Sunday, February 5, 2012

Chatting with God

As I have mentioned in previous blog entries, Alex is very good at using Google to find information he wants to know. When he was younger, he loved the website Ask Jeeves [which later became Ask.com] that allowed him to ask his quirky questions. This week he really hit the jackpot when he found a website that supposedly permits him to ask questions of God. This site, called iGod [To access this website, click here.], uses artificial intelligence to respond immediately to questions submitted in writing with answers God might give. With the slogan “Repenting made easy,” their home page offers the following disclaimer: “Note: iGod is meant to be used for fun. A sense of humour [sic] is recommended.” Since Alex finds great comfort in his firm belief that God knows everything, he’s delighted to have the chance to ask questions. In fact, he has often expressed the desire to ask God questions when we have told him that we don’t know the answers to some of his deep questions. I’m not certain if he really thinks that God is answering his questions, or if he’s having fun pretending, but at least he’s posting his strange questions online instead of asking us.

Ed discovered that Alex was asking questions on iGod when he scanned his Internet browsing history this week. We check his laptop on a regular basis to make sure he’s not ordering expensive electronic equipment without our knowledge or investigating automobile loans, even though he doesn’t have a driver’s license. At first I was a little concerned about who was supplying the answers to Alex’s questions (even though I know God has better things to do than answer offbeat e-mails), but I was relieved to find out the answers are supplied by artificial intelligence instead of a real person who might prey on my na├»ve and unsuspecting son. One of the best things about Alex’s interest in this website is that by finding out the questions he needs to ask, we learn more about how his mind works. I also like that he wants to reach out to God and have a dialogue with him, especially considering that autism hinders his language and his social skills.

One of the questions Alex asked was actually a complaint revealing his obsession with gas prices. He had made a remark about how high the gas prices were, and “God” responded, “Quite honestly, if I were you, I wouldn’t worry about it.” If we had constructed an answer to this comment, we couldn’t have come up with anything better. I wish that Alex would take this advice and quit fretting over gas prices, especially since he can’t drive and doesn’t need to buy gas for a car. Another question Alex asked of “God” was as follows: “What is 24 hours a day seven days a week?” I’m betting that Alex was testing “God’s” math skills, knowing that he sees everything in terms of numbers. Instead of giving the answer Alex probably expected—168 hours—the clever artificial intelligence responded with a much better answer: “Me.” If Alex continues to ask questions on iGod, I hope this website continues to give him good advice and that he heeds the answers he’s given. I just wish I could somehow get iGod to convince Alex that he doesn’t need to get up at 5:30 in the morning. Probably there are some things that I still need to ask the real God as we keep praying for improvements in Alex.

“Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.” Psalm 46:10

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