah, just something I’ve noticed about Sattler’s student community is they love doing things together, which is unique to me, having come from a number of institutions that people might say like, yeah, I’m going to be on my own by myself this weekend, but the students here it was last week in class everyone was so excited to go to a concert. Maybe universally, everybody was excited to go to the same concert. The whole college is going, it seems. What concert.
Zack Johnson: 57:58
It was a Beethoven concert.
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 58:00
And I was like that’s great.
Zack Johnson: 58:02
I knew it wasn’t like Taylor Swift. I was like make sure you say it was Beethoven.
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 58:08
And I love that. And I’ll get to brag on the students too. As a student in my statistics class and statistics is not known for being an exciting subject I do the best I can to make it exciting, but every day I walk into statistics class and there’s a student in there consistently playing classical music maybe it’s Beethoven practicing stats problems. I asked him the other day what do you do? And he says I’m doing these problems and I’ve been teaching for a long time. I’ve never had a stats student on his own time be practicing the statistics problems. And so you know if, given the opportunity, I will brag on the diligence and the care of the students for being here. So that’s, you know, that’s unique to me and I feel blessed to like just interact with them. It’s my privilege to give what I have to you. If you want me to teach you something, I’ll gladly do it.
Zack Johnson: 59:05
I sympathize with you. I taught stats here and you do everything you can to have people enjoy it and walk out excited. And stats it’s hard in 101.
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 59:16
Yeah, but then your first stats class is hard, yeah, but at the end of the day you realize you need it. This helps you make sense of the world, because you’re going to, you know information gets thrown at you and you’re like I don’t know how to tease this out. I don’t know if this is true or false or what to make of it, but if you’ve got some intuition from a class maybe stats you can make sense of the news.
Zack Johnson: 59:35
Finally, Well, and that’s why actually we can. I know we’re approaching an hour here, but my personal instinct is that to live today and not know how to deal with some of the claims that are thrown at you all the time now, study show, research shows you name it XYZ. It’s about politics, it’s about faith, it’s about vaccines, stats is everywhere, and being able to exist now without having some critical thinking is very difficult and challenging, and so that’s kind of for my. If I were ever up to me, I’d have every person take stats.
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 1:00:19
Which reminded me of a lot. The last topic I just remembered one that I thought would be helpful. I remember at a previous place I was teaching and this had to do with drug testing. Because I was asking a question of mathematics students and I made up this contrived example that I’m like. They cannot possibly believe that this is how statistical testing is done. I tried to construct the question in such a way they would seem absurd, but they uniformly believe that that’s how they test the drugs. And I was like that doesn’t like okay, from a math standpoint that makes sense, but what you just described to me is actually a war crime. And they were like oh right, that seems unusual, and both with statistics and with argumentation. So in my bio there’s natural language processing, natural language understanding. One of the shortcomings of something like chat GPT is you can present to it just a nonsense argument about something that Clark Ray is a mean person because he’s tall. It’s a nonsense argument because one Clark is not a mean person but his height has nothing to do with any of that. But chat GPT can’t discern whether that’s right. It doesn’t do the understanding component yet, and so statistics being one tool but also reason to debate. An argument of actually using the English language in a way that’s logically consistent is such a lacking thing. When a news article says experts say I’m immediately skeptical because that’s an appeal to authority argument that actually isn’t logically sound. You have to make a reason to claim. So there’s hope that natural language processing will extend into actually assessing argument quality, but that’s a hard problem to solve. It’s not been done yet.
Zack Johnson: 1:02:14
Smartly, smartly tried. The experts say there is a notion that you can actually get experts on both sides who actually were probably trained at the same institutions and they both have really valid expertise to be pitted against each other, and then you just have to choose one or the other.
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 1:02:33
And the article will, and this is the sad nature of I’m not going to be a blanket condemnation of media, but having to be careful of like did an article choose one set of experts that it liked for its purpose, and if both sides aren’t presented, then you actually don’t have a complete picture of anything which is sad Right.
Zack Johnson: 1:02:54
Well, Clark, anything that peaked your interest.
Clark Wray: 1:03:00
Lots of things that peaked my interest. I find myself using AI Chessi Brazil on a regular basis. Do you feel like there’s anything about that that could do? You feel like that promotes productivity or decreases creativity? Interesting?
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 1:03:20
That’s a good question. I think it has the real potential to do both, because JATGPD does some things beautifully Right. It’s able to construct text fairly readily, you can write computer code very simply and if you need, if you know the end goal you need to get to, and it’s really just a matter of typing keys to get something that they can help you greatly. So it has some real productivity gains. But if you’re asking it to sort of just get you out of a creativity hole a little bit, you might lose some of the marination that your mind needed to come up with something even more unique, which JATGPD can’t do. It can only learn from the data that it’s been fed, and so I think it really can increase productivity. There was a study that came out recently that there’s a number of people in the US and Canada who are what are now called over-employed, which means they had a job that JATGPD could help them do at like 10x the speed, and so they’ve actually been able to take on like four different full-time jobs and do them all using JATGPD.
