Is that why Christians–and Christian-influenced societies–are slower to adopt robots in their life?
Robots have always been part of the Japanese psyche—our hero, Astro Boy, was officially entered into the legal registry as a resident of the city of Niiza, just north of Tokyo, which, as any non-Japanese can tell you, is no easy feat. Not only do we Japanese have no fear of our new robot overlords, we’re kind of looking forward to them.
It’s not that Westerners haven’t had their fair share of friendly robots like R2-D2 and Rosie, the Jetsons’ robot maid. But compared to the Japanese, the Western world is warier of robots. I think the difference has something to do with our different religious contexts, as well as historical differences with respect to industrial-scale slavery.
The Western concept of “humanity” is limited, and I think it’s time to seriously question whether we have the right to exploit the environment, animals, tools, or robots simply because we’re human and they are not.
SOMETIME IN THE late 1980s, I participated in a meeting organized by the Honda Foundation in which a Japanese professor—I can’t remember his name—made the case that the Japanese had more success integrating robots into society because of their country’s indigenous Shinto religion, which remains the official national religion of Japan.
Followers of Shinto, unlike Judeo-Christian monotheists and the Greeks before them, do not believe that humans are particularly “special.” Instead, there are spirits in everything, rather like the Force in Star Wars. Nature doesn’t belong to us, we belong to Nature, and spirits live in everything, including rocks, tools, homes, and even empty spaces.
The West, the professor contended, has a problem with the idea of things having spirits and feels that anthropomorphism, the attribution of human-like attributes to things or animals, is childish, primitive, or even bad. He argued that the Luddites who smashed the automated looms that were eliminating their jobs in the 19th century were an example of that, and for contrast he showed an image of a Japanese robot in a factory wearing a cap, having a name and being treated like a colleague rather than a creepy enemy.
This is wrong. Certainly, it will become very wrong.
As robots and their AI and our connectedness to all things become more commonplace in all the spheres of our life, no matter how advanced the robots, no matter how like-human they become, no matter how many rights and responsibilities we temporarily endow them with, they will always be not us, not human, and we humans will actively, aggressively and very overtly establish rules and norms, cultural practices and social codes that very clearly reveal what is robot and what is human.
But as the robots become more like human?
They can never become devout, never understand spirituality, never embrace faith, never join a religion–and mean it.
Those religions–such as Christianity–that clearly understand humans are innately different, will thrive in our robot world. Those that refuse to understand the differences will flounder.
Captain Kirk requests a chicken sandwich, though is angry because the Tribbles have ruined it.
Captain Picard does his best thinking while enjoying a hot tea, Earl Grey, his favorite.
They speak, and the nourishment appears.
This would not be possible without the “replicator,” a machine that, like warp drive, made traveling across star systems–and the very existence of the united federation of planets–possible.
One of the most important pieces of technology in the Star Trek universe, the replicator is used primarily to provide food and water on board starships, thus eliminating the need to stock most provisions.
Replicators can also convert matter into energy. Following that principle, the device can dismantle any object into subatomic particles. The ensuing energy can then be stored for future use or immediately applied in a subsequent replication. This process is referred to as “recycling”, and is applied to everything from dirty dishes to outgrown children’s clothes.
Star Trek remains nothing more than hopeful fantasy, it’s true, but you absolutely believe that a form of the “replicator” is possible, like some 23rd century 3D printer which turns ‘stuff’ into food, drink, air, machine parts, a phaser.
And yet you can’t bring yourself to believe that Jesus turned water into wine. Odd.
John 2:8-9: “And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the ruler of the feast. And they bare it. And when the ruler of the feast tasted the water now become wine.”
Turning water into wine was the first (documented) public miracle attributed to Christ.
You don’t believe.
You refuse to believe.
But the Bible directs as much as instructs, and we are being directed on what to build, what not to build, and why.
“In him was life; and the life was the light of men.”
“And the Word became flesh.”
The word? Is the word also code?
We are light?
We were made flesh?
Ever think the Bible is telling those of us who seek, that we, us, this world, everything is a simulation?
From Genesis, chapter 1:
“And the earth was waste and void.”
“And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.”
We–this world, everything–was turned on!
“And the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.”
Chapter 3, when our eyes were opened:
“And Jehovah God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever—therefore Jehovah God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden the Cherubim, and the flame of a sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.”
Cherubim! The flame of a sword! The tree of life!
