Social Media and the Divide of America

War is a interesting phenomenon that has been inescapable since the beginning of time. Today we live in an American society that is increasingly at war with itself. On the other hand, the military is different. In combat, soldiers ignore differences of race, religion and politics within their platoon. They realize that in order to have the greatest chance of survival during war they need to do life together in cohesive unity. Throughout history the military has learned to focus on the things that unite themselves to one another rather than focusing on the differences.

In his book “Tribe”, Sebastian Junger says,

“The United States is so powerful that the only country capable of destroying Her might be the United States Herself. Which means that the ultimate terrorist strategy may be to just leave the country alone. That way America’s ugliest partisan tendencies could emerge unimpeded by the unifying effects of war. The ultimate betrayal of tribe isn’t acting competitively – that should be encouraged – but predicating your power on the excommunication of others from the group. That is exactly what politicians of both parties try to do when they spew venomous rhetoric against their rivals. This is what media figures do when they go beyond criticisms of their fellow citizens and openly revile them.”

With that in mind, something idiotically destructive that a military platoon can do during wartime is to openly revile one another. We must realize that we Americans are a single platoon ourselves rather we like it or not.  But if it is currently hard to imagine us as one unified nation, then that may be because, in actuality, we are at a great divide in our country. Moreover, we play our part in this divisive war on social media. Every day we see people speaking with contempt about the rich, the poor, blacks, whites, republicans, democrats, conservatives, liberals, the President, the government, the religious, the irreligious, etc.  

Do we really understand how this contempt is affecting us?  Humanity is still learning the science of how people communicate. One thing we have found is that the less distance between people (ex. two people face to face) then the less likely either person will act in a hostile manner toward the other. When people are face to face there is innate sympathy that toward the other person that regulates one’s behavior. This pleasant orientation has played out during most of human history.  Social media eliminates this pleasantry to a degree that we have never experienced and has done so in a short amount of time. This elimination occurred so quickly that we haven’t learned how to properly account for it in order to function correctly in our relationships nor can we comprehend its impact on our individual psyche/souls. We do, however, see it being played out in America in a negative manner. The constant criticism online that we have seen for years has now evolved into contempt of others.

Criticism and contempt are different.  Criticism is a fundamental aspect of daily life for the flourishing of society as it brings out the merits and faults of something or someone. We criticize anything from food, to music, and parenting styles. For years I have gladly criticized Lebron James’ basketball skills in order to further my support for Kobe Brant.  Unlike criticism, contempt is toxic because it puts someone morally beneath the speaker. Contempt is reserved for a wartime enemy or someone committing a great evil, but now it is regularly applied to our fellow citizens.

In marriage, contempt is one of four main behavioral predictors for divorce.  Let’s say a married couple has been going to counseling and the counselor is able to find the source of where most of their verbal contempt for one another happens – in the car. Most likely the counselor will recommend the couple to realize that there may be something unique about the dynamics of the car that brings about the disunity…not necessarily something within the husband and wife themselves. The couple would be foolish not to change something with the car in order to save their marriage. Matthew 5:30 would recommend us to cut off any tumbling block.

People who show contempt for one another are unlikely to remain united for long. This is the danger we see our country in now. Conservatives and liberals have a hard time having any dialogue or finding middle ground. This doesn’t just remain in the political lens but it also spills over to social issues, religion, economics, culture, and other arenas. I have noticed churches having the same struggle of believers from the same church arguing online. By now we have all seen people who love the Lord forsake one another online. There have been multi-year friends collapse due to differing opinions on social matters.

It is evident that the way we show our ideological allegiance is not by complementing our own side but by displaying our hate for the other side. This online contempt cripples relational growth. Typically, intimacy grows as people take turns speaking, laugh at each other’s jokes, and share surprising similarities (think of the famous Step Brothers movie quote – “Did we just become best friends?!). What happens on Facebook, though, when grandstands are erected along both sides and then filled with friends, acquaintances, rivals, and strangers, all passing judgment and offering commentary?

