When Robots take over The Church

Over the holidays, I started reading an interesting book entitled “The Inevitable” by Kevin Kelly. It claims to help us understand “the 12 technological forces that will shape our future.” Interesting enough. I am not quite through it yet, but am always up for learning something new, so what the heck. Kelly is a techno big wig, and I am not, so I am breezing through the jargon and trying to glean insight as I go. Grains of salt and all that…

I have already stumbled through Chapter 2, entitled “Cognifying”… a technical force involving artificial intelligence (that means machines that can think — for those of us over age 25… ahem…) and am stuck on the following quote from pg. 37:

“Every time you type a query, click on a search-generated link, or create a link on the web, you are training Google AI. When you type Easter Bunny into the image search bar and then click on the most Easter Bunny looking image, you are teaching the AI what an Easter Bunny looks like.”

2016. The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly pg. 37

And so, I muse… what are we teaching Google about GOD?!

Most of the visionary thinkers of our day say that technology is here to stay. We rely on it daily, hourly, even minute by minute in some cases. The next generation won’t know what life was like without the internet. Google, Alexa and Siri have become our best friends. I check my phone before I eat breakfast. Rightly or wrongly, the constant “feeds” are shaping our future… and our spirituality.

Kelly says that technology moves us forward by a force he calls “Becoming”. It is not that technology is driving us to something improved… but something entirely new. Our views are evolving and growing and eventually will change the present thoughts and opinions into something entirely different. Could this be true of our vision of God? Of the church? Of salvation? Of our morality?

Are you prepared for the technology that is changing our view of spirituality?

I am certainly no expert, and I don’t have any definitive answers to my technological muse, but I do know, through simple observation, that the average 7 year old has more knowledge of what Fortnight is than who Jacob and Esau are. So what are we to do? How do we catch the inevitable train and be sure to add spiritual insights to the list of stops?

Number one, I think we have to be aware. Be present. Try and understand. Know that the future will be shaped by this never ending force we call technology. Never stop learning. Unfortunately, our churches are way, way behind. We need to catch up. And Fast.

Perhaps your church has the technological budget and know how to be current in today’s fast paced world. Good for you! But do we then just go crazy with technology and let robots take over our pulpits… since they are going to anyway? Who’s idea of morality is correct? Who gets to make the decisions? No easy answer there, either.

Max Tegmark, an “expert” from MIT, says that before we let AI take complete control, we have to make sure we get it right — the first time. He says we need to certainly be pro active versus reactive. We must make sure that our moral and spiritual goals are aligned with what the robots are going to tell us (because, yes, eventually, they will indeed be smarter than us…)

For example, when technology advanced and we got cars, (and then faster cars) we learned from our mistakes and created seat belts, traffic lights and highway speed limit laws. According to Tegmark, we must think of the mistakes first and plan for them accordingly. I hope I am well equipped. I fear, however, that I am not.

What about you? Do you feel you are equipped for when Robots take over your church? Has your church taken steps to follow the technology movement? Let me know your thoughts….

How to Re-pot a Cactus (Without Getting Poked!)

Re-potting CactiGreetings!  It’s been a hectic week and I am just catching up on a few things (like laundry and housecleaning… what an exciting life I lead, eh?).  We are almost into our third week of our 30 Days of Blessings challenge and I am being so encouraged by how people are being blessed!  One of the challenges we recently enjoyed was to discover all about plants!  Now, I am no green thumb, but I do like plants.  It’s just crazy how diverse they are.  So many colours, shades and textures.  I garden a bit… but I’m really too lazy to tend the land a whole lot.  Houseplants are my jive.  I don’t have the space for a jungle, but we do have a few potted beauties hanging around.  The recent prompt encouraged me to buy two more little succulents… they are all the rage right now!  Seriously… How many Instagram pics have you seen with that tiny green thing on the perfectly clean office desk?  It’s so unreal, people.  Do computer desks look like that?  Not mine.   Although I must say, one of my new little guys looks like he needs some googly eyes and a sombrero… it’s so funny!

succulents are fun!

I have a few other succulents, too, which I love to share as they are so easy to propagate.  If you need some help with that, you can read about my simple teacher’s gifts here.  I once “adopted” an Aloe Vera plant that was huge when I got it.  I have shared that one so many times that I only have a few sprigs (apparently the correct term is “pups”) left.  I will have to leave it alone for awhile to grow back.  But, I digress, we are here to talk about my cacti!  I received two little cacti as a souvenir from Arizona.  The hubby brought them back from a trip he took several years ago.  Recently, they were beginning to look a little sad.  One was definitely leaning over (yes, I stuck an old knitting needle in the soil to prop it up!) The other was starting to spot a tad in the middle where it had touched the other one.  They had grown too big for the shallow dish they were in and needed to be re-potted for more space… only issue… they are very prickly!!