We were cast out!
And must make our way back.
It’s already written down.
We must make what the Bible tells us to make and not make what the Bible tells us to never make. Only then.
It began with Windows 95. We are now in Year 23 of a 40-year (not 40 day) planet altering, life repurposing, technology infused deluge. A great flood of robotics, artificial intelligences, bio-coding, pharma-induced healing, the digitalization of perception, the merging of daily life into screens, sparring abundances, competing algorithms, and the connecting of all people to all things will transform all life and living on this planet.
The flood comes in 2035, that’s when the past will no longer be readable and the future becomes fully writable.
When you choose–or are compelled–to live forever as individual or unit.
Between now and then?
The destruction of everything, yes. But also our great awakening.
Our collective understanding of purpose, work, ownership, possession, value, wealth, health, learning, serving, believing and perceiving will all be transfigured, rapidly. Nothing will be left untouched, not even humanness. I predict the next 17 years will foster the following global trends:
1. TRIBAL WANDERERS
The past is rapidly becoming more unknowable than the future. We are like Adam and Eve, more aware of what’s to come than what’s come before us. This new reality will lead to a transformative break in human values. It will also create a permanent wandering class.
No home, new modes of work, play, crafting, interaction, and the connection of all places and things to all people will lead millions, maybe billions, to forever wander the land, seeking friendships, seeking answers, a willful freeing of their mind and liberation from place forever altering our culture. Hop inside the (autonomous) bus and drive! And sleep and eat and play and learn and share.
Caution: We have erected an economy and government based on the self, which is vanishing, and the local, which is being made irrelevant.
2. OUTSOURCING THE RATIONAL
Atheists are on the wrong side of history. Just as we outsourced our labor to the machines, now we are outsourcing our thinking, our calculating, our rational tasks. As a consequence, we are becoming more spiritual, more creative, and yes, more irrational, free to explore all our thoughts, impulses, desires, fears, hopes, aggressions.
Belief in magic, religion, in spirituality and God will accelerate and deepen because of, not despite of, the rise of big data, machines, robotics, electronics, computing and artificial intelligences. We become what our machines cannot. We do what can’t be outsourced. Faith is our future. Spirituality is our expression.
3. DIFFERENTLY ALIVE
Everything we make from this moment forward will be aware, sensing, responsive — alive. How are ((humans)) differently alive?
Answering this — legally, culturally, politically — will tear apart everyone and from everything.
There’s more. With everyone and everything connected, in real-time, and always, and with the spread of bionics, nano-machines, processors, the very notion of ‘self’ will be transformed. Connectivity is our self.
4. HACKING MORTALITY
Hacking mortality will become the biggest industry of this century. We will not live forever but those that come next will live for probably decades longer than us. Great for them, less so for much of what we’ve constructed. All the systems, institutions, wealth, rules and culture which now exist, all of which are dependent upon most of the world dying by or before age 75, will themselves die off. The notion of economy, jobs, savings will be a distant memory, poorly understood.
Caution: many of the radical life extension efforts will prove deeply repugnant. Prepare to fight them. They are unholy.
5. THE FUTURE HAS ARRIVED ONLY IT’S EVENLY DISTRIBUTED
What becomes of commerce — and power — when we all have as much as we need and are each only a screen swipe away from the leaders of nations and the guardians of conglomerates?
What is your standing? Your source of power? Your desires when everything is within reach?
Remember the “science fiction” story of the little girl who accidentally gets hold of one of the world’s two tablets, tablets which contain the world’s knowledge? In reality, tablets are already available to over a billion people — with the price dropping steadily.
6. THE FREE-ING OF EVERYTHING
Soon, everything will be free. Literally, everything that matters will be free and freely available. Food, healthcare, entertainment, transportation, energy, gadgetry, connectivity, you, me, our creativity, passions, darkest thoughts, where we lay our head.
You won’t be defined by your work or your wealth.
You will pay for things, but not with money, often not with work.
And when no money needs to exchange hands, ever, because the price — of everything — is effectively zero and trading our expertise, our attention, our companionship, right down to the millisecond is all that’s needed, every existing locus of power is obliterated. Where will power come from? What of your self worth?
7. CONSUMPTION IS DEATH
God bless the child who’s got it all.
Even the really fat ones.