I have seen the same viral videos get shared by people on “differing sides” and each have a completely different take on the story but still yield the same amount of emotional outrage. Not too long ago we would look at two different video clips (of the same video) in order to get different reactions. Not anymore. We can just look at the exact same video and have completely opposite emotional responses. Part of the reason this is occurring is because our brains are becoming wired not to interpret truth but rather interpret information and uttering it in a manner that keeps our friends liking us, protects our reputations, and keeps our jobs. Sadly, this perpetuation further deceives ourselves and others.

How did social media get to this point? Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt summarizes an answer quite well. He relates the shift in social media confusion of the American public to the Tower of Babel story in Genesis 11. In this story, the people of the world grew prideful. In their pride they attempted to build a gigantically tall tower in order to reach Heaven. The Lord, upset at their pride, punished them by scattering the people around the earth and confusing their language so that they may not understand one another. Dr. Haidt then relates this shift in Genesis to the shift in social media around 2015. From the time I joined Facebook to today Facebook has changed several times. Social media changed fundamentally between 2009 and 2012. Before 2009, Facebook was simply about posting your random thoughts. In 2009, Facebook and Twitter added the “Like” button. Later, both companies brought in algorithms (and advertisements) in order to optimize content to emotionally appeal to users in order to get them to react and therefore become addicted for even more engagement. Social Media today has become an outrage machine that changed the moral, political and social climate of the Western World.

Now…let us follow the bread crumbs to see how we are being affected. There are studies showing that the more time you spend on Facebook the more depressed you become. There are also studies that show that tribalism increases in times of stress (or perceived threat) and it decreases in times of peace and prosperity. With Covid-19, outrage over the George Floyd killing, quarantine and mass unemployment people are on social media drastically more than ever before. Could it be that this rise in social media usage is leading us more towards a subconsciously depressed mindset? This consequently increases stress and causes individuals to be drawn further into tribalism. The next sequential step is a negative mindset leading to hostility and contempt toward anyone outside your identified tribe.

Of course, social media has its merits. But at this point is it a zero-sum game or a negative-sum game? How can we turn the tables and come together as one unified platoon? Satan is busy and if we do not push back then our country will see much worse division than we see today. Thank God for the common grace He gives us in order for us to have psychological and sociological studies to guide us during this time.

Wokeness, Coronavirus and The Armor of God

One of the biggest stories during the first half of 2019 was that of Jussie Smollett. The gay, black actor who claimed that he was physically beaten in Chicago at 2:00am by two white, MAGA men in subzero degree temperatures. Before his claim was proven false Jussie made country-wide headlines of immediate support and outcry by the media and Hollywood. People who had doubts or wanted evidence were vilified. There was no time to even think about questioning Jussie. As time unfolded, we eventually found that not only was Jussie lying but it was orchestrated by Jussie and two non-white friends.

At the beginning of 2019 Jussie Smollett was the trending topic. In a similar vein, the first two months of 2020 gave us numerous stories of retired NBA player, Dwayne Wade’s 12 year old son now identifying as female. That was a priority of our news outlets, articles, and talk shows.

What would happen if Jussie’s story (before it was proven false) came out today in 2020 instead? In the midst of Coronavirus, how would our country react to such a polarizing story? Would we be so apt to believe it, in its happenstance? Would we be as quick to jump to conclusions of guilt? How much attention would the general public give to the media and celebrities’ outrage while we are all in quarantine? Would we care to be “woke” enough to care?

My case, in the midst of Coronavirus, is that the answer to each of those questions is “No”.  Covid-19 has awoken truth in us that has inadvertently suppressed the Wokeness worldview that our politically correct, secular culture has created.

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Now think about the past few months of Coronavirus. Have you noticed it? Whether in the controlled corporate media or on social media, the woke subversion of Western discourse has practically disappeared. Stories on intersectionality, cultural appropriation, inclusivity, cancel culture, gender pronouns, microaggressions, toxic masculinity, nonbinary, cis-deadnaming, mansplaining, gender fluidity, and other politically correct buzz terms have pretty much been muted in the face of a real crisis. What happened? Or as the great philosopher, The Joker, once said …“Why so serious?”

The health, sociological, and economic effects of Coronavirus have re-revealed something that the Apostle Paul spoke on in the Bible when advising people to put on the armor of God. In Ephesians 6:11-12, Paul writes, Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”  Additionally, Coronavirus has re-revealed to us that death is the great equalizer of life – Ecclesiastes 9.

