DOREEN
In today’s video we are going to answer some of your amazing questions about our technology series that we’ve been posting videos for. Thank you for participating and asking these questions, and we’re sorry we can’t answer them all.

First one: “I wonder if in the near future when you realize the extent to which artificial intelligence is intruding into your lives you will again embrace Amish ways.”

Artificial intelligence is already part of our lives if you think about it. At least I often use GPS, maps, Google translate and so forth.

RICHARD
Yeah I think those things are positive and they’re pretty routine at this point. I wouldn’t even necessarily have thought of them as artificial intelligence because they’re so integrated in how we do things. I was amazed the other day doing a Facebook livestream of our worship meeting on Sunday how the video was transcribed and subtitled in real–time and the speech recognition was super accurate which just a few years ago was not the case.

DOREEN
I’ve said this before but if there were no GPS I would probably just stay home a lot more. Which might not be the worst thing. I think the questioner may be more interested in the question of machines completely replacing human beings though.

RICHARD
I think we have some similar questions a bit further down the list which we'll get to. Here’s an easy one: “There are no TVs in the Bruderhof, where did you watch Wall–E?”

We don’t have TV/screens in our homes but we do have them available to watch things we’re interested in. But we try to apply the principles we’ve been discussing in this series, and treat consumption of entertainment media as an occasional treat, not the main course. I personally get more out of reading though. What’s your most recent favorite show or movie?

DOREEN
That’s a good question because my viewing habits are kind of dependent on the weather. So in the summertime I really haven’t seen much in the way of that type of entertainment. But I was talking to my sister the other day and she came across this show called Upload. And I think it kind of ties into this conversation because essentially the premise, as I understand, of the show is human beings are given the opportunity to upload their consciousness into the afterlife, so that’s corporatized and digitized. It’s pedaled as a comedy, but it really actually sounds like a nightmare. There’s no longer distinctions between what is tangible and real versus what is artificial. It’s like if Amazon Prime had one of their options as the afterlife that would be so creepy and totally not what we as Christians would give any credence to.

RICHARD
Right. It’s kind of like a virtual cryogenics. That’s the obsession, especially among the super wealthy now. It’s the quest is for eternal life. But as Christians, we are assured that our lives actually already are eternal. Even if our earthly lives are 70, 80 years, we do believe that our lives are forever.

DOREEN

Yes.

So here’s another question: “What’s your view on the ‘scamdemic’? Are you ready to get your mark, become transhuman or will you stay as God’s creation? The lines have been drawn. Who can make war with the beast?"

Ok, I think this is referring to a theory that has traction in some circles that the coronavirus pandemic was created and spread in order to advance the aims of some shadow group of wealthy/powerful people trying to gain more power and influence, and the theory is (or at least one of them is) that the coronavirus vaccine will contain a chip somehow connected to the 5G network that will allow this shadow group to control people in various ways. And some believers in this theory link the chip to the mark of the beast described in the book of Revelations. I personally don’t find this type of conspiracy theorizing at all persuasive but I understand it might be some peoples’ way of making sense out of this crazy world and the craziness of the Coronavirus.

RICHARD
You mean I won’t need my tinfoil hat?

DOREEN
You can probably go ahead and cook something in it at your next campfire.

RICHARD
Oh yes, I love doing the potatoes in tinfoil. Very tasty.

Ok, here’s a related question:

"Does the Bruderhof have a position on the use of implantable microchips that are/will be used for buying and selling, and in particular, how they might be related to Bible prophecy and ‘the mark of the Beast’ (i.e. a ‘mark’ that people will need to have in their right hand, or in their forehead, and without which they cannot buy or sell)?”

The Bruderhof doesn’t have a position on this type of interpretation of Revelations. Such interpretations are shaky ground to be on, and some things we’re just not meant to know. But from my perspective the idea implanting microchips in people is extremely suspect and prone to misuse and invasions of privacy. I don’t think I or anyone on the Bruderhof would go along with having microchips implanted anywhere in us. That said, many of us happily and voluntarily carry around microchips in our pockets every day and don’t think much about it. Luckily the question is an issue we have not had to contend with yet. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

DOREEN
We’ll have to.

“What are your thoughts on those who for no reason of their own making will find themselves jobless in the days to come. Will other jobs just appear as they have done before when momentous events just changed the direction that society moved in.”

That’s a great question. And I think it’s actually very sad and it's a really urgent policy question that needs addressing alongside the challenges of climate change which by the way is related to our over-intensive use of the earth's resources. I was intrigued to see how far Andrew Yang got in the Democratic primary on the idea of universal basic income which was such a fringe idea a couple of years back. I’m not at all sure such a thing would be successful but at least it made the conversation about universal basic income more mainstream. But ultimately, from the Anabaptist perspective better policy can help alleviate suffering, which is important and we should care, but it can’t solve human nature. So this sort of problem will always persist. And only in a society where people truly care for each other will these problems go away completely. We believe that this society is only possible with God’s intervention, and it’s what we’re trying to live towards here at the Bruderhof.

RICHARD
That’s absolutely right. Another thing I would say: if you look at the history of technological innovation, it has often been disruptive to the workforce. But then there’s always been retraining and restructuring in the economy and then people found new work to do. Having said that, who’s to say that this will always be the case? And one thing I personally wonder about in relation to this is when are we going to come to the end of this constant obsession with economic growth that seems to be the main driver for automation. When are we going to learn to be happier with less? We’re going to have to be, and I think we would be happier with less. I’ve seen it. And that would also mean finding satisfaction in doing work by hand that could be done faster and on a bigger scale – for example farming – but finding reward in the process. I know it’s easy to romanticize things like that, to look to the past and think how pleasant and pastoral it was to work on the land, but it is something I feel somewhat drawn to.

DOREEN
So the next question is actually two questions for us:

“1) when we reach the singularity – robots will have consciousness like humans (this will happen sooner rather than later) but what then? Will God be there for them?”
“2) Imagine a future where this happens: the machine would be smarter than us, able to make itself even smarter to levels unimaginable to us – what if the secrets of the universe were unlocked, everything revealed, with no mysteries in this world of scientific advancement. What would life be like??”

Wow, that’s a great question and I think it’s not at all settled that we’re ever going to see technological singularity in terms of computers actually having agency or real intelligence. Like Steven Pinker said just because you can imagine it isn’t evidence that it’s likely or even possible. Having said that, I believe God created everything – including the brains of the computer scientists who are working on developing different forms of artificial intelligence. So actually God is indirectly the creator of artificial intelligence. Of course that doesn’t mean he would sanction the use of it for evil purposes but since he’s the creator of everything it just wouldn’t be possible for anything in his creation to be greater than him and we as his image bearers (which robots are not and never will be) can take comfort in that.

RICHARD
To the second part of the question, mankind has been learning about the world forever. In Genesis, Adam was given the task of naming all the animals and plants, and we’re still learning amazing things today. I don't think we'll ever come to the end of wonder. The more that's discovered the more there is to wonder at. And that's a beautiful thing. That’s where science and Christianity meet, in wonder.

So, those are all great questions and thank you very much for watching our videos and engaging with us, and look forward to the next series.