What Makes Us Human?
Recently I had the opportunity to attend a technology summit here in Pittsburgh. The purpose of the summit was to examine the effects of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on humanity and the theme this year was, “What Makes Us Human?”
They had experts from just about every industry represented who discussed how we, as humans, can maintain our humanness amid the technological tidal wave that is sweeping over us. You’ve probably felt this yourself, whether it’s having to adapt to new technologies in your current job, the loss of a job from new technology, or simply the fear of robots taking over the world like the movie, “The Terminator.”
I believe only the gospel offers a true, compelling answer to the question, “What makes us human?”
As these technologies march forward at break-neck speed it is already creating tremendous disruption in just about every industry. Some estimates are that by 2030, 400 million workers will be displaced as a result. Many experts in the technology industry are predicting that this will cause an identity crisis because humans will no longer be doing the jobs we’re accustomed at doing. We’ll wonder what makes us, as humans, unique.
As a pastor, I see tremendous relevance in this topic and I wanted a seat at the table, as it were, to be part of this discussion. I’ve read a lot about the Fourth Industrial Revolution recently and thought extensively about the implications from a biblical, Christian worldview. As this plays out over the next couple decades I believe only the gospel offers a true, compelling answer to the question, “What makes us human?”
Also, just as theologians and preachers John Wesley and George Whitfield spoke into the first industrial revolution in the 1700’s, the church today has a thrilling opportunity to offer hope amid giant technological and cultural shifts. Mordecai’s words from Esther seem especially poignant, “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14 NIV, emphasis mine)
So, What Makes Us Human?
The discussions at the summit never landed a clear answer to this question. Never once did they posit a definitive statement of what it means to be human. There was a lot of discussion and dancing around human attributes but nothing definitive. This is exactly why we should be excited about the clarity that the gospel brings to this issue. People who will experience the negative effects of this movement will be looking for something solid to grasp on to.
From a biblical, Christian worldview you can’t separate what it means to be human from God. Because we were created in God’s image and our humanity reflects His characteristics (Genesis 1:26-27). No other created being can say the same. Humanity’s uniqueness lies primarily in how we reflect the image of our creator as the pinnacle of all He has made. As a result, we have eternally significant value. Everyone one of us.
As God’s children, we should address the problem of inequality in the role that architectural intelligence plays.
We are creative, we have a sense of justice, we appreciate beauty, we have compassion and a strange sense of the way things “ought to be.” This is not a result of a random, evolutionary process but rather because God built it into how He created us. If what we are today is simply the result of random, natural processes than we have no more right to claim a moral high ground or authority than any other species. It’s survival of the fittest, right? So, who cares about job displacement because of new technology?
The answer is that God has created us in His image and given us dominion over the earth. We feel a sense of responsibility because it is built into who we are.
The whole technology summit reflected the character of God as they discussed the various challenges of the industrial revolution. For example, it is godly to care about gender and racial biases inherent in artificial intelligence. As God’s children, we should address the problem of inequality in the role that architectural intelligence plays in designing our cities to be accessible to everyone, including our disabled friends. There is a real moral question of whether living forever is right or wrong because God already has eternal plans for His people.
I would submit that as people who have been redeemed by the God of the universe we have the only legitimate position from which to answer these pressing questions about the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Our mandate as God’s people, dearly loved, is to utilize any new technology in redemptive ways that bring redemption, healing, hope, and eternal purpose. So, let’s embrace this fourth industrial revolution with confidence, knowing that we have the opportunity, as God’s ambassadors, to speak clearly into the confusion that many people will experience.
What an opportunity to shine the light of God’s truth!
In 2013 Mike joined Orchard Hill's Adult Ministry Team as the Life Stage Pastor and Director of Men's Ministry. Prior to Orchard Hill he was an Area Director for Young Life in the northwest suburbs of Chicago for almost 9 years. Mike also served 6 years in the Air Force National Guard at the 171st Air Refueling Wing in Coraopolis, PA.
A proud Robert Morris University alumni, Mike has a degree in Communications and Media Production. He received his seminary degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, IL) and was ordained by Orchard Hill Church in October, 2017.
When Mike isn’t working on home improvement projects he loves spending time with his wife, Lisa, and son, Matteo, going for walks and bike rides together.