Technology and Grace

Technology and Grace April 25, 2019

Anyone who makes a sweeping generalization about the inability of technology to being a means and mediator of grace has had a very narrow experience. They have never seen someone living in a foreign land for a long time reconnect with an old friend from back in their home country. For that matter, they must never have seen someone who was sad or suffering take momentary but real comfort from a cat video. But they have probably had the experience of having products or music recommended to them by an AI, and yet failed to appreciate this development in technology, indeed to marvel in awe at it. It is not fully human, but it does things that are truly remarkable.

Technology has an impact on us, but a lot depends on how we respond to it, engage with its effect on us, and interpret it. A recent article by Chelsea Wald in Nautilus began this way:

Not long ago I diagnosed myself with the recently identified condition of sidewalk rage. It’s most pronounced when it comes to a certain friend who is a slow walker. Last month, as we sashayed our way to dinner, I found myself biting my tongue, thinking, I have to stop going places with her if I ever want to … get there! You too can measure yourself on the “Pedestrian Aggressiveness Syndrome Scale,” a tool developed by University of Hawaii psychologist Leon James. While walking in a crowd, do you find yourself “acting in a hostile manner (staring, presenting a mean face, moving closer or faster than expected)” and “enjoying thoughts of violence?”

Slowness rage is not confined to the sidewalk, of course. Slow drivers, slow Internet, slow grocery lines—they all drive us crazy. Even the opening of this article may be going on a little too long for you. So I’ll get to the point. Slow things drive us crazy because the fast pace of society has warped our sense of timing. Things that our great-great-grandparents would have found miraculously efficient now drive us around the bend. Patience is a virtue that’s been vanquished in the Twitter age…

I will have two episodes of the ReligionProf Podcast in the near future that will explore this topic further, featuring special guest Brian Wesolowski. I typically provide additional material in the blog post in which I share the podcast episode, and I will certainly not cease to do that, including on this occasion. But as I’ve been collecting links to go with that future podcast, I realize that I have more than are necessary even for two blog posts, and among these are calls for papers the deadlines for which are fast approaching. And so I thought I ought to see what happens if I share a primer for an upcoming episode, rather than merely content to go along with it together with the already-released podcast.

And so on that note, here are some more articles and calls for papers on this topic:

Robot Theology (Part 1)

Sean Carroll’s Mindscape Podcast: Adrienne Mayor on Gods and Robots in Ancient Mythology

AI for the M.D

Incarnate Weirdness (Or How NOT to Give up Social Media)

On Chalmers and Dennett’s “Is Superintelligence Impossible?”

Machines Like Me – intelligent mischief

Cyber-solutions to Cyberbullying

The Rise of The Robot Teacher

Evangelicals Flip Out Over Medical AI: We Deny That “Disease Can Be Eradicated Apart From Jesus Christ”

Internet of Happiness

Would You Let Your Self-Driving Car Take Your Kids to School?

Are We Really on Our Way to Self-Driving School Buses?

How AI Can Help Prevent School Shootings


Genetics, God and the Future of Humanity


Wesley Wildman, Boston University – Computer Simulations For Studying Religion


The fate of the book review in the age of the algorithm

AI in health care is not all good news. But they can write iambic pentameter!

David Chalmers, Daniel Dennett, and John Brockman discuss the future of Artificial Intelligence

A video:

And finally, calls for papers:


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