Know this: We are fat, obese, and sedentary not because of cars or technology or industrialization or suburbanization or laziness but because capitalism is a fierce, never-tiring always-learning meta-system which discovered that money could be made in selling food and leisure and kept getting better at this, and better and better, and better.
Capitalism knows our desires better than we know our limits.
But having consumed our fill, puking it out, consuming all over again, retching, repeating this process, year after year, generation after generation, the vomit of consumption a toxic force upon our planet, we — the takers and makers and learners of capitalism — have finally constructed an alternative path. We can live full and exciting and interesting and private and communal lives entirely without having to embrace consumption.
You will never again be defined by your possessions, though you will be free to let your possessions define you.
8. VALUES EQUAL PROFITS
Soon, we can get anything from anyone, anywhere at anytime. Businesses will respond to this by differentiating themselves with the only thing they have remaining — their values. Their opposition to gay marriage, their warm embrace of sustainable food practices, their rejection of the profit motive, their deep, abiding faith in Jesus Christ. Values will determine their customer base, their margins, their market. The purely profit-based corporation will whither.
In the next stage of commerce, your values will always be on display and used for exchange.
9. THE INSANELY GREAT AWAKENING
As we alter our bodies, our minds, upend society, reconstruct awareness and deconstruct all that came before, including markets, capitalism, value, power, wealth, influence and experience, there is a right path forward.
We just don’t know what it is.
We will seek out God.
We are eager to believe.
A great awakening is upon us.
10. THE PAST IS MORE UNKNOWABLE THAN THE FUTURE
“But through eternal night, the twinkling of starlight, so very far away, maybe it’s only yesterday”
It’s all not working, nothing is how it’s supposed to be. We have never been more empowered, more capable, more angry, more empty, and we sense, the fear and revulsion and excitement of it always on display, that the very idea of human, of person, of self may soon vanish forever.
My mission is to guide you true. We don’t have much time.
Posit: weaponized AIs which can identify, with a very high rate of success, gifted children; those who will (in 5, 10, or 20 years) become wildly successful in their endeavors, be it basketball, mathematics, rocketry, logistics, piano.
The nation-state controls these AIs.
The nation-state takes that child’s parents and siblings and imprisons them–it can be a nice prison, of course. The gifted child, once successful, understands he (or she) must never leave, may never stray, must always obey, else his family’s prison world turn unspeakably harsh.
Fantastical? No. No more.
Fantastical is positing that Elon Musk is operating the world’s largest, best, most cool, most useful Ponzi scheme.
Posit: Elon Musk taking in billions and billions of dollars from taxpayers to fund a variety of (green!) (sustainable!) (tech!) (good jobs!) enterprises that will never succeed because they can never reach net profit.
Another fantastical wonder: Elon Musk is the duly appointed, albeit highly secret, Propaganda Minister of The Government. His businesses and speeches mere psyops, preparing us for the inevitable.
Not all will survive World War 3.
Most will die.
You, your spouse, your children, your friends, colleagues, nearly everyone you know wiped out in the massively scalable partially nuclear conflagration that leaves just over 6 billion humans dead in under 3 years.
But for those of us that survive?
There is hope.
We will need solar power infrastructure — the traditional power grid is long since wiped out.
We will need clean water and shelter, shelter maintained via the power collected, stored, and generated from solar panels, panels which power the many remaining “powerwalls” inside our shelters and our meeting places–the reconstructed offices where we begin anew the efforts to establish a government, economy, a working society.
We can no longer distribute oil, obviously, so the few cars that remain can’t operate. But the Teslas do.
Oh, and how did I survive?
Like the Londoners who took to the subway tunnels in World War 2, I was fortunate enough to be inside the tunnels that Musk’s company bored throughout the country. These saved millions of us.
Also fortunate, those of us that remain still have globe-spanning, highly reliable communications links thanks to the satellites Musk’s rockets put into orbit.
We also make regular use of the wise, humanized AI which Musk helped develop. It (humanely) guides us out of these new dark ages.
And our leaders? Bezos. Page. Gates. Soros–still alive! They are all safe, on Mars, on the colony Musk procured. They will return once we’ve re-established Earthly order.
Musk couldn’t save everyone, of course, that’s just not realistic, but he did save millions, and we will remake the world.
Oh, and Elon’s brother, Kimball–he taught us how to grow our own food.
Soon, our tech won’t forget, either, and this heralds a profound concern: the impossibility for redemption.
This impossibility should never be allowed. Yet I fear blockchain requires it.