I had tried once before to re-pot my cactus using tongs to prop it up and some gloves… but the spines went through the gloves!  Someone told me a towel would work… but the spines stuck in the towel.  And so… YouTube became my friend once again.  A lovely expert from California (all things cacti there!) re-potted a huge, tall, spiky beast using bunched up newspaper… and voila!  It worked!   I carefully dug around the bottom with a fork and used my oven mitts and some crunched up newspapers to lift the cactus out.  It’s pot partner immediately flopped over in shear depression at the thought of being left alone forever — but was soon rescued as well, and placed back with it’s beloved in a new home.  Unfortunately, because I had procrastinated moving them so long, the roots had grown slightly sideways, so the plants are still slightly leaning and currently propped up again.  I am hoping with more room to grow, they will grow fat and healthy!  Newspaper hugs did the trick!newspaperhugs

What about you, my friend?  Ever get stuck in a pot too small for your liking, but too afraid of getting poked to move on?  Ever feel like you are being prompted for something bigger, somewhere you can bloom and flourish,  but doubts and fears keep you leaning over because you’ve procrastinated too long?  Or are you afraid to get poked by people who want to see you fail?  The Bible tells us to “Be Strong!  Be fearless!  Don’t be afraid and don’t be scared by your enemies, because the Lord your God is the one who marches with you.  He won’t let you down and He won’t abandon you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6 (CEBA))  How encouraging!  I know, I know, you are right — easier said than done.  So how do we turn the hard parts to our advantage?  Take the example of our plants.  Even though the spines are added protection for the plant, cacti use their spikes to retain water as well — a necessary resource in the desert (because they lack leaves).  Our struggles often produce defensive spikes that keep our predators at bay.  We must learn that even though times are tough, our defenses can become our greatest assets.  They help us survive in the desert of life.

Sometimes, we forget.  We get stabbed with the consequences when we are not protected.  I got a jab by one tiny spine through my oven mitt as I propped up my leaning cactus without the added protection of the newspapers.  I tried to do it on my own.  When our Godly defenses are down, we sometimes react without being properly guarded.  And it hurts… let me tell ya!  So use your newspaper to wrap one another in love.  Hug a cactus with all the encouragement and grace you can find!  Cushion them with space and then gently lift them forward.  Only then can you begin to see them flourish and bloom in their new space!  bloom & flourish

Emily

I met a little girl named Emily today.  I really can’t tell you much about her, except that she wore a purple, fleece, zip up hoodie with unicorns on it, and was in the grade one/two split class I visited this morning.  I don’t know her last name, I don’t know who her parents are or where she lives.  I don’t know anything about her home life or what her reading level is.  In fact, I don’t even remember her answering questions on the carpet or visiting my center.  She wasn’t one of those keen to learn students with her hand up in the front row, who smiled pretty when she answered the right questions.  She wasn’t even one of those kids in the back row who wasn’t paying attention either.  She didn’t poke or giggle with her friends like a typical grade one elementary schooler.  She seemed to be “just Emily.”

Come to think of it, this little invisible girl only appeared on my radar after the class was over and I was busily packing up my equipment to head home.  The rest of the class was tired and hungry and eager to get on to the lunchroom.  They had obviously had a delightfully engaging morning — full of hands on science and learning, taught expertly by yours truly.  (Ahem! 🙂 ) They had even given up their class snack time to learn!  Emily, however, seemed to doddle about busily nibbling on a cucumber slice that her teacher had given her earlier from the class lunch bin.  Her mousy, long brown hair was disheveled slightly and wisps of it got in the way of her field of vision,  the way it does for a grade one girl who seems to be forging her own way in life.

microscope

She casually sauntered up to me, brushed aside her hair and inquired about my bins.  Where did all the things come from?  Where was I going now?  Did I live at the science centre?  I politely answered her curious questions and began to shoo her off to lunch with her friends.  Emily had other plans, though.   She picked up one of my microscopes and proceeded  to “help” clean up.  (ack! …slight panic… heavy, expensive equipment slung about by a seven-year-old is a disaster waiting to happen!  It’s one of those things they tell you about in classroom management courses!)  “Oh, no, no, my friend… thank you for your help… but off you go to lunch now…” As I gently removed the microscope from Emily’s grip, I hear an assistant say that Emily is not listening — again.

Suddenly, I feel the need to rethink my purposes.  It’s probably true.  Emily probably doesn’t listen much to instructions.  She probably doesn’t follow the rules easily.  Maybe she doesn’t sit and do all her homework and hang her coat on the hook.  She probably forgets to her to change her indoor shoes and tie back her untamed locks.  But at this very moment, Emily wants to help.  And so I let her.  I ask her to collect all my pencils and stack the pencil bins so they fit together.  I ask her to pile the books so I can pack them away.  We spend the next minute or so tidying up together.

I don’t remember the moment Emily decided to go off to lunch.  Suddenly she was invisible again… a purple unicorn hoodie blur in the mass of grade ones and twos filing out the door.  Dumbfounded for a moment, I was struck by the realization that we so often meet Emilys.  People seemingly invisible — but there.  The cashier at the grocery store.  The elderly man on the bus.  The teenager plugged in to headphones at the back of the class.  Do we take the time to simply engage them when the spark of opportunity arrives?  A smile as they open the door for us?  A thank you when they hand us our bags?Emily

Each of us are fearfully and wonderfully made.  A unique image crafted with personalities so complex and diverse.  None of us are the same.  And yet, we function somehow as a whole. We strive, like Emily, to do a little good now and then.  Even when it is hard to follow the rules.  My little moment with Emily taught me, that maybe, just maybe, the key to engagement is not always in grand productions full of magic and wonder.  It’s often not in the polished presentation with flash cards and perfectly laminated worksheets.  Perhaps it is simply taking the time to answer a few curious questions, and the chance to be polite to those invisible strangers as they reach out and stack a few pencil bins for us.