Pastor Andrew Vickery
The Church of the Future
As a society, we are advancing at an unprecedented rate with respect to technological advancements. Think back to 15 years ago. What kind of phone did you have? What kind of computer did you have? In 2003, most kids my age did not have a cell phone. And if they did, they were afraid to talk on it longer than 58 seconds for fear of using up 2 of their allotted monthly minutes. Our single computer home was a desktop that had a monitor that weighed about 20 pounds. We accessed the internet through dial-up and if anyone called the house or accidentally picked up one of the house phones, the internet shut down. I got my first laptop in 2005 (for college) and it cost roughly $1500. Today, it is of little use as anything other than a paper weight. Audiobooks existed on tapes or maybe even CDs, which you had to go to the library to check out. My digital camera held maybe 75 pictures and the picture quality wasn't even close to the pictures I can take with my phone today. I'm barely old enough to have actually used a paper map once or twice. When I started driving, we had advanced to the point of searching MapQuest for directions and then printing them out. I had a TI-83 calculator, which you almost had to be a computer programmer to make use of its full capabilities. You watched the news to get news and weather. You went to Blockbuster to rent movies. You went to the store to buy anything, and you might pay for your things with a debit or credit card.
Today, all of that technology (and MORE!) fits in my pocket. Imagine what the world will look like 15 years from now. We are rapidly approaching an age where self-driving cars will be the norm and designer medicines will be produced based on your exact genetic code. In the surprising near future, you will be able to speak to someone (in English) and have it translated, in real time, in your voice, into another language that you don't even know, and artificial intelligence (AI) will reach the point where interacting with it will be indistinguishable from interacting with a human (to most of us).
You may need more convincing, so consider this fact: today, more people have access to mobile/smartphones than to proper sanitation. Read that again. If you don't believe me, google it. If you trust Google search results, you have already exercised the ability to shift your paradigm. The world is changing rapidly. The technological advancements of the last couple of decades are astounding, but I believe the technological advancements of the next two decades will make our current technology seem like the dial-up internet of the past.
The question is: where does the church fit into this future? How do we reach the lost when they are lost amongst technology that we don't even understand? How do we engage people when we can't tell if we're speaking to a robot or a human? What are the spiritual and moral implications of a future where artificial intelligence, robotics, and humans become one? To some of you, this may make as much sense as the ending of Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey," but this is where the world is headed. Let's not pull the wool over our eyes, but let's engage in conversations with those around us as we discern what this means for us as humans and what this means for us as believers.