A moonshot, in a technology context, is an ambitious, exploratory and ground-breaking project undertaken without any expectation of near-term profitability or benefit and also, perhaps, without a full investigation of potential risks and benefits.
Google has adopted the term moonshot for its most innovative projects, many of which come out of the Google X, the company’s semi-secret lab. Google moonshots include Google Glass, Project Loon (a balloon-based Internet service project), the driverless car, augmented reality glasses, a neural network, robots for the manufacturing industry and Project Calico, a life extension project.
Here’s Google’s definition of a moonshot:
A project or proposal that:
Addresses a huge problem
Proposes a radical solution
Uses breakthrough technology
The term “moonshot” derives from the Apollo 11 spaceflight project, which landed the first human on the moon in 1969. “Moonshot” may also reference the earlier phrase “shoot for the moon” meaning aim for a lofty target.
This Definition comes from whatis.techtarget.com
Over the next five years, as we see more automated machines take human jobs are we prepared for that as the church? You may think it’s a silly question at this point in 2016. But I think it’s a very important question that we need to ask now. We need to be asking and answering these tough questions today so that we can be prepared for the arrival of these new technologies.
If you do not think it is a possibility for new robotics technologies to take more and more human jobs then check out the following video from Boston Dynamics, a robotics company that is now owned by Google. The machines they have created are amazing to say the least. The following video shows just one of their creations.
Now are you thinking, “WOW I didn’t realize there was a machine that was so human like?” A time is coming when people will lose their jobs to machines that are more efficient, can work 24/7, don’t need to be paid, nor do they require food or breaks. What will we do as the church when this happens?
An article published in September on theguardian.com titled “Robots will eliminate 6% of all US jobs by 2021, report says” estimates that by the year 2021 6% of the US workforce could be eliminated due to automation. That is 6% of the entire US Workforce. The article says that this “disruptive tidal wave” will affect areas such as customer service, transportation, and logistics. People who have been working in these industries for many years will lose their jobs and will either need to be retrained or look for work in other Industries. It is staggering to think that 6% of the US Workforce will lose their jobs to automation by 2021.
Are you prepared to minister to 6% of your local community who just lost their jobs? Are you prepared to lose 6% of those persons who give to your church financially? Are you prepared to help these people who have lost their jobs and have limited specialized skills to find new avenues of work?
According to experts that is only the beginning. What do we do 2030 when 15% to 20% of the workforce has been displaced by automated machines?
Interestingly the article says, “The challenge posed by automation is not being taken seriously enough at a policy level, Stern added. ‘Politicians would rather talk about getting a college degree and technical skill training, things that are probably five to 10 years too late. We don’t really have a plan and we don’t appreciate how quickly the future is arriving.”
“…we don’t appreciate how quickly the future is arriving.” Is the article about politicians or about the church? In my opinion the church is more like 20 to 25 years behind the curve. We need to be ready. We need to be thinking, planning, and preparing. We need to be taking action.
As further evidence another article in the Washington Post titled The Brave New World of Robots and Lost Jobs says, “Politicians need to begin thinking boldly, now, about a world in which driverless vehicles replace most truck drivers’ jobs, and where factories are populated by robots, not human beings. The best way to cushion this future is to start planning for how Americans will be able to take care of their families — and find meaningful work — in a world where most traditional jobs have vanished.”
That same article suggests that “The “automation bomb” could destroy 45 percent of the work activities currently performed in the United States, representing about $2 trillion in annual wages, according to a study last year by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. We’ve seen only the beginning of this change, they warned. Currently, only 5 percent of occupations can be entirely automated, but 60 percent of occupations could soon see machines doing 30 percent or more of the work.” I’m not sure if you read that or not but we are going from 6% of the workforce to 45%. If 6% was not staggering enough this research suggests almost half or the US workforce will be without work.
I don’t want to belabor the point but we must plan for the future.
Is this something you have ever thought about? Is this something you have prepared for?
I’m not offering any solutions at this point, I may do that later. Right now I would like to suggest two possible outcomes. Now these are only two outcomes that come to mind. There are probably many more. I would love to hear your feedback.
Here’s what I’m thinking at this point:
- The church sees people losing their jobs to automation and isn’t prepared for it. This in turn has two outcomes of its own.
- There is an abundance of ministry opportunities as families are hurting and looking for ways to provide for their basic needs.
- There is a significant reduction in financial giving to the church and ministries have to be cut to the bare bones. This may include the loss of current church buildings and meeting places as well as a significant reduction in staff.
- Therefore the church falters in its ability to minister.
It will be interesting to see, if this happens, how the church responds.
