The Future Part 1
Friday, May 29, 2015
New Church Perspective in Todd Beiswenger, anxiety, death, science and religion, technology, the future, worry

There are many ways to try and control our future life and death, and Todd starts to look at a technological one and all it's implications. -Editor.

What keeps you up at night? Is it the anticipation of another great day?! Or is it the worry of impending doom? I suspect for most of us, it is more the latter than the former. What often gives me a restless night is the worry that I'm going to oversleep and miss my flight. Hasn't happened yet, mind you, but that doesn't keep me from worrying about it. Other times it can be a concern over what is happening or not happening at work. Do I have all my work done? Have I done a good enough job? Will people appreciate what I have done? Whatever the specific nature of the concern, they all have one thing in common: they are concerns about the future.

I'm comforted to know that it isn't just me. We all worry about the future, and so we do our best to predict it, and avoid unhappy outcomes (though studies suggest we're not actually very good at that). Prediction of the future is something we humans spend a lot of time on, this despite Jesus' teachings to not worry about it. He says, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:34).” But we do worry about tomorrow. A lot. We worry about having enough money for retirement, about what the weather is going to be, about our jobs, how our kids are going to turn out, whether Disney and JJ Abrams are going to ruin Star Wars and, of course, death. That's the big one. When are we going to die? Will our loved ones die? Similarly we worry about whether death is going to come from something preventable.

Now there are plenty of people out there who have developed a plan to cheat death. For some it is being frozen, others it is a diet and/or exercise program. One fellow who has caught my attention is betting on robots to ensure his eternity on earth. His name is Raymond Kurzweil. Ever heard of him? Kurzweil was born in 1948. In 1963, at age fifteen, he wrote his first computer program. He created a pattern-recognition software program that analyzed the works of classical composers, and then synthesized its own songs in similar styles. In 1965, he was invited to appear on the CBS television program I've Got a Secret, where he performed a piano piece that was composed by a computer he also had built.

Since then he's been a leading inventor and predictor of the technological future. His predictions aren't always right of course, but often they are. In 1983 he predicted the explosive growth and impact of the internet, as well as that a computer would be able to beat the best human chess players by the year 2000. It happened in 1997. These are just a couple highlights as we don't have space for more, but suffice it to say his predictions about technological advances and invention credentials make him worth listening to.

I mention these accurate predictions though as background to this view of the future which best summarized as such:

He claims to know that 20 to 25 years from now, we will have millions of blood-cell sized devices, known as nanobots, inside our bodies fighting against diseases, improving our memory, and cognitive abilities. Kurzweil claims ... that around 2045, "the pace of change will be so astonishingly quick that we won't be able to keep up, unless we enhance our own intelligence by merging with the intelligent machines we are creating". Shortly after, Kurzweil claims to know that humans will be a hybrid of biological and non-biological intelligence that becomes increasingly dominated by its non-biological component. He stresses that "AI is not an intelligent invasion from Mars. These are brain extenders that we have created to expand our own mental reach. They are part of our civilization. They are part of who we are. So over the next few decades our human-machine civilization will become increasingly dominated by its non-biological component.

Thank you Wikipedia.

This view of the future sure puts a different spin on this quote from True Christian Religion: “at the time of the Lord's coming the scientific, the rational and the spiritual will make one, and that the scientific will then serve the rational, and both the spiritual. (True Christian Religion 200).” Somehow I don't think having a life meshed with microscopic robots in our body is what Swedenborg envisioned when he wrote that the scientific would serve the spiritual.

But that this human hybrid future could become reality doesn't feel too far fetched to me. Kurzweil states that technology advances exponentially, not linearly, so as we look into the future we have to have a mind wide open to the possibilities. How do we see such a future? Are we afraid of it? Does this add to our spiritual growth or is it just another human attempt to over-throw God? More importantly, does it eliminate the fear of death?

To be continued...

Todd Beiswenger

Todd is currently serving as Pastor to the Hurstville New Church, in Sydney Australia. The emphasis of his ministry has been promoting practical teachings for everyday living that combine compassion with personal responsibility to help people be at peace within their own head.

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