February 18 Lecture: David Crater
The Finger of God: Biblical Studies in the Age of Artificial Intelligence
The quantitative and mathematical analysis of language, including religious texts, predates the digital computer, but since the advent of the latter, sophisticated quantitative analysis of all kinds of texts has flourished, including machine translation between languages at expert level. This article reviews the history of the digital humanities as background for more recent developments as they relate particularly to biblical studies, provides a synopsis of the limited significant digital analyses completed to date on biblical texts, and presents the results of an original digital analysis of the author’s own writings alongside biblical writings to illustrate the power of these concepts and the mathematical substructure of language. The natural and recent climax of this history and these techniques is in neural networks, an altogether new way of modeling language not as statistical frequencies of phrases, words, and n-grams but as connections between millions of artificial neurons organized in layers to perform specific low-level language functions much like the brain does. The article foreshadows the use of A.I. and deep learning techniques for the analysis and translation of the Bible.
Professor Crater is the chair of and associate professor in TMU’s Engineering and Computer Science department. He started his career in Colorado, working on satellite systems for the Air Force—first as an officer and later as a contractor. He then worked for several years for the state legislature of Colorado, and later briefly served the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, DC. Afterward, he moved to Indiana to work for the Navy in electronic warfare systems. He then moved again, this time to Los Angeles, where he continued to work for a time as a software engineer in defense and intelligence satellite systems. All along the way during his career, he pursued various interests through graduate academic work, including in the fields of computer science and theology. This opened up the opportunity to transition his career toward academia in his current role at TMU, while still maintaining productive connections to industry. In his free time, Prof. Crater enjoys reading, golfing, and skiing.