Covid-19 has reminded us that the true enemy is Death and the truest enemy is a foreign, spiritual enemy that is not of this world (Hebrews 2:14). Covid-19 has prioritized our battle against true evil – not against people. 

Conversely, the Wokeness worldview teaches us that our enemies ARE indeed flesh and blood. It claims that the enemy is the patriarchy. The enemy is bigotry. The enemies are white men. The enemies are people who believe gender is binary. The enemy are Christians who believe what the Bible teaches about sin. 

How did we get here?

People are always in search of meaning in their life. We desire a sense of purpose in order to feel as if we belong. We can find this purpose in being a mother, engineer, preacher, artist, dancer, chef, athlete, or in simply being a good friend.  With that being said, we should raise a question – How do we find our purpose in a western world where so much is given to us from the day we are born? Well, naturally, we seek out miniature purposes. What do I mean by a “miniature purpose”?

The ultimate purpose in life is to glorify Jesus Christ (1 John 5:11-12; 1 Corinthians 10:31). Anything besides that, whether with good intention or bad intention, is a miniature purpose. Being a mother is great but those kids will grow up and move away. Being an athlete or dancer is good, but your body will eventually grow old. Being an engineer is good, but eventually your designed buildings and roads will become outdated. Miniature purposes can be good but they can never sustain us. This is a problem and we all know this.  To fix that problem we keep seeking out more compounding instances of purpose in order to fill a gap that only Jesus can fill. So, for example, my identity and hope may now be found in becoming a good husband, father, athlete, cook, best friend, mentor, traveler, sports fan, and social justice advocate all in one. This search for self-purpose leads people in the western world toward the inclination of Wokeness – sometimes with genuinely, heartfelt intentions by the people.

Have you ever asked yourself, ‘Why is it that most of the world does not care about the ideas of Wokeness?’ For example, people in Japan and Africa do not scream out much against cultural appropriation. The primary answer is because the Wokeness worldview is only able to flourish in societies of prosperity and overabundance. Wokeness calls out several types of evils committed by people and systems of peoples that we need to fight against. This worldview is currently on mute because prosperity is now at a halt due to the Coronavirus. “If we are able to put something “evil” on mute, then how great of an evil was it in the first place? Because, Coronavirus or not, if my nephew is getting bullied in school I WILL never be mute about it.

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People derive meaning by manufacturing evils to combat. It is understandable because I would find meaning in stopping a bully from bullying my nephew. That bully is real. It is true that there are bad things that happen in the country. There are some bad men. There are gay people who wrongly get fired. Some of those claims of racism are real.  However, if I am proactively seeking out kids who may bully my nephew one day, in order to get them expelled, then that is a different story. Also, what is my definition of bullying? Is it fighting, name-calling, a particular look, misinterpreted playing around, does age matter, or does size matter? It gets very complicated real fast. That said, I hate evil. BUT who is defining evil? By what standard are we doing so? Who/what dictates who is right and who is wrong? Some Americans consider America evil. The same thing happens in the United Kingdom. Some people consider the teachings of Christianity evil. Again, I ask, by what standard are these claims being made? 

Woke culture brings people meaning by fighting these evils. Many people are drawn to woke advocacy because it brings [added] meaning to their life. This tendency has hit its head at the onset of Covid-19 as this virus has brought about more pressing problems than the quasi-changing gender of Dwayne Wade’s son. When people do not have real problems to occupy themselves, they will create (or exaggerate) them.

Our varying views on the legitimacy of Wokeness is not the topic of concern here. If the Covid-19 crisis continues much longer it will  not only cripple families who suffered from deaths, it will also hurt exponentially more families who suffer from the crippling economic results for years to come. This will cause the public to continue to care less about the woke worldview of the 2010s as they have to focus more on their own well-being. As life and quality of life is more at stake, people will naturally see more clearly who the true Enemy is and how only Jesus can fill our gap of life purpose and sustain us through all of life’s circumstances.

