our digital world: the ethical challange in a “post-human” era

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Ephesian 5:15-20

“Do not get drunk with wine!”-That sounds like Donald Trump would speak here. But no, that was written by the apostle. It is easy to criticize others: but these are ethical guidelines addressed to ourselves.

“Do not get drunk with wine!” – This is a warning for all of us, not only for the AA group which meets in our church. – Wine, or alcohol was and is still today a hotly disputed topic. But you can get drunk not only by wine. Allow me to tell you a personal experience.

It was in summer 1969; Neil Armstrong had just returned happily from his trip to the moon. The Beatles still made music together. My father had his first car, it was still new; and on a sunny Sunday morning we started our trip onto vacations. The streets were empty. It was straight 7 clock in the morning. We had made less than 5 miles from our home, when I saw a young girl in the middle of the road. I was 13, running for 14; she was maybe 2 or 3 years older. She walked with a transistor radio in her arms in the middle of the main street with 4 lanes, her eyes closed, a flower in her mouth, not the best place for walking. – That was the first time that I saw a person on a trip, under the influence of drugs, probably LSD. Some weeks later School started again and the issue of drugs was a new topic. I had school mates who smoked, not only tobacco.

That happened over 40 years ago. Our drug policy is still the same and it is not working. At that time we had in Germany 250,000 people who used or abused drugs. But nobody spoke about the 4 million alcoholics we had in my country. To date, we have no response to the drug problem. What I see is certain hypocrisy; and I don´t care about political correctness, I repeat: Our drug policy is not working at all. And I add one more point:

Drugs are not the problem. People are the problem.

“Do not get drunk with wine!” – That was written by the apostle almost 2000 years ago. So we can see here a profound problem. “The days are evil.” The Apostle didn´t describe a doom and gloom scenario; he tells us just the reality – in his former days as in our days too. There is a longing, the yearning for an ideal world, the desire for paradise. There have been many attempts to build a paradise on earth. I do not know why this desire does exist. I really don´t. Maybe this is a hidden work of God’s Spirit. The search for paradise, the search for the lost paradise always has spiritual dimensions. That’s always more than just a secure and good life. That’s also the question of the meaning of life and the metaphysical dimension. It is a question of God.

40, now 50 years ago it was the Woodstock generation. Their goal was a worldwide change. Many other young people followed this trend in different ways. In Germany we had ideological groups. When I came to university, I saw many banners with names that I mostly did not know and never have heard before: Trotsky, Ho Chi Min, Mao, Bakunin, Che Guevara. We had so many discussions and everybody and everything were criticized, especially the capital and the exploitation and imperialism. When I graduated in the early 80s, the level of political discussions got quiet. First I didn´t recognize what had happened; later I learned that some of my noisy and critical classmates have gone to India. They have joined a guru, and they have handed over to this guru their account book – in a very uncritical way.

However, what remained was a new drug wave. Trying to expand the consciousness using psychedelics had failed. What remained were several dependents.

Why do I tell you that old story? For me it symbolizes the sickness of our society. Our society demands for drugs. We always want more, more than we can have and what would be sane. The apostle calls it “foolish” and “unwise”.

No, the apostle is not a pessimist. But he does not want to sell us illusions. “The days are evil.” Nevertheless the apostle does not complain about “evil time”. He makes very positive suggestions. Focus on positive things, do something productive, encourage each other. Above all, be thankful!

Finally I want to show you a new kind of drunkenness. Last Sunday was published this article in La Prensa. Look at the headline: The promise of immortality. 2 full pages are dedicated to this topic. – Parallel to this article, I have read a book review. A colleague of mine in Germany has written a book on this subject. The title: “Digital Tower of Babel. The technology craze and its consequences. ”

Let us listen a little bit to that “drunken promise”. (But remember kids and drunken people always speak the truth) I take this serious, very serious. – Now listen:

“Imagine finding out who your ancestors were 500 years ago by sequencing its genome and found the DNA of your paternal and maternal line. It costs you only $ 10 and you´ll get the result in one minute. In 2025 this will be possible.

Imagine being able to design your baby with the genetic characteristics you chose. This will be reality in about 20 years.

Soon we all will know the reason why we have to die. Wouldn´t it be amazing? – This will be helpful, because you will not die. Why not? – Because the medicine of the future will not be curative but preventive.

And finally:

We (the futurists) estimate that this will happen between 2029 and 2045. In that period, we will have computers with more transistors than neurons in our brains. When computers will reach this level, they compete with the human brain; and that will be the end of the human species. That will be the last investment we make as humans: we´ll create intelligence superior to ours. That will only be the beginning of the post human age, the human species increased and complemented. It will be the end of the old human species, and the beginning of the new post-human species.”

Once again, mankind wants to play God. Our actual technology together with the financial world promotes that vision and counts with the support by the Politics. Where will this lead us? Will this Nietzsche´s superman become reality?

Well, Brothers and sisters, I do not believe that this future dream will bring us paradise. However, it will represent a lot of money and power. The new technology is a tool. Now some people want that it should be more than a mere tool. The digital revolution becomes a substitute religion. The risks are talked down. The idea of immortality may become once again an obsession. It’s not just about new tools for our lives. People, some people will have power and will use it and decide. It begins simply with the fact that data are collected. It is recorded, how often you are on the Internet, which items you look for, what you buy on the Internet. You use a credit card. They know where you live, who your friends are, how much money you have and your friends. You will receive interesting offers according to your status. Somebody or probably a machine will decide, whether you get a loan or not. Before you approach a bank all these data about you have made all decisions. Your data will have taken the decision, if you are included into a list for surgery or not. Finally a machine will decide if you will live or not.
We play again God and do not realize how we will lose our freedom. Maybe a new Antichrist arises for our 21st century.

The question is: how should we react as Christians? A good measure of sobriety will be needed. The Apostle wrote: “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns …” Our music is a positive contribution: Every little project where we help people is a positive contribution. Let us affirm life; the great task will be to affirm life, which is always limited and therefore unique. The new technology will not conquer death; death is already defeated. We celebrate this fact every Sunday. Amen.