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May 8, 2022 1:10 am
As we launch this new series, “Discipled by Algorithms” we are joined by author, professor, podcaster, Jason Thacker. We wanted to do a series about the way in which technology is shaping our world views and how this is impacting the church. Jason Thacker serves as the chair of research in technology ethics and director of the research institute at The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. He also serves as an instructor of philosophy, ethics, and worldview at Boyce College in Louisville, Kentucky.
Series: Discipled by Algorithms
Hi this is breathing welcome to the Salvation Army's words of life.
Welcome the words of life. I'm Bernie Dick and I'm Cheryl Galen, welcome back Cheryl. Good to see Bernie hey everybody and welcome to the first episode of the very cool seven-week series discipled by algorithms.
Hopefully, this title doesn't go over too many people's heads, but we wanted to do a series about the way in which technology is shaping our worldviews and how this is impacting the church series. Bernie sat down with an expert in this field. Jason Thacker serves as the chair of research and technology, ethics, and director of the research Institute at the ethics and religious liberty commission on the southern Baptist convention. He also serves as an instructor of philosophy, ethics, and worldview at Boyce College in Louisville, Kentucky will have links to all of his resources and contact info on our website so you can learn more about Jason and purchase his books visit Salvation Army sound cast.org and without Bernie. I'll let the two of you take it from here, God is all right. This is an incredibly exciting time for me because it's the first time that we've had someone such as Jason Thacker joining us on the podcast and we want to get to know you, we've read some of your writing and our producer thought this is going to be incredible. So Jason tell us a little about yourself on really excited to be here with you guys today, so I worked in technology.
I worked specifically Christian ethics. I work for the ethics and religious liberty commission, which is the public-policy arm of the Southern Baptist convention. Basically we talk about all the things that you're not supposed to talk about it thanks giving dinner table.
So, religion, politics, social issues, all sorts of different times, divisive issues, especially in our modern society today, but do so from a thoroughly gospel and Christian framework. We talked about the nature of Christian ethics, specifically getting in for me as kind and nature of technology house informing shaping us. How should we better think about these tools that are always around us and within even looking at both varus right now we both have an Apple watch on right like technologies always around us, but often we just fail to give critical thinking about the nature of it what what it's doing to us and also how to better use it. I'm not sure if I like to refer to as an Apple watch. I like to refer to it as a reminder to get out of my chair around the resort yeah I keep getting nagged by a love that aspect of technology for Jason. This is the first time we met and our audience will know you, I'd love to get to know more about you as a person. Where did you come from you. Do you have a family. Are you married all the things will deftly married my wife, Dori.
We've been married for eight years in March. Some really excited to be able to celebrate that with her. We have two boys, a five-year-old material are three-year-old Allison Porter. They are as rambunctious as they sound to boys kind of right before school so there were there a lot of fun. We live in Thompson Station which is outside of Nashville, Tennessee Nashville. This headquarters of the Southern Baptist convention is obviously the local church, but the executive committee will organize a little different than most denominations is based out of Nashville, as well as the ethics and religious liberty offices went to sit school at Tennessee, University of Tennessee Knoxville go balls and went on to do some my Masters and my doctoral work at Southern seminary in Louisville Kentucky so you're a seminarian I am at a bit of an nerd yes I think it anyone who's pursuing a PhD is considered no matter what field you're in, so I will gladly take that label will II say that in a fun way because the book that our producer gave me is called the age of AI, which stands for artificial intelligence and there's a subtotal just as artificial intelligence and the future of humanity. You, that is a deep dive into you know my limit of artificial intelligences being able to tell Siri on my phone to text somebody while driving your Alexa in my house to play some music while were eating dinner.
It is kind of crazy that technology is everywhere, but the fact that you've made an entire publication out of this is the study is pretty encouraging because I think there's a lot that we could share with our listeners related to technology and and the positive benefits, but also identifying, of course, it can be used in a negative way you talk about technology itself not being so, the question I have for you on behalf of all of our listeners at words of life is is technology neutral in that regard and see that that's kind of the misnomer. So often we think about technology.
We like to think is a good or bad.
We just want the answer and then people say no.
It's more of a tool and that tools neutral issues really about the ways we choose to use it and I think both of them are kind of small. Not really getting at the core of what is technology and I think that's one of the most if not the most important question we can kind of asking the digital age and so there are many different ways especially for more of, kind of an ethical and philosophical and even theological look about what is technology but essentially in the book and kind of in my further work. I talked about the nature of technology is that it is a tool in the sense that we use it, but it also shapes and forms us in very particular ways and so it's not neutral in the sense that it has value. So one philosopher will talk about in the nature of its a value laden activity and what he means by that is that our tools are encouraging us to use them in very particular ways.
I think a good example for the kind of everyday listener is to say, there's the old adage when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail right so were familiar with that and I can attest.
Is this the father of three-year-old five-year-old we had a little toy hammer they would literally you would hand it to him and something magical happened.