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A Letter to My Future Adult Children

Well, here we are, kids. I can still call you “kids”, right? Then again should I even have to ask that question? Really, I mean, if I changed your diapers when you were babies, then aren’t I deserving? Now that I think of it, lets be fair, you’re adults and presumably married in the future, which means you are more than likely taking advantage of your mother and I by bestowing upon us babysitting duties every other weekend with your young children. That is basically a part-time job of which you are not paying us. Therefore, I can still call you whatever I wish. Ok ok, let me relax – if you know your father then you know that once his brain gets going…ohhh it gets going. Sidenote, can these cheesy-like jokes be considered dad jokes if one’s children are not even alive yet??? Mind blown? I digress.

I am writing this letter in the year 2020. Seven years ago I wrote a similar letter to your mother titled A Letter to My Future Wife of 50 Years [Link Here]. I love your mother more than you know. This current letter, however, is to you in the future – our young adult children.

Until my dying breath, I thank God for you. I don’t know how many of you there will be. Neither am I aware of what gender or how many are adopted. That said, regardless, I am very proud of you even as I write this letter today. For God has already placed a love for you in my heart. Isn’t it crazy how God has wired us?

I have a few things to say to you:

First things first, is rap music still a thing? Does Justin Bieber’s son have his own Disney Channel television show? Can you send your mother and I somewhere nice and expensive for our next big anniversary? Please answer those questions carefully.

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In addition:

  • Tell jokes whenever the time is right. Tell jokes and stories that border on lies. If you tell jokes when the time isn’t right, well that is a good thing too.
  • Tell the truth. Or at least do not lie. Always always always lean on truth even when the immediately foreseeable outcome is bad as a direct result of telling the truth.  You see, if you act in truth then the eventual order you produce down the line will be good regardless of how it appears at the current moment.
  • Believe in the myths told in books and movies. The magical myths within fairy tale stories are not an end in themselves nor are they lies. Myths are the opposite of a lie. Myths convey the essential truth of the primal reality of life itself. The stories point to the archetype of Christ. Human creativity and imagination is God’s image in us for us to soak in.
  • Seek for what is meaningful in life. Do not search for mere happiness or convenience. This includes the old adage, “do not settle”. Ultimately, you will always find the truest meaning in Christ. This will always sustain you. This will fulfill you.
  • Learn as much history as soon as you can. History is God’s artistic canvas on display for us to watch. There is power and protection in that. Man tells his story with words while God tells His story with history.
  • Think for yourself and do not let mankind dictate what you believe. As 2 Corinthians would say, “examine your faith and honestly test yourselves” to make sure you are going in the right direction. This passage applies to all of life. Therefore, pay attention to the direction that you are walking and to who is guiding you. Periodically ask yourself, “What remarkably stupid things am I doing on a regular basis that are/can screw up my life”? Decide that you want to know the answer to that question.
  • Keep in contact with your friends. This will be tougher as you get older. Befriend people who want the best for you. Surprise them. Show grace. Call them out when they are wrong. Demand them to call you out as well. Encourage them. Be encouraged by them. 
  • Travel and Learn a new language. Dive deep into different cultures and swim in learning about them. Other cultures will broaden you life by bringing in newness. Listen to worship songs in other languages. 
  • Talk to the elderly when you encounter them on the street. Do not take this one so lightly. Sit with them and listen to what they have to say even if it comes off as nonsense. Assume that they know something that you do not.
  • Tell your mother that you love her every chance you can. She is your most unique best friend and your biggest fan.
  • Constantly increase your faith in the Lord. Be bold and courageous in Him.

 

If you can tell, even now I am taking things quite lightheartedly. Life is a complex matter, my children. There will ups and down as if your spiritual walk is a roller coaster at times. There is an element of life which is suffering. The Bible is clear on this fact and history proves it.  So stand up straight with your shoulders back, do not complain, pick up your suffering and bear it so that you do not make it worse. Try to reduce the suffering and start with yourself by not acting/thinking like a victim. Every human being is a victim – deal with it. Be a better person by leaning on the power of the Holy Spirit. In doing this it will always be alright.