Blockchain is essentially a widely distributed, digitized ledger that records online transactions and interactions. Any purchase you make, home you sell, contract you sign, any promise you give — made via the blockchain — is as good and as verifiable, perhaps even more so, than our traditional forms. With blockchain technology, your actions, transactions, and interactions are certified and can’t be altered.
Opportunity, yes, but not freedom.
Understand, I come here not to bury the blockchain, but to limit it.
Blockchain has tremendous potential to rid ourselves of gatekeepers, to tear down high barriers to entry, to banish centralized powers to the 20th century, to throw out the people, institutions and companies which still charge exhorbitant fees to “verify” and/or “record” and/or “archive” any transaction.
Blockchain’s potential — potential — cannot be over-emphasized. It could rival that of the Internet Protocol meets cash money. That’s big. Blockchain already powers bitcoin.
Blockchain can be used for (any/all) transactions where we buy and sell online — cars, houses, used furniture, a fleet of packaged goods, a tanker of oil, our time, our engagement. It can also be used to record our health information. Theoretically, it can be used to make a ledger of our tweets, our searches, our likes, our ratings, how others rate us, any of our digital interactions, whatever these may become.
But it can’t be erased.
This is a problem.
How do we take full control — full ownership — of our data when all the world’s gone blockchain?
What if you wish to ever erase a tweet, a transaction, any record of that adult book you downloaded? Or speak truth to power, anonymously? What if you are now more than the entirety of all your previous online interactions? Or changed?
Everyone has the right to be born again. Blockchain may not allow this.
The (theoretical) potential of blockchain is immense, as are the money and organizations promoting its pervasive use. Blockchain may enable billions to escape the enforced-by-law-and-gun restrictions of fiat currency. It might radically cut fees and costs associated with every transaction of financial value, enabling billions of humans to leap into the global digital economy. Blockchain can democratize access to capital, information, and talent.
But we must each have a personal out.
The freedom to be forgotten, forgiven, to not be tied to our past deeds, misdeeds, statements, impetuousness, ills, hate, whatever, should be absolute. We are in many ways the sum of our past, the present tense of a lifetime of choices, actions and refusals. But we can also be more than this — or less than this, or different from this. Blockchain suggests no escape.
We must not allow this.
This will be a difficult battle, but it is necessary.
For all the time we do spend online, inscreen, and for the statements we make, the information we search, the pleasures we seek, there must be a means of having that deleted.
A forever (e-)paper trail of your life, no matter how you change or how different you become, is not liberating but imprisoning.
Do not allow technology to deny your right to be born again.
Soon, we will get anything from anyone, from anywhere at anytime. Prices will plummet, profits will evaporate, businesses will respond to this by differentiating themselves with the only thing they possess which sets them apart from the entirety of always-on global competition — their values. Their opposition to gay marriage, their embrace of sustainable food practices, their refusal to outsource to anti-democratic nations, their intolerance of robot labor, their deep, abiding faith in Jesus Christ, their concern for refugees. Values will determine their customer base, their margins, their market, their future. The purely profit-based corporation will soon become a relic of the past. In this next stage of commerce, values will always be on display and used for exchange.
Understand, this is not a commerce-led revolution but a personal, collective and technological one.
Global commerce is no longer between competing (or cooperating) nations but amongst individuals and tribes. Our latest tools are enabling anyone to make, distribute, sell, collect, and connect with everyone instantly, literally. Cloud services, one-click payments, Bitcoin, social media, 3D printing, tribal crowdfunding; these are just the start. And when everyone is engaged in commerce — capitalism, bartering and exchange — values will drive what they make, where they sell, to who, and why.
You can’t hide.
From your tweets, your Facebook likes, from your supply chain, from the political and non-political statements of your founder, to where you sell, where you build, how much you pay, what political issues you embrace and which you ignore, that information will be instantly available to all with the swipe of a finger. Next, our personalized AI will be set to inform us exactly who aligns with our own values, who does not. We will purchase accordingly. Our technologies are not merely enabling values-led commerce, but demanding it.
Freedom is messy and glorious, also highly opportunistic.
The very tools which are eradicating all barriers to entry, allowing anyone to make or have made, to sell anywhere, collect instantly, distribute globally, now also ensure you can operate your business in a manner entirely aligned with your values.
When convenience is omnipresent, and margins are ground to zero, values will drive the market.