Wednesday, January 24, 2018

When Is Science Fiction Not So Science Fiction?

Some of us are old enough to remember watching science-fiction movies when we were kids growing up.  In those movies robots would take over the world - and it was usually in a very negative way.  But, a few remaining humans would come to the rescue and save the world.

Well, I thought of some of those movies as I read an article that was sent to me a few days ago.  It was written by the Head of Daimier Benz, one of the largest auto manufacturers in the world.  The title of the article is "Artificial Intelligence (AI) is Changing the World at an Exponential Rate."  Allow me to share just a few of the thoughts from this article. 

"In a recent interview, the Head of Daimier  Benz (Mercedes Benz) said their competitors are no longer other car companies, but Tesla (obviously), and now Google, Apple, Amazon 'et al' are.  Software will disrupt most traditional industries in the next 5-10 years.  Uber is just a software tool, they don't own any cars, and are now the biggest taxi company in the world.  Airbnb is now the biggest hotel company in the world, although they don't own any properties. 

"Artificial Intelligence: Computers become exponentially better in understanding the world.  In the U.S., young lawyers already can't get jobs.  Because of IBM Watson, you can get legal advice (so far for more or less basic stuff) within seconds, with 90% accuracy compared with 70% accuracy when done by humans.  So, if you study law, stop immediately.  There will be 90% less lawyers in the future, only specialists will remain.

"Watson already helps nurses diagnosing cancer, 4 times more accurate than human nurses.  Facebook now has a pattern recognition software that can recognize faces better than humans.  In 2030, computers will become more intelligent than humans."  That last sentence shocked me.  When a computer becomes more intelligent than a human, have we crossed that threshold where machines now are in charge of the world? 

"Health innovations: The Tricorder X price will be announced this year.  There are companies who will build a medical device (called the 'Tricoder' from Star Trek) that works with your phone, which takes your retina scan, your blood sample, and you can breath into it.  It then analyses 54 biomarkers that will identify nearly any disease.  It will be cheap, so in a few years everyone on this planet will have access to world class medical analysis, nearly for free.  Goodbye, medical establishment. 

"3D printing: The price of the cheapest 3D printer came down from $18,000 to $400 within 10 years.  In the same time, it became 100 times faster.  All major shoe companies have already started 3D printing shoes.  Some common spare airplane parts are already 3D printed in remote airports.  The space station now has a printer that eliminates the need for the large amount of spare parts they used to keep in the past.  At the end of this year, new smart phones will have 3D scanning possibilities.  You can then 3D scan your feet and print your perfect shoes at home.  In China, they already 3D printed and built a complete 6-story office building.  By 2027, 10% of everything that's being produced will be 3D printed."  Wow! 

The writer continues, "Work: 70-80% of jobs will disappear in the next 20 years.  There will be a lot of new jobs, but it is not clear if there will be enough new jobs in such a small time."

Friends, this is the world in which we are now living.  We are on the very edge of a world that will pride itself in being "de-personalized."  I no longer need a face-to-face with my personal physician because a computer will analyze my condition and recommend a prescription for me.  I will not even have to travel to a local pharmacy because Amazon will deliver that prescription right to my front door via a drone.  I no longer have to go to the grocery store.  I merely log in, place my order, and a drone will drop my purchases off at my front door.  I can do all my classes through a smart phone so I will not need to attend a real school.  In the end we will all become like little hermits, each confined to his/her own cave. 

But, is this what we really want?  The Bible describes the need for relationships.  The purpose of the local church is to cultivate personal relationships.  Discipleship involves personal relationships.  Jesus Christ wants to enter into a personal relationship with you.  A depersonalized world is not something that God orchestrates.  Yet we seem to be moving in that direction.  I ask myself this question: "When will God say, 'Enough is enough!'"  When will we have crossed that line drawn in the sand by God?  And just where is that line?  Those are questions for which I have no answer.  But I am wondering if we are not approaching the point where those at Babel were before God stepped in to confuse their languages. 

These are indeed very interesting days.  Yet, I believe they are also very deadly days.  As I shared with a group of men early this morning, I am so grateful that God is in control.  Nothing is happening without His permissive hand being upon it.  And it will all lead to the celebration of the return of the King.  Hallelujah!

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