There is only one reason I engage in the world of ideas and current events: I know if I leave it to others, the crazies will win. I just know those who oppose the world I think is best will not rest or stop in their pursuit of a godless dystopia in the name of a humanist utopia. And because I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that their world will fail because it always has and always will, I try to stay engaged and have a small bit of influence where and when I can.
And yet, even such limited engagement comes at a cost. I lose perspective on what is important. I lose the right balance between my eternal reality and my local context. I lose or perhaps have too much hope in my immediate leaders or influences—politicians, Christian apologists, etc. And I absorb at least some of the anxiety the media wants me to absorb, anxiety they hope to convert into revenue.
Still, I attempt to prioritize my anxiety. I ignore or blow off much of the day's events because I'm pretty sure they won't matter in the long run. I know I am not a consequential mortal to the news outlets of the world: I am a click worth .00045 cents, at best. So I know what they present does not represent very much of reality. As it turns out, presidents, for example, do matter, but so do local politics and the way I raise my kids.
I say all of that because it seems we can easily get distracted with each day's disasters and we miss the plates shifting beneath our feet. We spend days worrying about some phone call to Ukraine, and all the while, a computer engineer has ushered in a breakthrough that will unleash hell in a matter of years. Or we will all overlook the profoundly irresponsible government actions or inaction that will lead to such a destabilized society that today's troubles will seem like child's play.
A Deepfake Dystopia
For example, are we going to be able to deal with the fallout from deepfakes? If a World War can be ignited by the assassination of one man, can a faked speech or action of another push us over the edge?
Or consider the rational fear that will overtake any of us who desire to stand against abortion, homosexuality, or really any social issue where the proponent is willing to disgrace opposing voices. This week, a young woman who fights abortion in Australia found herself humiliated by a pornographic deepfake.
Who will be willing to speak out if anyone can easily and cheaply be humiliated with the law seemingly unable to keep up? The only people left with a voice will be technologically adept creeps who justify their contempt using the typical lies from the left. Something about the ends justifying the means.
Can deepfakes be stopped, or was this inevitable given the invention of the computer some 70 years ago? Is there another bit of technology that can reverse them or prove that they are fake? Will it even matter? If you see a humiliating image or video of say, your pastor or neighbor or even spouse, can you relate to them in the same way as before, even if you know what you saw was fake? I think not.
What kind of an effect will that have on very basic human relationships? We all face the very real possibility of videos of us in highly compromising situations. And while I would like to think common decency would win the day and we can learn to ignore that which is disgusting, the first episode of "Black Mirror" now seems like a prescient reminder that our society will indeed watch a train wreck even as it destroys their own society.
A Deficit Dystopia
What about inflation? Do we even care anymore? I remember very well the eight years of anxiety that were thrust upon me during Obama's presidency. Remember back when the national deficit was only $12 trillion?! Ha! We'll be over $25 trillion before you know it. And that doesn't even count the unfunded liabilities of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Well, you know what happens when money becomes worthless? Societies collapse. And it doesn't just affect women and minorities as our usual social ills disproportionately do. It affects everyone. A destabilized currency leads to nothing short of anarchy.
So why does no one seem to care? I keep thinking America's muckety-mucks know something I do not. They know, for example, every other nation also has destabilized currencies, and since we're all in the same boat, we won't ever call each other to account. All I know is that, again, unless we are able to reign in our spending (ahem, Republicans), no other headline will matter. All other concerns will be secondary.
An AI Apocalypse
Artificial Intelligence may well cure cancer soon. Just put those little self-driven bytes to work and miracles never cease! And yet, is no one worried about the loss of privacy that comes from inviting all-knowing, never-sleeping spies into our home?
As our need for knowledge increases and our desire to solve problems never ends, the appeal of AI is obvious. Indeed, AI possesses many godlike qualities: it is virtually omnipresent and omniscient. It can resemble personality and is certainly more easily accessed than the God of the universe. In the future, AI will answer your direct questions.
But AI, no matter the plastic shell and no matter the celebrity's voice on the other end, is not real. It remains an algorithm. We were not created to relate to algorithms. We were created to relate to persons, both human and divine. So how can the very fabric of civilization—human interaction—not suffer when we have the option to relate to our mirror image instead, a mirror image who always agrees, affirms, and loves? AI is the conceit of Narcissus on our phones. If I must compete against AI as a husband, father, pastor, or friend, I know I will lose at least some of those battles. Multiply those losses by a billion and we will create an unrecognizable future.
Combine that all with an undercurrent of godlessness and to-each-his-own morality and I am unclear on who exactly will be tapping the breaks on this "progress." So for today, I will continue to monitor my anxiety, focus on the locale in which I find myself ministering, and hoping those in power with the ability to make improvements can notice the shifting ground soon.
The only real antidote I know of, though, is a conscious retreat from these kinds of technologies where and when we can. Zombie Apocalypses are fantasies about the day when such a retreat is not an option, but the way things are. Unless we discipline ourselves now, I don't see how we don't create the dystopias we seem to want to avoid.