For as the body is one, and has a number of parts, and all the parts make one body, so is Christ.1Co 12:12
The internet probably is the best machine that man ever built. It is a few years younger than me. Designed as ARPA Net in the 60’s, it connected some universities and government agencies. The 70’s and 80’s had it spread world wide. The first phase of its history—connecting computers. This is when I joined.
The internet back then was a network of computers with complicated addresses. You connected with another computer and exchanged information. What you shared was your computer.
But why do I call it the best machine ever? Because, even if single parts of it where down, the internet uninterruptedly runs since then. This makes it look much more like an organism than any machine ever built before. Fail resistant if parts go down.
Just to give you a use case: Searching for a flight, I connect with a computer of an airline clerk.
In 1989, Tim Berners-Lee proposed what was to become the web, and 1991 the first web page went online. In Switzerland, remind you. Since then, we have surpassed 1 trillion web pages with over 3 billion users. We send 10’000 tweets, 2600 pictures are uploaded to Instagram, 1800 Skype calls, 2.5 million emails sent, 30 Terabyte of traffic—all in one second.
But most importantly: far more than 55 trillion links. Web pages are interconnected. The number of devices in the internet is greater than the number of neurons or brain cells in a human being since 2008, the number of links exceeds the number of synapsis, connections of brain cells, in a human brain. It is estimated that—since those numbers are doubling every year—in a few years there are more devices and links than cells and connections in all human brains together.
Searching for a flight, I connect with the airline’s web page.
For quite some time now, pages are not what is important in the web any longer. We are now connecting data. The web gathers information about people and things and works on that data. Personalized advertisement is ubiquitous and just the beginning. Siri, Cortana and the like know us better and better and become our personal advisors. Since computers are so much better searching big data, we depend on the web for information and delegate more and more of our decision to the web. Those digital assistants make the web more humane and let us identify with the big machine called the internet more and more. Why not ask Siri where to go for lunch? She—really?—knows my habits and preferences as well as the restaurants in the area. Let her take over so I can concentrate on the important stuff.
Giving more and more data about myself to the machine, the boundaries between myself and my digital representation become blurred. A natural world view—defining everything by physical laws and matter, denying the supernatural—even sees me upload my whole being into the cloud in the future, perpetuating myselve beyond physical death. Of course, this leaves out soul and spirit. But will we recognize it if the simulation is close enough?
I do not search for a flight any longer. I ask Siri where to go on vacation, and she proposes whole travel arrangements to me.
Connecting People and Things
In the future, things will join the game – the internet of things, IOT. This has started already. Imagine your refrigerator in the web, and before driving home, you ask it—not your wife—what to get in the store if you wanted to eat that great poulet à l’orange that Siri suggested. Or you ask it to buy the stuff itself and have it delivered by drone before you are home. You enter your self driving car, because today you decided to go to work for a change instead of joining your coworkers from home using virtual reality. And since the sensors in your car’s seat detect some tension in your back, the car suggests a bath to you and talks to your bath tub to arrange it to be ready the minute you come home. Lights dimmed, your favorite music playing, the book you started yesterday loaded on screen.
This is not too far out, we are working on it as we speak.
Will I still have to fly, or will I spend my vacation in virtual reality? Siri, please arrange for a trip to the moon next month, would you? And give the seat in the space vehicle my body measure so it can adjust itself for perfect fit.
And still, the web has not been down for a second since it started.
Why am I talking about this on a faith based christian blog?
Please do not expect me to ramble on about the internet being the beast, the statue that the enemy gave the ability to speak. That is too cheap.
What I want to show is how deeply engrained the plan of God is into our system.
All God wants is unity. He created us to have relationship. To live, work, experience life together with him. To be one with him. This is what Paul talks about: Christ is the body, the network of Jesus as head and us as cells. Everybody, even everything connected in unity. This is the great desire that God put into our hearts. To deeply connect with him and others, so the boundaries blur and we become—him. One.
In the garden we decided to be like him instead of being part of him, one with him. To be like somebody means to be a separate copy. And that is what we worked on since then. To become a perfect copy of what God planned, just without him.
We mimic connectedness through going online and wireless lan. Communication through data exchange. Working together through delegating to computers and digital assistant. Relationships through social networks.
And truly, we become one. Man is and will more and more be just a cell in a larger organism, the body of the internet. Connected by more and more humane interfaces like speech, gestures, even implants to the machine.
It is astonishing how much it is in our DNA to become one, in all individuality. Trying to keep our privacy, we give it up and become transparent to a degree that we never intended. But we continue to become one great organism. Even without God, we try so hard to reach our destiny.
Will I now continue with a cry to turn the switch on the internet? Not at all. That would be blaming the wrong thing. Tools have been our scape goats long enough, Christianity has villainized things for ages—think TV, which we used to call hellavision—just so we did not have to take responsibility. Tools are here to be used carefully and responsibly.
The web will never bring about oneness. Just as uploading your brain structure to preserve yourself for eternity will never capture your personality and being. It will but bring a simulation, a look alike, a poor copy, a stereotype, a rip-off.
Imagine using those tools—web, artificial intelligence, artificial life—in conjunction with more traditional ones—meeting in person, speaking with each other, taking a walk through nature— and all the ones in between—from writing to phones, from wheels to cooking—to connect both with each other and God?
Let’s not deify tools, nor deny their usefulness. Let’s look at them as what they are. Mere tools.
Are you ready to settle for a rip-off, or do you want to strive for the real thing? Let me know your thoughts.