“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
— Genesis 1: 27 (RSV)
In our time of digital revolution, the imagination is fast becoming obsolete. The company Neuralink is preparing to launch clinical human trials by next year of an implant that will hook the user up directly to artificial intelligence. This means that, rather than downloading apps to your phone, eventually you will download them to the neurological synapses in your brain. In the next few decades, you may also be able to upload all your memories to an internet cloud and thereby live forever. You may even be able to download those memories into another human, embryo-like host—one grown just for you—as your natural body decays and dies.
The advent of human technological hybridization is upon us. We have entered the dawn of a new age.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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The masters of these marvels promise only their benefits: being able to know everything, to cure all diseases, and to live forever. Upon closer examination, though, their promise of near-deification looks more like that oldest deceit: “and you will be like God.” Also like that first temptation, they promise these things without telling us the cost. The most prescient question in this coming brave, new world seems to be, “What do we stand to lose by jumping into this latest technological trend?”
Everything. We stand to lose our very humanity.
As we become more and more of something else—something machine—we become less and less of what we were created to be—namely, human beings. Even the experts can’t imagine what artificial intelligence in its fullest extent (what they term “the singularity”) will look like. It’s beyond anything mankind has seen before. Afterwards, we’ll never need to imagine anything again—if we’re even capable of imagining.
Yet our greatest power is our imagination, even if we forgot its importance long ago and have relegated it to the realm of children. After all, we’re created in the image and likeness of God. It’s this image, this stamp from God, that we’re being asked to give up. Our greatest power is our imagination—the meeting-place of our intellect, will, and desires. It’s the place where all of our thoughts first emerge and where they can be changed into action. It’s the place where all our new experiences go to rest; from these new experiences, new ideas emerge.
Imagination is also a meeting-place of memories. We remember things we did, and saw, and said, and thought; but we also remember what others said and did. It’s within our imaginations that the present intersects with the past, and where we build the ideas that shape our future. In a small, human way, imagination gives us power over time itself—our time—which we must use wisely.
We harm (or, rather, dull) this vital power when we use a screen. Screens mediate reality directly to our mind’s eye, bypassing the imagination altogether. This bypassing of the imagination is what makes the screen so easy and so addictive.
If we dull the imagination simply by using a screen, we risk destroying it altogether when we start implanting the internet directly into our minds. This destruction of the individual’s imagination will lead, inevitably, to the singularization of thought of everyone with an implant, since it’s our individual experiences that form our imagination, and those experiences that create true diversity of thought. By contrast, everyone with an implant will share directly in the same online experiences in an identical way.
Already we see the rise of “deplatforming” on social media, an issue many regard as so critically dangerous at this time. If the major tech companies have silencing power over people they disagree with now, what kind of intimidation will they exercise when people are literally plugged into them? The singularization of thought seems inevitable, be it by outright coercion if not by direct mind control, should mass manipulation somehow fail.
What can we do to combat these forces? We can live in the truth.
Reality strengthens the imagination. Studies show that foregoing screen time in favor of other activities within the family improves their health and strengthens their bonds. So, do the kind of things that people have always done to humanize themselves. Eat, read, play, talk, and pray together. Anytime we’re are away from our screen, we’re are engaging with the Real, which strengthens our imaginations and makes us become more fully human.
Our current tech overlords—the Zuckerbergs, Cooks, Gateses, Pages, Pichais, Bezoses, and Dorseys—envision a world that is one homogeneous hivemind with all people buzzing around in technologically hybridized harmony. They see an artificial intelligence made in the image of Man. We should seriously question whether we should sign on (or sign in) as drones in their world—especially knowing whom they will choose as their queen bees.
Photo credit: Jirsak/Shutterstock.com