Pandora’s Box Of Automation

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I am afraid that automation is going to put too many churches out of business.  Historically, technology has always created entirely new occupations and opportunities while destroying old industries and jobs. There is little doubt that the auto industry is a good example to exemplify the former cases, as horse carriages phased out when the technology became widely available to produce the automobile. There is enough economic precedence to support these former statements which may explain why so many people today naively think that millions of jobs will still be created in the near future due to the advent of information technology. The reality is that we don’t know what will happen in the future. Only the Lord knows for sure, not you or I. I feel, however, that our society has chosen to ignore an important piece of biblical scripture — Proverbs 16:1-4, “To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the proper answer of the tongue. All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the LORD.” We are not in control of anything. Who are we to dictate what will happen in the future with certainty anyways? We are not God! In the Bible, the Lord is pretty clear about this “business of tomorrow.” He teaches us in Matthew 6:34 that anxiety about the future is meaningless and that “Tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Which position are we in to make certain claims about the economical future of our great country? I say we aren’t in any position to predict anything with certainty. We don’t have that luxury. All that we can do is to speculate! This is my speculation — I do think that the new age of information technology will fall short of creating enough jobs to replace the ones it will destroy in our society.  I can see many of you thinking, “Yeah right.”

Let me ask you a question: How many people do you think were employed at YouTube when the company was sold to Google back in 2005? The number, brothers and sisters in Christ, was 65! General Motors at its peak hired 840,000 employees. Today, GM hires 36,000 hard working employees. That is a drastic loss of employment between the years of 1979 and 2016. Have you heard about the newly developed app “Instagram?” Who hasn’t, right? How many people do you think worked at Instagram when the company was acquired by Facebook in 2012? The answers ladies and gentleman was 13! The irony of the former is that Instagram was sold for a billion dollars. The per-employee evaluation at Instagram at the time of its purchase was 77 million!

Aren’t these new companies supposed to generate millions of jobs because of technological advancements in order to replace the ones that they destroy? Many pentecostals are making life plans and setting business strategies based on this logic. I personally like the position taken by the author, Martin Ford of the book Rise of the Robots. In his book he talks about how information technology is now a utility that comes with machine intelligence. I think he is absolutely correct about his assertions, as information technology today is as necessary as electricity, as he puts it. Can you imagine banking without technology? How about education? Are cars free of technology? Which industry is free of this new utility? Won’t you agree that all new technological businesses created will take advantage of this powerful new utility? Of course they will! It is where we are headed. Let’s assume for a moment that we are going to take advantage of information technology in the creation of new industries. Then, millions of jobs are likely to be lost and be replaced by a few, if any jobs from these emerging tech enterprises as contemporary technology systems already exist. We have seen evidence of that already in the cases of the creation of YouTube, Instagram, and even the app, “What’sUp.” Why would these technology based industries create many more jobs in the future when they already possess so many cases of automation in society? I don’t think they will. In fact, I am concerned about the position of the church and the long term sustainability of our denomination. As unemployment increases due to automation, less support in Sunday and Wednesday donations we receive. Due to severe societal automation, we grow weaker as a body due to advances in technology.    

Uncontrolled information technology adoption will lead to tiny workforces where only a few will benefit from its advancements which could in effect drastically change the way our economy operates and how we live in the United States and abroad. Automation is here to stay. Sooner or later, simply based on the concept of Moore’s law, these new information technology systems will get better increasing their capacities of self learning leading to more automation in the near future. We are going to need the Lord more than ever.

I hope I am being disturbingly persuasive. As technologies continue to accelerate, I find no reason to believe that new jobs will be created to replace the ones they destroy. In fact, I think that the millions of white-collar jobs we enjoy having today will turn into maybe thousands causing a severe shift in the quality of living experienced by tens of millions of Americans. The former has a direct impact in many of our congregations.

I hope my speculations are wrong and unfounded but from what I see, I don’t think so. I guess that only time will tell. So you maybe asking, “What should Christians do to prepare for the rise of automation?” There are a few things you must do in order to protect yourself against this inevitable trend. First and foremost, be closer to the Lord and believe that He is in control of your life. Learn how to recite Philippians 4:13 to yourself, “I can do all things through Christ which strengths me.” Second, prepare yourself to careers that involve a large degree of creativity and unpredictability. The machine is predictable and logic. Be equipped to be unpredictable and illogical sometimes! Lastly, learn how to manage chaos and talk effectively with a human being rather than primarily positioning yourself as a machine button pusher.

Pentecostals, open your eyes to what is right in front of you! I am concerned about the position of the church and the long term sustainability of our denomination. The dangers of automation will affect us in the years to come. It is inevitable. I honestly don’t think that advances in information technology will help us with sustaining ourselves in the future as many believe. Only the Lord knows to what degree will automation affect us, that’s for sure. Our hope is that God is with us. We are going to need Him more than ever.

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