Everything turned into a nail right my my head. My foot. The wall, the other didn't matter what it was we were to hit like it was a nail and that there's an ethicist medicine CU talks about in the nature of when you have a smart phone with a camera. Everything looks like a status update and what he means by that is he's got updating that abscess say technology shaping us it's forming us it's encouraging us to use and very very particular ways, and often we just fail to acknowledge that. So in the book I talked about the nature technology is not neutral but it's also not good or bad, sure, and what I mean by that is it something larger than just the tool in front of us.
It existent ecosystem and expands kind of what we think we can do all say in the book explains our moral horizons. Meaning expands what we think is possible, but really a lot of the modern questions we have about technology are really not new percent sure they're the same age old question that we've always ask is a people was as humanity just in light of new opportunities. One of things I read that was sort of enlightening and we don't think about technology in itself isn't evil, but can be used by sinful people for evil purposes. It's a moral in that sense, but it's a catalyst for change in the opportunity for both good and evil.
That's a good word and I think particularly just you know my opinion for Jason Thacker based on my my short reading is that I'm encouraged to be reminded that not everything that's created and has technological advantages isn't evil yeah I just wonder if you have a thought about social media in general is is a technology I think it's a kind of is a good illustration very similar to the printing press actually is that initially was created and there's a lot of hype there is a lot of kind of utopian views of what society was going to look like we can freely exchange information across not just across the street but across the world. We can see things happening in real time that we never knew before we can share voices and opinions with all for all to see, unencumbered by various, public publications or various authorities or institutions. In some sense, it was good but I think most of us have kind of come to the realization session last couple years that maybe this wasn't all cracked up to be. Yeah, maybe a lot of those utopian visions were shortsighted and of the old Silicon Valley mantras move fast and break things in meaning the it's the question of ethics. The question of should we versus can we we just said what we can do this so we should and that's where people of faith, especially as a Christian I need when y'all need to slow down and asked that question of ethics because I think we can look at social media as a prime example of that.
While there has been immense good that has come from it is also immense evil that's Spohn from you whether it's actually violence or hatred. I whether spreading misinformation and disinformation conspiracy theories or even just shaping the way that we view the world around us were we start to see people is just merely avatars or pieces of data rather than flesh and in soul bodies in flesh and sold people who are made in the very image of God. And so that's kind of how I wanted to frame up the whole book is talking, but the nature of Christian ethics, which is really summed up in Jesus's words in Matthew 22. Ray says the we should love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves, and that outward focus is very disruptive to a lot of our modern culture that wants to look on the inside right thing to look out to look up to God and to look out to others and to love other people as ourselves and that's really the core of the Christian ethic and it really is the way we should also be approaching Lotta technologies is how were these technologies, causing us to either love God and love others, or to love ourselves more. I think social media is one that can do me all technology but specifically social media we see a little of both.
And so we need to be discerning and thoughtful about the technologies we use, but also not just rejecting these things as if they're not good in themselves, or they can't be used for good and seek I have to take a more detailed and kind of thorough opinion and slow down a little bit were technologies always causing us to go faster and faster and faster to slow down and ask some of these Basic questions about you know who is God, if so what if there's a God who if so, what is he like what is it mean to be human. I think that's actually the most important question we can ask today and then what is the nature of technology and how are we to use this technology in the world. What's our more responsibility in our calling as image bearers and that really helps to frame up a lot of these big questions that are being asked about technology, whether social media. Whether it's artificial intelligence medical technologies etc. is to slow down and asked some of these basic questions in order to better understand kind of the philosophy or that the basis in kind of the way of wisdom and how we approach these tools man I we could do a deep dive just on the aspects of social media because as we get into that talk there obviously algorithms this fancy word that I've learned over the last several years that take place, but these algorithms just you know are necessary just for social media there. Everything we were talking about the watch earlier. You know it as a device that tracks what you're doing and helps remind you to do things were.
You can set up to do whatever you'd like. Or your shopping. If you're someone that's shopping electronically at outlets like Amazon or something you know they're tracking what you're buying and sending you reminders if you're if we haven't seen purchases recently, then maybe you should consider. It's a fascinating world.
I'm encouraged by these conversations, Jason, because I think that these episodes will appeal to a certain section of our audience that art will be stimulated by this.
It's healthy conversation and to our listeners. Again, I want to encourage you to consider reading Jason's book, the age of artificial intelligence. It's actually the age of AI tell the cool kids refer to artificial intelligence.
It's great. It has a wonderful deeply Christian ethic behind it and I don't think you'd be disappointed. I'm looking forward to talking about this with you more and will see you next week onwards of life. The Salvation Army's mission doing the most good means helping people with material and spiritual needs become a part of this mission every time you give to the Salvation Army visit Salvation Army USA.org to offer your support and love to hear from you. Email us radio USS.Salvation Army.org or call 1-800-229-9965, write us at PO Box 29972, Atlanta, GA 30359 tell us how we can help share prayer request or share your testimony. Would love to use your story on here. You can also subscribe to our show on iTunes podcast store and surely give us a rating search for the Salvation Army's words of life.
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