I don’t know about you, but I find these words from Herman Narula deeply troubling: “One day this book will be read by a person without a body. . . If a brain can connect to a computer – whatever that eventually means – and if the computers of the future can create worlds that are as detailed as or more detailed than the one we know today, then surely a life mediated by the limits of the physical body will one day seem a pale shadow of the life of the unfettered mind. This theoretical reader without a body – what some would call a post-human – will live a thousand parallel lives in realities we can barely fathom. As technology and its applications continue to improve and evolve, we are approaching a new epoch in human history, one in which the possibilities of our lives will diverge from the limits of our bodies.”

I read these words a few months go in the first couple of pages of Narula’s book, Virtual Society: The Metaverse and the New Frontiers of Human Experience. It makes sense that Narula is pushing this agenda, as his company Improbable is working to create this brave new world. Sadly, the promise of Narula’s Metaverse (or the Metaverse of anyone for that matter) somehow rejects the notion of original sin. It also undermines God’s good design for our embodied personhood. . . which is another matter for another time. But the very same human brokenness that has occasioned Narula’s vision of a “remedy” is destined to continue, meaning that every single one of our technological “advancements” is doomed to become another play toy and playground for broken humanity to exercise its depravity.

Marshall McLuhan was both ignored and mocked when he warned that “We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.” There’s no reason at all to believe that what’s proven correct since McLuhan first said what he did will somehow cease proving correct as human beings sketch out their oft-times sketchy plans to redeem and fix the brokenness that will only cease to exist when on that day of final consummation our King will usher in the new heavens and the new earth. Still, we plunder on, using our God-imaging creative gifts and technological knowledge to serve the creation rather than the Creator. When will we learn?

Closely related to the development of the Metaverse is our new commitment to Artificial Intelligence, a technological reality that is morphing and growing and breakneck speed. . . so fast in fact that we are prone to embrace it in the moment rather than taking time to think about how this tool which has potential for good, will serve to undo us if we don’t take the time to think through how it will not only shape us, but mis-shape us as well.

In a recent article in The Atlantic, “In Defense of Humanity,” Adrienne LaFrance issued a call for “a cultural and philosophical movement to meet the rise of artificial intelligence.” LaFrance puts meat on the bones of McLuhan’s warning as she writes, “The technocultural norms and habits that have seized us during the triple revolution of the internet, smartphones, and the social web are themselves in need of a thorough correction. Too many people have allowed these technologies to simply wash over them. We would be wise to rectify the errors of the recent past, but also to anticipate – and proactively shape – what the far more radical technology now emerging will mean for our lives, and how it will come remake our civilization.” She continues, “What’s coming stands to dwarf every technological creation in living memory: the internet, the personal computer, the atom bomb. It may well be the most consequential technology in all of human history.” Whoa! Take a minute and read her words again. LaFrance is spot on.

I hope the church is listening. . . pastors, Christian educators, parents, youth workers, etc. What we need in today’s world is a resolve to move slowly, cautiously, prayerfully, and Christianly onto any new digital frontiers. What tools will we quickly latch on to and enlist? What tools should be avoided? And how can we develop the tools of wisdom and discernment so that we erect the correct borders and boundaries around ourselves and our kids? The church is called to a radical commitment to Jesus Christ. In view of God’s mercy to us in Christ, we are, as Paul writes, “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1&2).

One of the most concerning possibilities of AI is it’s potential to – like all of our present digital technologies – disconnect us from the kind of flesh-and-blood human relationships for which we’ve been created. LaFrance recognizes this and writes, “Relationships cannot and should not be sustained in the digital realm alone, especially as AI further erodes our understanding of what is real. Tapping a ‘like’ button is not friendship; it’s a data point. And a conversation with an artificial intelligence is one-sided – an illusion of connection. Someday soon, a child may not have just on AI ‘friend,’ but more AI friends than human ones. These companions will not only be built to surveil the humans who use them; they will be tied inexorably to commerce – meaning that they will be designed to encourage engagement and profit. Such incentives warp what relationships ought to be. . . More human interactions should take place only between the people involved; privacy is the key to preserving our humanity.” If what LaFrance is saying is true – and I believe it is – think about the implications for parenting, family life, youth groups, and corporate worship – just to name a few.

I want to encourage you to move slowly, cautiously, prayerfully, and Christianly as I said earlier. Take the time to not only be aware of new technologies like the Metaverse and AI, but take the time to listen to those who are issuing warnings to be aware of the possibilities moving forward. Never forget that we will only continue to be disappointed an unfulfilled if we place our faith in humanity to solve problems. Remember that every new thing can either be used for good or for evil. . . and rest assured that this will be the case.

I want to invite you to wade onto the unfolding digital frontier with us here at CPYU. You can check out our website for a growing archive of FREE resources to not only make you aware, but to help you moving forward. Here are a couple of helpful resources to get you started, along with an interesting piece of pop culture commentary on all the changes taking place in our world today. . .

First, here’s an episode of our Youth Culture Matters podcast where I chat with author Jason Thacker about his book on Artificial Intelligence. . .

Second, subscribe and listen in to our daily 1-minute Youth Culture Today podcast where we update you on some of the newest developments in the world of children and teens, along with giving you practical and hope-filled encouragement for responding to these new trends. Here’s one episode from earlier this year where I talk about the new trend of kids returning to the old days of flip phones and why they’re doing that. . . 

Third, go ahead and download our brand-new CPYU Parent Prompt on ChatGPT And Today’s Teens. Our CPYU Parent Prompts give you information on current trends, along with timely and practical guidelines for helping your kids understand and respond to these trends in ways that glorify God.

And finally, all this talk about technological change reminded me of Joe Walsh’s song about the effects of digital technology and his desire to be an “Analog Man.” Take four minutes and give it a listen! . . . 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to Our Blog