As you are reading this in the future I am likely an old man. We have had many arguments over the years because that is a part of being a family. I am sure there are some of your life choices that I have disagreed with – and that is ok. We are all still growing. Philippians 1:6 says that “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ”; meaning that everything is going to work out in the end. I am sorry for the times that I messed up with each of you. I am sorry for the times I came off as unloving. I am thankful for the good times to come. I am for you.

I pray that you know the peace of God. Be kind and true, my blessed children. 

Men vs Women: Which are Easier to Befriend?

A dear friend recently asked me a question: Which gender do I befriend easier, men or women?”

Now my weird brain generally works in a way for me to generally answer questions quite quickly. This time, however, before I uttered the answer that first came to mind, for some peculiar reason I stopped myself in my tracks. This particular question brought about a state of cognitive dissonance in me. I was going to answer “men” due what I believe to be true in my own life, but I simultaneously realized a disharmony in my thoughts because the more I pondered the more the answer gradually became “women”.

I have been known to be a social butterfly. During and after college I attained a large number of both female and male friends. Nowadays, I likely have more male friends than a majority of what other males have obtained. The conundrum in my friend’s question is this: The pool of men to befriend AND [even worse] the quality of the pool of men to befriend pale in comparison to that of potential women friendships.

This feeling of disharmony caused to me realize the subtle, potentially rigged system around me when it comes to friendships. For years I have talked and written on the decline of men and how that affects women, children, and the church. What I have failed to realize is how that also affects me. The pool of men willing to discuss religion, politics, history, the sciences, the arts, and deep opinions on social issues in a purely conversational manner is dwindling. If I go into the city in search of conversationalists I predict to find at least 5 times more women with familiarity on those topics than men. So which gender would be easier to befriend?

There are a variety of reasons this has occurred: from the expression of masculinity being suppressed, to male behavior traits being classified as attention deficit disorder, the removal of competition in childhood sports, a feminized Christianity, weak male role models in entertainment, fatherlessness, and many more.

In short, without diving into the hierarchical validity of those reasons, let’s agree that something bad is happening to our men. We can walk into most churches and see the male to female attendance ratio is very skewed in favor of women. There is a decrease in male leadership inside and outside the church. This spreads to other domains where we see a [quantitative/qualitative] decrease of men in the dating scene, the workplace, and in the classrooms. The young adults still living with their parents are mostly men. Women are now more likely to go to college than men. We all know more stable, single women looking for a mate than stable, single men looking for one.

Tim Keller says “the most important relationships for the traditional person are their family, for the modern person it is their lover, and for the postmodern person it is their friends – because their families and lovers have let them down!” We can go a step further for men today by removing the friendship layer (due to their lack of ability to attain them) which leaves them all alone; without family, lover, or friend. Maybe this is one of the explanations for the increased state of despair, depression, opioid use and suicide among men in the world.

I was recently speaking with a Thai woman who expressed that many Thai women avoid dating Thai men because the men are no longer future minded and are prone to leave their women after pregnancy. I recently heard something similar of the Haitian culture. A study came out last month in the UK stating an 11.8% rise in suicide rate of young men since last year.

What is missing in the purpose of men today? One of the answers to that question lies Image result for men defeating dragonsin the awareness of what fills and drives our deepest desires. Men are wired for challenge and to cultivate the world. Since the beginning of time we’ve heard fantastical stories about men seeking the unknown and slaying the dragon. We men hear those stories and it triggers hidden desires within us. We want it. We yearn for it. The story of the archetypal hero fills our soul with meaning because those stories are symbols that remind us of the true purpose of our lives. This meaning is like a reward for our soul because the risk of going into the unknown is Death, but the reward is Life. Hence the adage, “the greater the risk the greater the reward.”

Men can feel the story of Frodo, Harry Potter, Iron Man, Simba, Maximus, Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson, Hercules, and many others in their bones. These are male characters who faced hurdles and slayed their dragon. Their dragon represented chaos. The ultimate dragon is salvation (of which Jesus has given to us if we seek it). Other dragons for us can be marriage, family, success, stability, or vitality. All of which have merit. Not only is there a final reward at the end of the search through the unknown, there are also smaller rewards along the journey of seeking the dragon itself. These smaller rewards are not merely arbitrary. We may gain financial success along the way, be selected by women, be admirable and gain value before we even slay the dragon. Are men engaged in this purpose anymore? I believe the answer is no. Not only that, but symbolical stories like these are discouraged as too violent, anti-woman, or outdated.

