Elementary my dear Watson…

“I for one welcome our new computer overlords.” ~ Ken Jennings

The audience laughed when Watson answered “Toronto” to the final Jeopardy question; category US Cities. But in time Watson will grow more and more precise. And just as computers that once filled rooms are now in our cell phones, Watson will get smaller and smaller (Watson is currently the size of ten refrigerators.). Someday the computer – that I am tempted to call “he” – will fit into an I-pad or even a smart phone. That is, if we have such devices, we may just be plugged into the cloud…

I have been trying to remember Megan’s phone number. I can recall her number from Augusta, but her new one keeps escaping my memory. Of course I could just look into my phone or for that matter hit her speed dial “7” (she is perfect!! – I actually set myself as seven in her phone… but I am not sure that means as much…). My phone remembers all of my important numbers. There was a time in life where I had number upon number memorized. Now I have my own, my parent’s home line (the same as when I was a kid), and hopefully Meg’s….

In elementary school we memorized the times table. Even now numbers automatically appear in my head if you ask a math question. I was always pretty talented at math. I thought one day to be an engineer – but I was never as good as my dad. Even after years of shift work, his mind would fly to answers so quickly. Quicker than I could punch the numbers into a calculator, dad would have the answer – no matter how large the multiplication or division. But even if he could beat the machine, his talent was not considered valuable. And soon enough calculators were in the classroom. Right alongside pencil and paper our graphing calculators were finding the algorithm. And whose answer would you trust – the calculator or mine?

In time, like phone numbers, our memories of so many things will fade. I often struggle with names, especially when I meeting so many new people. But I wonder if that will even be a concern decades from now? Will computers in digital ones and zeros remind us that the person in front of us is “Megan, your wife, you love her…” Admittedly, I am being over the top. But I still question what computers will replace?

Even more, I wonder, what will happen when no remembers the right answer and the computers get it wrong… Goodness the US may just annex Toronto…

I am writing in apocalyptic style. This is not a call for the church to avoid technology. The church must move forward with society. We cannot stay behind (unless we intend to become Amish with cars). Still, as a community, we should begin to ask questions about technology. More importantly we must practice Sabbath rest, which should include a time to unplug from technology. We need a time to shut down off our computers and phones – to turn off our televisions and music. And in the quiet, we should make time for relationship. Make time to just listen. In this calm we may just hear the “gentle whisper” that Elijah heard on Mt Horeb (1Kings 19)…

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