On May 25, 2018, Quantic Dream released their much anticipated seventh game, Detroit: Become Human. (Warning: Link launches trailer, which contains swearing.) After spending a week or so with the game, I’ve found it has much worth recommending to even your casual video game player. But, more importantly, Detroit continues a cultural conversation that’s only going to grow in coming years, and it’s one the Church would do well to get involved in. What makes us human, and what moral value do non-humans have? Is life found in the essence of a thing or in its behavior and appearance? Does it matter how we treat objects if they’re not alive? Detroit seeks to answer the question of whether androids are human, but I think the bigger question isn’t whether the android is human (it isn’t). It’s whether the android’s owner will remain human if he or she learns to behave in inhuman ways.
There’s a story that’s told of a wise man to whom a king was indebted. The king offered him his choice of any reward in the kingdom, but the wise man demurred. Instead he asked only that the king provide him with a chessboard and a single grain of wheat on the first square. On the second square would be double that amount (two grains), and on the third twice that, and so on. The king readily agreed . . . and bankrupted his kingdom. By the time the board was halfway done, the thirty-second square was worth two to the thirty-second power, or 4,294,967,296 grains of wheat. The final square ended up being worth two to the sixty-third power, which is more wheat than the world produces in a millennium. (For the history and the math, see the wiki.)
Maybe you’re at a church plant that is outgrowing its space, moving to a new location, and deciding to bring in new technology in the form of worship screens. Maybe your church building is decades old and your congregation is ready for some updates. A while back, we wrote a blog post on how to use a screen in worship without worshiping a screen—but it’s worth taking the time to consider whether adopting screens during worship is the best choice for your congregation.
“Science Finds, Industry Applies, Man Conforms.” These words were deemed the unofficial motto for the 1933–34 World’s Fair in Chicago. More than eighty years have passed since that grand event, which celebrated great strides in technological innovation. For our culture, the same motto seems to ring a little too true.
In his book Digitized: Spiritual Implications of Technology, Dr. Bernard Bull discusses this pattern of our conforming to, or being shaped by, technology, at times without realizing what is happening. It’s vital we recognize that the solving of one problem generally leads to a slew of new challenges to address. Many of these challenges have significant connection to our spiritual lives and the faith formation of our families.
Technology touches all aspects of our lives. From the ways we work, play, create, and learn all the way to how we spend our final days, technology plays a significant role in what’s possible, and, of course, what isn’t . . . at least for now. Ministry is no exception to this, and the Church has historically been one of the bastions on the cutting edge of technology. We were among the first to adopt the codex, and some of the earliest written words in history are found in the Old Testament. Even Martin Luther benefited from his unique timing in technological history by seeing his writings widely distributed through Gutenberg’s printing press. The Church and technology are old friends.