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Why are men not as future-minded these days? The answer to the lack of future-mindedness lies in self-consciousness. Who are more self-conscious, men or women? Women, and increasingly so. As one popular psychologist says, “True self consciousness is not just seeing, it is meta-seeing. That is, seeing not just with the eyes but also with imagination.”

Imagination is needed for us to be able to see and project into the future that which we do not physically see today. This trait in men in dying out as we are focusing more on the present than on the future [for several reasons]. For all people, but especially for men, conceptualizing the future is important because there we remember that our life’s purpose is not only about today and not only about ourselves. You see, I must be aware that I need to worry about whether I will be hungry today, tomorrow, next week and twenty years from now; additionally, this worry is so not just for myself but also for my wife, children, and my community at large. (To be clear, I am not talking about hunger. I am talking about well-being). There is a mature weight and healthy burden with that awareness. To mature as a man is to take on responsibility. This sense of meaning drives and cultivates the world into flourishing if men step up to the plate.

Now here is the kicker: We see the societal structure today is slowly [consciously/subconsciously] rigging men toward a decline and a self-inflicted absence. Therefore, as men are decreasing toward the bottom of the hierarchy in the world, that same weight/burden – which our fathers and father’s fathers also carried – is now much heavier and overwhelming than our male predecessors carried. It feels heavier because while the man today is deeper toward the bottom there is already a subconscious feeling of being defeated or dead. Try having desire to carry the weight of life when you already feel dead.

Think about it practically – in many recent statistical measures men are on the low end of the totem pole of education, family, dating, and the workplace. On top of that they are told that their inner being is toxic and are indoctrinated by universities, entertainment and the media that the patriarchy is bad. That masculinity is bad. After all that do we still expect men to carry the load of responsibility as if everything is fine and dandy? Men will and have been tapping out of this system. Many of us have given up our journey to slay the dragon because we subconsciously feel dead in a system designed to strip us of whatever purpose we have left.

Now I see how this affects my life when it comes to befriending other men. Satan is quite darn crafty.

I ask you  – So who is it easier for you to befriend, women or men? What are we going to do about the decline of men happening before our very eyes?

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No Safe Place To Stand

 

The search.

If we focus long enough we can see;

There is Life and there is Death.

By each step we search for both,

By each desire we have chosen one.

It is undeniable which we truly want – Life,

Just as a newborn naturally wants Mother.

Time and again the focus tunnels us home,

Landing in the desert, we are brought to safety.

Quasi.

Sometimes I feel like I am already gone,

Other times I feel far too present.

Akin to fickle leaves before their season of emptying,

While still similar to the unwavering root of the baobab.

But is there a consummation to it all?

Somehow in my own dim confusion I see Peace.

Time and again the focus tunnels me home,

In the desert I begin to hear the tender whispers.

Chaos.

The answer leaves me standing in the desert.

In the desert what you lose is time,

In the desert what you gain is newness.

In the chaos of the desert there is no safe place to stand,

But one ever told me that chaos felt so like peace.

My only option is to step;

My only option is Life.

 

 

Artificial Intelligence is Coming. How Do We Prepare?

A very long time ago, in 1997, there was an excellent Disney TV show called Smart Guy. In the show a genius little boy, 10 year old T.J. Henderson, transfers from 4th grade up to high school. In one of the episodes T.J. faces off against an undefeated computer in a chess tournament for the honor of his school. Being a kid at the time, it inspired me to see a kid prevail over a computer.

Smart GuyThat episode captured much of what our society views as true happiness. It captured the social connections we create with one another being necessary, our own sense of importance within a community, and a sense of purpose in a time of change. “Change”, in this case, being a world approaching artificial intelligence (i.e. AI) and automation. Today we see the rate of this “change” is accelerating.

It is hard to imagine a future world where humans are not the smartest beings. The question for our society becomes whether the pros of artificial intelligence outweigh the cons. Even though we cannot predict the true future extents of AI we do know the world is changing at a rapid pace, so thinking critically about these changes is crucial if we want to continue thriving in the future.

