At Work

How Should Christian Leaders Approach Technological Progress?

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Any leader – certainly every Christian leader – needs to appreciate the exponential rate of technological change. This will affect you.

Technological Change Is Accelerating

The first twenty years of the 20th century saw more technological progress than all of the 19th century, which experienced more progress than the first eighteen centuries combined. By most measures 2000-2010 gave us more progress than the 20th century. We tend to think in linear extrapolation. The *rate* of technological change is accelerating; it’s not constant.

This exponential technological change has greatly improved the living standards for billions of people worldwide. Solomon in all his wealth did not have indoor plumbing, LED lighting, satellite weather tracking, antibiotics and MRIs, instant telecommunication, or a blog to promote his wisdom to millions. Christians should rejoice and embrace technological breakthroughs in medicine, engineering, communications, and logistics.

Advancements in computing power are breathtakingly fast. Machines can process information 10,000 to a million times faster than people. The self-driving cars Google produces analyze 1GB of data every second.

Mobile phones tap into massive databases and respond to voice questions with ever-increasing sophistication. The iPhone 5 would have been the second-fastest supercomputer on the planet in 1996, and it is already dwarfed by $200 phones that will be released next year. There are similar stories of exponential improvement in miniaturization of devices and sensors.

My prediction is that we will both love and loathe this technological experience.

We will have whole new ways of leveraging information, new business models, and opportunities to create new capabilities and help people.

At the same time we’ll resent “big brother” and what some have called “the end of privacy as we know it.” We will tell nostalgic stories about going to the library and writing notes on 3×5 cards for our research paper, or buying CDs.

The Biggest Reason to Fear Technology?

Many people believe there is a coming “Singularity,” a day when computer intelligence exceeds human intelligence. “It’s inevitable,” they say with awe and not a little fear.

There are two reasons Christian leaders shouldn’t fear a “Singularity” event:

First, the idea that ever-faster computers somehow become self-aware and intelligent is a tremendous atheistic leap of faith. It rivals the idea that life originated in some past event from non-life.

We can (and do) program machines that emulate the patterns of love and self-sacrificial human behavior, and appear to be “thinking,” but this is far short of actual self-awareness and independent intelligence.

Second, God does not communicate with machines. God communicates with people which he has crafted in his own image, not the machines that his image-bearers have created. The Holy Spirit will not whisper to Linux clusters. Jesus issues no still small voice of command to netbots to say, “Follow me.”

We must be wise in the way we steward technology because advanced machines can be leveraged for evil purposes. We must be on our guard. But we need not worry that our loving God will walk with machines and speak with them as his beloved children.

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