Every since I began to learn about computer networking I’ve been fascinated by the concept of connecting people together like we connect computers. For those of you who know me professionally, you know I spend my time helping organizations connect or integrate computer systems, essentially forming a bridge between them to make them operate on specific problems as a single unit.
Early in my career we did not have cell technology or the infrastructure that exists today for mass communications. We also didn’t have the ability to interpret brain functions, or at least the resolution of the technology was extremely primitive. The past thirty years have matured many of the technologies needed to bridge the gap between humans.
Today, our cellular and WiFi networks carry massive amounts of data and could with relative ease carry enough information with the speed to create a virtual world in the mind of an individual. We already serve movies, music, games, and social networks, but all of this technology is slowed down as it is routed through one or more of our five senses and physical interfaces.
At the same time as computers, communications, and software technology has advanced, so has the medical field. Paralyzed people walk through the use of brain to computer aided interfaces, and this technology has been around for a few years. There is also a body of research being conducted to gain a deeper understanding of how we respond to biofeedback and interact with external systems.
Investments in these technologies is building steam. Just last year Elon Musk invested in Neurolink, a company planning and building a solution to allow for people to link their brains with computers and ultimately with one another. There are many other companies looking at this technology as well.
Meanwhile massive advances are being made to create interfaces to everything from light bulbs and washing machines to security systems. If there’s a new device being built, there’s most likely someone thinking about how to interface it with the internet. Intel and many other companies have developed entire visions around the Internet of Things or IoT.
Imagine all the scenarios where brain to computer interfaces could improve our lives, everything from driving to performing surgeries with micro devices. Walk into your house and turn on the lights with a thought. Who needs wall switches anymore! Open your car doors, start your engine and request a coffee from your favorite coffee shop while en route. Arrive and pick it up without ever touching a cell phone or other device. It’s all done because you have willed it so.
Connect those devices together and add other connected humans and we now have not just direct mind control over things, but telepathy. With high resolution feedback systems in place people could essentially share thought, feelings, and memories in real-time anywhere on the planet with anyone else who is connected. Furthermore, where there’s connectivity and information shared, it can be stored and replayed. Remember the movie Total Recall? We’ve seen lots of other science fiction yield to science fact.
If you think this is too far out consider this paper released Nature Nanotechnology. The beginnings of the technology are bearing fruit with systems that will interface directly with the brain to form these connections. Brain to brain interface connectivity technology is being developed and is advancing. Recent advances are showing promise in integrating with memories in the human brain. The Matrix may not be as far off as we have all imagined.
As any technology marches forward, there comes a point when we need to step aside and consider the implications of what we are developing. We must consider the moral and social, and the spiritual impact of what’s coming. We are entering a new and potentially dangerous age with the advancement of all of these technologies.
The moral side of things doesn’t change much in my opinion. Like every other technology, people must continue to choose to do either good or bad with it. The social and spiritual impacts, however, have some other very important implications.
We’ve often hear people say, “If God had wanted us to fly he would have given us wings”, or sometimes, “God gave us arms and legs so we should use them.” Man invented airplanes and today we fly all over the world and when we get there we walk to lots of different places. This bridge is different than any other, but is it really?
Here we’re talking about merging our conscience thought with the thoughts of others. But haven’t we been doing this all along? Today we do it at a slow pace. Initially this started as word of mouth, eventually became printed media once large numbers of people knew how to read, and today we use cell phones, computers and televisions. Tomorrow it may be mesh implants and networks. However, early research indicates that this may go deeper than just sharing written words. We’re talking about sharing experiences, memories, feelings, pain, ecstasy and joy.
Perhaps we should examine how disruptive technologies have changed our lives up to this point. Then let’s build on that understanding and extrapolate these into these future technologies. A good place to start is the internet revolution. This is as close as we can come to what’s coming without actually taking the leap. Most of us can speak authoritatively on this as it’s happened during our generation.
The internet was built as a technology to provide a reliable message medium with minimal disruption in time of war. It evolved as a protocol for sending email and transferring data, and providing a means for sorting and archiving information in a way that was easily accessed by its users.
Email started off slowly, but as critical mass was soon reached it became one of the heaviest means of communication on the planet. Then came text messaging and other social messaging mediums such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. Data volumes have sky rocketed (for some likely out of date statistics see this blog). Sixty-nine percent of adults today use social media as a means to communicate.
The internet with the introduction of web crawlers and search engines has made getting and finding information easy. Advertising revenues and online shopping has rippled through the economy as even the big box stores are struggling to compete.