It is important to note that this post is not advocating against furthering AI. The improvement of AI is coming whether we like it or not. The purpose is to prepare us for the inevitable possibilities AI will bring us. 

 

Artificial intelligence (AI) is an area of computer science that creates intelligent machines able to complete a task, problem solve, learn from experience, adjust to new inputs, and/or perform human-like tasks.

There are three primary types of AI:

  1. Artificial Narrow Intelligence: This type of AI exists in our world today. Narrow AI is predetermined/programmed to perform a single task — whether it’s checking the weather, playing chess, or analyzing raw data to write journalistic reports. Narrow AI is not conscious, sentient, or driven by emotion. Siri is a solid example. The automation of jobs that we see replacing people is done by this AI.
  2. Artificial General Intelligence: This type of AI does not exist yet. It would be able to perform any intellectual task that a human can. AGI is expected to be able to reason, make judgments under uncertainty, plan, learn, and integrate prior knowledge into decision-making. These machines would have such traits as imagination and autonomy.
  3. Artificial Super Intelligence: This type of AI also has not arrived and may never arrive. However, researchers believe that when [the previously stated] AGI is developed, these same machines may eventually be able to enter never-ending self-improvement loops that would lead them to a greater cognitive performance than humans in all domains of interest – possibly becoming too powerful to stop.

That said, there will be a spectrum usage of AI. There are computers, robots, genetic engineering, and then a merging of individual human brain/computer interfaces (i.e. a blend of humans with AI capabilities added to them similar to a performance enhancement drug).

The prediction of when science will achieve these various levels of artificial intelligence varies. In their last few active months of the Obama Administration warned us that 60% of our jobs will be automated by 2030. A bipartisan-style warning telling us that this isn’t a political matter but a human matter. Sam Harris, the popular philosopher, neuroscientist and public intellectual fearfully said on the matter, “We are in the process of building some sort of god.” [A statement analogous to the biblical Tower of Babel story, but I digress.]

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Workers exchange spools of thread as a robot picks up thread made from recycled plastic bottles at the Repreve Bottle Processing Center. Source: Chicago Tribune

To display the positive side – some of the benefits to AI and automation include:

  • It will aide in the daily productivity of businesses.
  • It will add new, ancillary jobs that we’ve never had before.
  • It will be able to spot and detect people’s diseases and health defects better than any human doctor can detect.
  • It will drive down consumer costs, making many of our products and services more affordable than ever before.

These are beautiful benefits that people have to agree are good.  Since we have problems that we need solved – e.x. Alzheimer’s, cancer, climate science, etc. – we WILL continue to innovate our technological intelligence to try to fix them. However, every beneficial thing on this earth has a dark side. Just as the advantageous social media has a dark side….the dark side of AI and automation is arguably worse.

Here are five points that we need to begin to take serious for the near future:

1) How will AI affect the workplace?  AI automation will affect jobs. We’ve all seen employees replaced at our local grocery and retail stores by machines. For another example, a large number of truck and taxi drivers are predicted to go away within the next 10 years. That’s a ton of middle-aged adults left without a job and likely do not have the scholastic means to find another profession they’re qualified to perform. Companies like Amazon, Uber and Google have already stated how they want to increasingly automate their jobs that are currently held by people. Subsequently, millions of jobs are likely to be displaced.

Why are companies seeking workforce automation? The primary goal of any company is to increase revenue. With AI automation usage a company saves money by (1) not having to pay their machines a salary and (2) not having to pay healthcare for human employees. And, to add, these machines are not limited to 8 hours work days and vacation time – they can work 24/7. This drastically decreases company costs thus increasing revenue.

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Prediction of how Automation Affects the Human Workforce. The Economist

2) How will AI affect unemployment?  As jobs are displaced due to AI automation, there will be new jobs created [as previously stated]. Unfortunately it is hard to predict how many new jobs and what they will look like. Additionally, today we already have many jobs waiting to be occupied. What we do know about these jobs is that many of them require a high level intelligence. Not everyone has the cognitive gifting to be a lawyer, dentist, or computer scientist. This trend will lead to an even wider income gap in our country and an increased rate of poverty. With the way our youth educational system is currently setup children are not properly equipped for the new sector(s) of jobs that will be in demand.