Zack Johnson: 1:04:23
That sounds awful to me.
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 1:04:25
And they manage their hours and they’re making huge amounts of salary which from an engineering standpoint, I’m like oh good use of efficiency in the system. I’m not sure all those companies would appreciate that kind of a thing. So I think it can increase productivity, but I think we’re going to start to discover the downsides in not the too distant future.
Zack Johnson: 1:04:47
Yeah, yeah, I agree, I was laughing because I give a lot of talks and you’re always looking for analogies. We read many people like me have a list of analogies they collect somewhere. And now I can just go to JATGPD and say give me an analogy on this, and I’ve never used the analogy it’s given me. I’m like that’s ridiculous, that doesn’t make any sense.
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 1:05:15
And some of the tricky parts is you can feed JATGPD a text of scripture and say, can you write me a sermon from this text and it will do exactly what you ask it to do, and then put you end up with these thorny theological questions of now. You have to contend with something new, of like was this Holy Spirit inspired? When you talk about inspiration or the needs of a congregation, how do you then assess it? So I think there’s a like I would never pastors and leaders of churches I would never encourage to now take that on to make your job easier. It’s like the Lord will provide what you need, but like you have to trust him. You have to trust an autonomous system that someone’s built to do, to give the very words of life to the people that you care about.
Zack Johnson: 1:06:02
I just don’t do that, and maybe this is to both of you. If you have no idea what AI is or even what JATGPD is I know a lot of people they’re like I don’t even know, I have no idea what you’re talking about what’s the best way to like take it for a spin, so to speak? There’s JATGPD4 on open AI. It’s barred for Google. I know China. There’s a company in China that’s releasing its own model right now. What’s like a good way to just go experiment and see what’s up?
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 1:06:34
So you can create a free account with JATGPD4. I think it’s chatopenaicom. Create a free account there and you can just take it out for a spin, ask it to do things. And now to use the more the as was going to happen, to use the more cutting edge models, you’re gonna have to pay a subscription, so you pay per user, per token. That you might do, but the basic ones, the old legacy models, are all now free. So just try it and again, but be wary of the temptation to use it to replace what you know. You need to invest time and effort to grow in.
Zack Johnson: 1:07:12
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 1:07:13
Yeah, like friendships or the work or the study you’re going to do. It’s like you know. Realize that temptation early and say like your integrity is far more important than your productivity. So like don’t abuse it. Use it for what it’s good for.
Zack Johnson: 1:07:26
Clark, do you have any tips for use GPT?
Clark Wray: 1:07:31
The creative side of things. We actually did try to use it to find a podcast title and we picked none of them. But the productivity side for me is usually around dry documents, select agreements, code troubleshooting like a soup of a code I need to write to put something on my page. Stuff like that’s extremely efficient. But the creative side of it has been more challenging, although on the scriptural side, 100% agree on sermon prep, not having it write your sermons, but Bible searches are quite useful. It’ll mess things up sometimes, but be able to ask it and what are passages that talk about this? And it’ll give you a list of scriptures and you have to go look at that and check it out. It makes a pretty powerful search engine.
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 1:08:17
If you take advantage of what computers are good for. Computers don’t get tired. They can do things incredibly fast. If you’re trying to review 10,000 lines of illegal document, don’t trust a person to do that, because they’ll get tired, they’ll miss stuff, whereas chat GPT can do it easily. Just let it do what it’s good at. But from a human standpoint, we want to interface with it in a way that’s beneficial to all. We’re not going to cost ourselves something that we would rather not have given away.
Zack Johnson: 1:08:46
And it can save time with graphic generation too. We don’t need to get into it, but I’ve been really impressed with some of the creative marketing side that you can.
Dr. Benjamin Harris: 1:08:59
Yeah, because what you’re seeing is companies like OpenAI are now consuming other companies that do complimentary things, like Dahli and really so and now they just really see ability to now intake documents and analyze them of a variety of types, and so they’re just going to get more and more centralized, I think Right. So I think it’s good to know how to use them wisely. Yeah.
Zack Johnson: 1:09:24
Well, thanks so much for joining me and I really enjoyed the conversation. And if you’re interested in coming to Sattler and studying under Dr Harris and his tutelage, what do you do, clark? Apply that to Sattleredu? Yeah, so we’re talking about this more and more, but this year in particular, we’re making a phenomenal financial announcement where we’re trying to do away with tuition. Make it a thing of the past. More exciting details to come there and anything else, any other events or anything not necessarily- Anything that I know related to that will be after this podcast comes out. All right, thanks everyone, thank you.