Companies are building massively configureable systems and selling access rather than rights to source code and individualized computer systems. These systems are highly scalable, highly configureable, fast, and reliable.
Ninety-five percent of the population in the United States has a cell phone and 77% have a smart phone according to the Pew Research Center.
As more and more people have begun using technology to communicate, we’re seeing higher rates of loneliness and social isolation in teens. There is concern that narcissistic tendencies are on the rise. People increasing place their value and self-esteem on opinions and likeableness of others in the social media.
With the internet, we have seen a vast increase in pornography and social acceptance of sexually illicit behaviors. Today, over 40 million Americans are daily visitors to pornography web sites and nearly 12% of all internet traffic is pornography related.
- Every second 28,258 users are watching pornography on the internet
- Every second $3,075.64 is being spent on pornography on the internet
- Every second 372 people are typing the word “adult” into search engines
- 40 million American people regularly visit porn sites
- 35% of all internet downloads are related to pornography
- 25% of all search engine queries are related to pornography, or about 68 million search queries a day
- One third of porn viewers are women
- Search engines get 116,000 queries every day related to child pornography
- 34% of internet users have experienced unwanted exposure to pornographic content through ads, pop up ads, misdirected links or emails
- 2.5 billion emails sent or received every day contain porn
- Every 39 minutes a new pornography video is being created in the United States
- About 200,000 Americans are “porn addicts”
- Teenagers with frequent exposure to sexual content on TV have a substantially greater likelihood of teenage pregnancy; and the likelihood of teen pregnancy was twice as high when the quantity of sexual content exposure within the viewing episodes was highviii.
- Pornography viewing by teens disorients them during the developmental phase when they have to learn how to handle their sexuality and when they are most vulnerable to uncertainty about their sexual beliefs and moral valuesix
- A significant relationship also exists among teens between frequent pornography use and feelings of loneliness, including major depressionx
- Adolescents exposed to high levels of pornography have lower levels of sexual self-esteemxi
- According to National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families, 2010, 47% of families in the United States reported that pornography is a problem in their homexii.
- Pornography use increases the marital infidelity rate by more than 300%xiii
- 40 percent of “sex addicts” lose their spouses, 58 percent suffer considerable financial losses, and about a third lose their jobsxiv
- 68% of divorce cases involve one party meeting a new paramour over the internet while 56% involve one party having an “obsessive interest” in pornographic websitesxv
- The effects of pornography on Individuals, marriage, family and community
- The internet porn ‘epidemic’: By the numbers
- Porn Addiction Stats – Pornography Addiction Statistics, Percentages, Numbers, & Info
- The Impact of Pornography on Marital Sex
- Effects of Pornography on Relationships
- Your Brain On Porn
- Things you didn’t know about Porn – Entire Series for Kids
Pornography alone is one of the most devastating issues as it’s impact is felt within the family unit and its impacts are felt across generational boundaries. Some would argue that much of what is happening has to do with the sexual revolution. As a society we’ve become much more accepting of a wide variety of sexual practices and thought that only a few generations ago were considered deviant and wrong. Nevertheless, the impact is here.
There are many other negative impacts: Cyber bullying, stalking, massive data and identity theft, political manipulation through fake news and false stories. These are just some of the impacts of the internet that I have seen over the course of my life to date. I’ve also seen many good things as some have chosen to use the internet for good.
However, I also believe the internet, easy access to information, the ease of which we can indulge ourselves in pleasure and entertainment and most of all the speed at which things happen are all contributing negatively to our society. As information becomes easily accessible, people who have traditionally had value because of what they knew become less valuable in effect devaluing smart people. The ease of access to entertainment with addictive characteristics is creating long-lasting negative impacts on social relationships, further aiding in the devaluation or worth of individuals in favor of a indulging online.
With the internet, people are able to easily indulge themselves in whatever activities they are interested in and the deeper they go into the rabbit hole the more degrading, demeaning and the more severe the negative impact. As the speed of the information increases, so do the results of those behaviors.
Imagine taking all these things a few steps further. As a parent, how many of us would take a child of ours who we’ve invested our lives in and allow him or her to be close friends with another child who has no boundaries, is constantly in trouble and is headed for disaster. Few of us would allow that because we know the behaviors, attitudes and belief system would be incorporated into our child’s thinking. How much worse would this be if we had these children link minds so that they could readily share all of their life experiences, memories, etc? Would we allow our child to receive a memory of another child being beaten by his parents or worse experiencing some other horrific act?