3) How will this affect the family?  With research we are beginning to learn the psychological and sociological effects of unemployment. People are meant to how-men-can-confront-toxic-masculinity-sad-man-feature_1320W_CL-1work. We are hardwired for it. When people lose their jobs they feel they lose their purpose. Studies have shown that men and women tend to respond differently to job loss. In men, there is increased escapism. We have seen the rates of depression, opioid overdose, fatherless households, and suicide increase in some correlation to the increase in male unemployment. Conversely, women show no statistically significant emotional effects correlated with their unemployment status.

This effect is coupled with society still grappling/learning the effects of women increasingly entering the workforce. Before the introduction of women into the workforce men only competed with other men – now they compete with both men and women. We also know that today women are generally better educated than men; so these men are now at the increasing disadvantage of both women and AI machines in the workplace. That is not a reason to oppose women [or AI] being in the workforce but rather an objective analysis of the unprecedented, complex outcome of it. Where men are walking in their purpose of design, the home and society at large flourish. With AI, men will take a more direct blow. Because, you see, people don’t need money, they need function. Where that doesn’t happen, there is a backslide of society.

4) How will this affect the cohesion of our society?  The historical cause and effect from the rise in poverty is an increase in crime. The empirical evidence is indisputable that inequality drives crime. Sometimes we can see an increase in uprisings from the lower income class when there is massive inequality. During the Industrial Revolution of the 1800’s England and America saw numerous revolts from the labor force due to the sudden replacement of jobs by machines.

We have to be careful here because if the amount of inequality ramps up enough then our social system will destabilize. The likelihood of an uprising from the lower class increases when they believe their economic opportunity (and the opportunity of their offspring) is fixed/rigged to stay below a reasonable level. The economic game being fair is the American Dream. AI automation can bring down cohesion within society as it takes away the opportunity of masses of people and as it increases poverty.

The estimated job replacement of AI automation is at a much higher scale than that of the Industrial Revolution. If we do not expect the possibility of some form of revolts, then we’re being quite optimistic. We also need to look at the impact of AI on our individual, everyday lives. Will automation cause a decrease in our patience, empathy, care, and investment in others? If a student can supplement their brain with some level of AI will their cognitive advantage over regular students be taken into account or not? Think about how smarter we are right now with the ability to look up anything on our iPhone. Imagine having that ability installed in  your head.

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5) Miscellaneous: How will this affect international relations? How will it change social media? How will AI weaponry change how we view the morality of war? How will AI sex robots change the world?

 

Throughout history the rate of growth of society has been an intuitive, linear slope. With linear progression humankind is better able to adjust. The past half century has shown that technological growth is an exponential progression. So as we get closer to AI capabilities, we won’t experience 100 years of growth within a century, it will actually be more like thousands of years of progress within a single century. This is extremely difficult for humankind to adjust to.

Google futurist, Ray Kurzweil’s, graph to illustrate his beliefs concerning exponential technological growth.

Historically, the Church has had a tendency to be late on discussions of technological advancements. We are typically late to the game and reactive. It seems to be the contrary this time around. Recently (April 11, 2019) over 60 well-known evangelical leader created and signed a new statement centered on the principles of AI.

“We recognize that AI will allow us to achieve unprecedented possibilities, while acknowledging the potential risks posed by AI if used without wisdom and care,” stated the authors of the new statement unveiled to The White House.

This is a key step in approaching the global discussion of AI. It marks a claim for a seat at the AI ethics table for Christians as world governments try to prepare for the future change rapidly occurring in our world. Still, it isn’t solely up to our evangelical leaders; the rest of us also have a duty to uphold. Our awareness on the topic is paramount. AI tools and their limitless potential can be at odds with a belief in human dignity and morality based on the image of God.

There are warning signs around us if we simply open our ears to hear. The economic growth of our society is not what sustains us. The world, the family, and the individual were each designed with a particular hierarchical purpose in mind. What we will need to focus on is the preservation of our communities as one of our greatest challenges today and in the near future.

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