Seven Disruptive Technologies Christians Need To Know About

New Scientist had the crystal ball out this week, reporting on “seven disruptive technologies that will change the coming decade”. In brief, they say we should keep an eye on:

  • Robot Travel (commuting via telepresence, like in “Surrogates”)
  • Augmented Cities (the looking glass invades shopping malls)
  • Evolved invention (the automation of scientific discovery)
  • 3D Printing (beyond models, we’ll be printing buildings)
  • Brain-Machine Mergers (both invasive and non invasive)
  • Text Mining (data mining of social networks for prediction)
  • Digital Wallets (the back pocket bulge is no more)

Now, I’ve spoken on most of these technologies before, because every one of them already exists in embryonic form. But what I think warrants further consideration is this: if these technologies mainstream as they mature, and if they reshape culture as profoundly as the pundits are promising, how do we respond in terms of the cultural contextualization of Christian discipleship?

Here’s some questions that pop into my head, in no particular order.

  • Will digital wallets fuel consumption? Some say yes.
  • Could 3D printing be utilized for disaster relief?
  • How might text mining enhance culture watching?
  • Are there ethical land mines in brain-machine interfaces?
  • Beyond helping the disabled, may it also fuel transhumanism?
  • Could an artifical eye be hacked?
  • Could telepresence lead to micro-term mission trips?
  • What will creationist pastors make of evolutionary algorithms?
  • Automation of theological inquiry and innovation?
  • Is the singularity upon us even without artifical consciousness?

What do you think other opportunities and threats might be?

Can you any strengths and weaknesses in these technologies?

Whatever you think, as I said, whether we like it or not these technologies already exist in embryonic form. So there is an over-riding question that stands above all this: do we seek to be culture shapers or, decades later, the culturally shapped upon?

2 Comments

  1. Matt, this a top class thought-provoking post. As I said recently (http://radref.blogspot.com/2011/05/re-formation-after-christendom.html) we’re living in a Post-Everything world. If your magnificent (malignant?) seven come about then I dare say we could add Post-Human, Post-Democratic and Post-Natural to the list. Maybe I’m a Luddite but I’m deeply depressed by the tangent of change. The lesson of history is that if it can be done it will be. I wonder how much good our caveats and moralising will do. The prospect of a world of almost ubiquitous surveillance where the natural world is supplanted by our own technological hubris is a classic distopia. I think we should couple hope with resistance and see where that takes us.

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  2. You’ve done it again, Matt! On the weekend, I was discussing the principle of such things with friends, and you have itemised some specifics about the generalities we were exploring. Especially of interest in our discussions was the text of the Book of Daniel 2:42-44 where the “metallic” and the “ceramic” mix, but cannot harmonise.
    One possibility is the interaction of machines with humanity.
    Various translations of the above-mentioned Scripture passage yield fascinating muances.
    Anybody else got some ideas about this?
    Meanwile, here is a link to “the most human human”
    http://www.abc.net.au/rn/futuretense/stories/2011/3211726.htm#transcript

    Like

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