The future is exciting – hmm!

The future is exciting – hmm!

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The man above is Martin Cooper, a Motorola researcher and executive, making the ‘first’ public mobile telephone call in the world. It was April 3, 1973 and he was calling his rival, Dr Joel S. Engel of Bell Labs.

The phone weighed 1.1 kg (2.42 lb). The prototype offered a talk time of just 30 minutes and took 10 hours to re-charge. When talking about the short call time Cooper said the weight of the phone discouraged long calls. When asked about the inspiration that drove him to concentrate on the development of a wireless, hand-held phone, he said it was Dick Tracy’s wristwatch radio. Dick Tracy was a square-jawed syndicated comic strip detective who used hi-tech devices to track down the villains.

Last week I saw a Vodaphone advertisement focusing on children proclaiming ‘The Future is Exciting!’ It was about wearable smart devices for children. There are many of them. The devices look like bracelets or watches. One colourful wristband is for children under five years. The child simply has to touch a colour circle on the band and say ‘Hey mum’ to be connected by voice to his/her mother and or designated adult. The device also allows the parent/designated adult to track the child. Some preteens I have seen have smart-watches, which have all the phone, text, email and internet features.

Yes, the future is exciting! But, let’s make no mistake about it, we are going where no humans have ever gone before.

Last month, close friends around my age spent a weekend with their two adored, male grand-children, aged 12 and 15. They took them to a gorgeous beach and stayed in a beautiful house with a pool. To their surprise, instead of exploring, chatting and board games as on previous holidays, the two boys spent almost all the time on their devices. Their attention was on a video game titled ‘Grand Theft Auto’. Playing separately in different parts of the house, the boys played this game for hours on end.

The game they were playing is fastest selling entertainment product in history. Launched in September 2013 the game broke industry records earning $800 million in its first day of release. Compare this with the December 2015 release of the acclaimed, blockbuster Star Wars film – ‘The Force Awakens’. This film grossed $250 million on its first weekend.

In ‘Grand Theft Auto’ the players become one of the characters in the game. Set in a fictional seedy city in Southern California the game’s storylines involve the players in non-stop violence – killing criminals, killing police and killing innocent bystanders. There are plenty of screams and people begging for their lives. And the game is not just about violence. One scenario involves the player watching and being involved with selling drugs using drugs. Players visit Strip Clubs where nudity and sexual acts take place. In one scene, to complete a mission the player is forced to be involved with torture.

I doubt if many in our society realise what is going into their children and teens through their devices. They may sit quietly in their rooms but their minds are far from quiet. I wonder what being absorbed for hours in ‘Grand Theft Auto’ is doing to the minds and values of the young. In my early teenage years, I occupied my idle hours with reading Billy Bunter (for laughs), and then Biggles (for action – ‘Too violent’, my dad said).

Today, in our lucky country we are giving more attention than ever before to diet, hygiene, sport and music etc., and good schooling. And that is not to mention the ever-growing web of Health and Safety requirements designed to protect young lives. Nonetheless, serious depression amongst our teens is on the rise. Sadly, in respect to teen and young adult suicides, we lead the world.

What’s next? The future is exciting. Hmm!

Elon Musk, inventor, and futurist, creator of the Tesla electric car is not positive about everything in the future. He worries that the robots we create will be smarter than we are and this could lead to human obsolescence. But, he is working on a solution. This is “having some sort of merger of biological intelligence and machine intelligence.” Now we are not talking of Dick Tracy but of Dr Spock from the TV series Star Trek. Musk envisages an injectable mesh inserted into the brain just under your skull which would literally hardwire your brain to computers. In February this year Musk said, “Your phone and your computer are extensions of you, but the interface is through finger movements or speech, which is very slow.” He believes that with a neural lace inside your skull you would flash data from your brain, wirelessly, to your digital devices or to virtually unlimited computing power in the Cloud. And when might this happen? “For a meaningful partial-brain interface, I think we’re roughly four or five years away” Musk said in February.

The future is exciting. Hmm!

I watched a friend’s baby, just one-year-old playing with the buttons on her mum’s cell phone screen. “Her favourite toy”, mum said. And for today’s babies what will their devices, be they internal or external, be flashing on the screen of their consciousness? The entire knowledge of the human race will be instantly accessible to them. But also, will they be looking for entertainment to ‘Grand Theft Auto’ version 10, in 3-D with more of everything, violence, sex and horror? For ancient Romans, the best show in town was seeing Christians ripped to pieces by starving lions. Are we moving in that direction? ‘Grand Theft Auto’ is marketed as an ‘entertainment product’.

The future is exciting. Hmm!

I think the Christian faith and faith in its many forms will be greatly needed in the years ahead. The Christian faith calls us into an all-age community in which strangers become family. Faith assures us that in an expanding universe we are connected to each other and to everybody and everything else by love. Far fetched? Einstein also believed that. Believing in Christ means that we believe that despite everything – our weakness and the world’s chaos, we are loved and that nothing can separate us from that love.

The future is exciting! New developments will be used for good as well as ill. We will be able to cope if we feel loved and not alone. This is a message worth sharing.

Stan Stewart
Romans 8: 31-39 A good read.

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Sunday Service, 20th May 2018