Here’s the buzz in Vegas…

Earlier this month a pretty big story hit here locally. The headline went something like this, “MGM Resorts to Replace Bartenders with Machines.” This is a big deal for a few reasons…

  1. Bars are big business in Las Vegas. In an effort to make the drinking/gambling experience better and more efficient, MGM is wanting to bring in machines to do the work.
  2. MGM is an industry leader around town. MGM Resorts were the first to begin charging for parking a couple of years ago. This didn’t make locals very happy. Personally it has kept me from going to things on The Strip as much as normal.
  3. This is another industry that is being hijacked by technology. And this hurts people, even if that’s not the intention.

As a pastor in this city I care about news like this and how it affects people who I know. I have friends who are bartenders. I know people whose family members are cocktail waitresses and such. Decisions like this affect people’s personal finances and their futures.

But I cannot help but think of the deeper, spiritual implications of an ever-changing, technological world. Technology always changes the culture. Only now, technology itself is growing at an unprecedented rate. This means, things change faster than ever. And it means that we will be interacting more and more with robots, computers, and machines. The future is now.

Some thoughts on humanity, machines, and connection…

Machines make our lives easier. That’s a fact. But it’s really a matter of opinion if machines have made our lives better. Most would say we are connected to the world like never before but are further away from the world around us than ever before. We see news from all over the globe, but rarely is that news good.

So, what do we do with this as followers of Jesus? How do we keep moving forward with technology, understand how it affects people, and love them while also moving them forward as well? Here are a few thoughts…

  • Technology will never replace human connection. At the deepest levels we are connected. We need each other. While technology can distract us from our isolation, it can and will never truly meet our need for personal, human interaction. One big push-back to the MGM news is that of relationship. People connect with those making and/or bringing them drinks in a casino or bar. It’s a fact of life. The issue isn’t “this is what bars are for,” but rather, “this is what we need.” The Genesis account of early humanity described Adam (man) as alone, and it was the only aspect of the garden that God didn’t describe as “good.” Then God creates “woman” and things change. Adam is no longer alone. It wasn’t good. No animal, plant, or even his relationship with God (apparently) could meet the need he had for companionship. Another human being moved this situation from “not good” to “very good.”
  • Technology isn’t bad but can be bad for us. Just like money, technology is largely amoral. But like money, technology can be used to hurt intentionally, and can hurt us unintentionally. I think people who follow Jesus must understand this distinction. It will help us embrace change while also not letting it run and/or ruin our lives. Also, if churches (and church leaders) lean in the direction of demonizing technological advances they will quickly become irrelevant and lose influence.
  • People need churches that embrace them online and in person. This is a delicate balance. While we cannot replace human connection with online presence, online presence is a viable option for necessary connection. We have an online, live feed of our discussion gatherings because people travel for work, get sick, or simply aren’t as consistent to brick and mortar events. But there’s nothing quite like sitting at the table, looking into someone’s eyes, hearing their story, and even hugging them reassuringly. Online presence is presence but it cannot and should not replace real, human presence. This is a grace of God…each other.
  • Technology allows you to be in a person’s life before they need you so you will be there when they need you. This is huge. Not everyone believes they need others. Many try and go it alone. And far too often when they fail they just try harder rather than admit their mistake. But if you’re in a person’s life before they need you, you’ll be there when they need you. On their terms. In their timing. Maybe your only presence is virtual, online. But they know you’re there. They know you care. Technology allows us to have an influence with people previously unavailable. Use it to love them like Jesus.

We could resist the future, or we could embrace it. We can see that it’s now. And technological advances are affecting us all. Let’s figure out how to use it for good. For love.

Do you have any ideas to add to this? Join the discussion by commenting below!

The Spirituality of Technology
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