So what are the spiritual implications of this bridge we are about to cross? With all of the benefits, are the risks significant and how would this impact us spiritually?
I chose children as an example because we are all children of God. As a Christian, I believe in moral absolutes. God has set a standard of good and evil and like it or not, we are all bound by our choices to either do good or to do evil. But does simple knowledge of evil constitute sin? Would experiencing the evil that someone else committed constitute sin on our part?
Imagine for a moment a world where people begin to share memories of past experiences with their partners. All forms of debauchery and sin become easily knowable to anyone who would seek it out. Want to know what it’s like to murder someone in a fit of rage, there will be someone willing to share it. Want to know what it is like to get high on some drug and jump off a building? The experience will be there ready to take it in. There are so many experiences people might want to indulge, that I can’t even begin to list them. But will sharing these experiences come without the guilt of having committed those acts, or will we also share the guilt as though we’d committed the acts ourselves? Will we retain the ability to separate ourselves from the other person’s reality because these things will be so real to us.
As I consider this, I am reminded, “As a man thinks in his heart so is he.” Paul says in Romans 8:5-8:
“Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s law, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under control of their sinful nature can never please God.”
Over the past few months I have been in a small group and one of the topics we’ve been studying is holiness. Sin separates us from God. The condition of our heart impacts how we relate with him. He is holy and does not allow anything imperfect or evil in his presence. This is why man is separated from God. We allow and continue to allow our hearts to be corrupted even in spite of having received grace. How much more corrupt would we become if we connected our minds with a the minds of every other corrupt person? Could we be connected and remain holy or still attain holiness?
If we were to wire our minds with a large group of people all with a conscience pushing toward sin, how would one person be able to resist temptation, to stand out in a crowd? How much more corrupted would our hearts become with intimate knowledge of all kinds of evil?
The speed with which we would receive influence would increase exponentially, thus giving us even less time than we have now to evaluate the individual impact of our decisions. Worse yet we would have far less time to learn of the consequences of such knowledge and experience having jumped all in head first. We in effect begin to live based on our instincts or processing small bits of information fed to us through the link.
In Star Trek: The Next Generation, there is an evil presence in the world called the Borg. This is a group of people who go throughout the galaxy assimilating other races that represent a threat merging with them and absorbing their technologies. “Resistance is futile” they say as they warn the conquered race that they are about to be taken over and individually linked to the collective. Their minds, once merged are no longer their own, but rather part of the collective.
Some would argue that the good we obtain from such as merging would overweigh the evil. I disagree. When you add zero to any other number you get any other number. You cannot have purity added to corruption and get purity. You will only arrive at more corruption.
I have heard someone say recently that our minds are the first line of defense against sin, but I also believe that we must be intentional, and have time to reason. It’s not enough to simply rely on our instincts to do what’s right. It requires understanding, wisdom, and to be candid, to truly be holy, it requires God’s presence in our lives. None of us is without sin and our choices do matter.
As a christian you probably already see where I’m heading with this. For everyone else, perhaps this is just a foreshadowing of possible events to come, but whether what I have envisioned is or is not related and/or real, the warning remains as it has for the past 2000 or so years. One cannot pursue holiness and sin together. It must be one or the other. If our goal is to be one with Jesus and Jesus to be one with God, then we must not cross the bridge of becoming one with all of man.
In Revelation 13, there is a warning to all that there will be a beast that will rise up in the end times and force all people to take on a mark either on his right hand or on his forehead. People will not be able to buy or sell without this mark. All who take it will lose hope of salvation.
I have heard many say that this mark is a barcode, and perhaps maybe it is, but perhaps it is more than that. Perhaps it is a corruption of the mind so great that it changes even the purest heart of man to evil in such a sinister way that he loses his identity and would no longer choose God. I honestly don’t know.
There are so many other aspects of this that we could explore such as the dependence of man on machine rather than God, the worship of idols, changes in the systems of control and power, programming, metering and control. We’ve only begun to consider some of the impacts of such a merging. What about safeguards, security, systems of control, programming (on a human scale), etc? All of these things would have an impact on how a system of mind integration could occur.
As Yogi Berra would say, “In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice they are not.” I would say that there are some theories that we should not put into practice.
So now I ask “Why?” Why would we as a society pursue a collective reality? How would this fulfill us any more than we are now? I think that is the real question because we are all looking for a purpose, a reason for why we are here until we find it. But why would we look to forward to a technology that we create to provide that? Shouldn’t we look back to the God who created us and the world we live in instead?