Or, and I do not want to try to place spin on this but I do not see this outcome as entirely negative. Here is what I mean. If churches have had to reduce their staffing to the bare minimum then the personal ministry will be reverted back to the individual members of the congregations. This will be a good thing as it will help Christ followers take up the task they were called to do.
As churches have gone through the process of reduced income they will have had to identify the absolute necessities for ministry (Unless one of your church members owns all of the robots). That is a really good thing. That means, well I hope it means, that churches will have gotten in their Bibles and prayed to God to identify what it is that they are supposed to be doing and then put all of their limited resources toward that ministry.
I think the church then begins to look a lot like an Acts 2:42 church, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
In no way am I trying to make light of a situation where so many people have lost their jobs and their livelihoods. I am simply saying that one of the possible outcomes is the church gets back to being the church. This would be a good thing in my opinion.
2) The church is prepared for a situation like this and stands out as an embassy of love and hope.
Just think about the opportunity to step in and show love to all of these people who have lost their jobs and were not prepared for it. It will take a lot of planning and preparation but if we start now we can be ready.
Being prepared means we have thought through how to minister to many people who are looking for work. Being prepared means we consider how the church can be a part of reeducating these workers into new areas of work. Being prepared means we have already taken a hard look at our ministries and identified the essential aspects of ministry as opposed to the nonessential.
The list can go on and on. I know that the church in the US has a lot of problems as it is that we are working through. But I see the next 5-10 years of technological advancement potentially as a defining moment for the church. It is a defining moment that we are just not ready for at this point.
Like I said before, I see it potentially as an opportunity to get back to the task of being the church. Winning the lost, making disciples, fellowshipping together, praying, and showing Christ to a lost and dying world.
What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts.
I am in favor of the exploration of space. Not as a means to the propagation of our species (as Elon Musk Promotes) but as a continued exploration of the vastness of our creator. To call oneself intelligent and then conclude that the universe came to be by chance is an absurdity. Everywhere one looks there is a framework that was designed for the balance and function of the universe. The continued exploration of that creation only leads us closer to the one who created it.
“The heavens are telling of the glory of God;And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands” Psalm 19:1
In today’s post I would like to propose an idea for a different support model for global evangelism and missions.
Here is the story. A few days a go I was looking at a map of internet use around the globe. The article that came along with the map made mention of the fact that only 1/3 of the global population had access to the internet. That means 2/3 of all people are not connected to the internet.
This was interesting to me. I had no idea that this many people were not connected to the internet. There are many reasons that the internet is not available to these people. Some reasons are due to government interference while other reasons include the lack of basic resources like water and electricity. I could talk a lot about that but I will save it for another post. I am sure you can speculate on other reason that the internet is not available to these areas.
I have included this map that shows the areas of the world that have little to no access to the internet.
As I looked at this map I started to think about people groups across the globe that are unreached with the Gospel. I pulled up a map from the Joshua Project website to check out where the majority of these people groups are located. I have included that map below.
Do you see any similarities between the two maps?
I know I do. I see a lot of similarities. The 10/40 window is unreached with the Gospel and also unreached with internet access.
I also see a lot of opportunity.
The opportunities abound. Here are 6 I am thinking of:
- Bringing the internet to different regions can be a pipeline for the Gospel.
- The internet in new regions can blossom into new opportunities for those people groups. Examples:
- Access to the Gospel message like never before.
- Access to free education.
- Access to banking
- Access to health information
- Business opportunities.
- Job opportunities
- Providing internet access can be a business for believers in these regions. This business will provide new sources of income for communities and individuals.
- Providing internet access can be a way for missionaries on the field to support themselves while there.
- Their support could come from the operation of the internet service.
- It allows them access to other opportunities online to earn an income.
- In areas where there is resistance to missionaries they could come in as trainers that teach how to use different programs. i.e. education software, business and banking software, etc. They could charge fees for these courses.
- There are opportunities to earn an income online through freelancing that would allow the missionaries to remain on the mission field while working in a freelance capacity. There are already sites like fiverr and freelancer that make this absolutely possible.
- The introduction of the internet and its growth can help raise these people groups out of poverty. As the individuals flourish they can then pass that to their communities that begin to flourish.
There are a multitude of other wonderful reasons that should compel us to at least consider this path. I am sure you have already considered a number of problems that this would present. I am mindful of the seemingly insurmountable problems that are presented but as with any new endeavor these problems can be overcome.
The Primary Proposal
A super oversimplified vision:
I am proposing that a business be started that creates new technologies (hardware and software) that brings the internet to the 2/3 of the global population that do not yet have access. The business would create revenue through several avenues. The model for this will need to be developed more thoughtfully than what I have in mind right now. But there will be revenue from data usage as well as software usage.
When the business is operating it will then recruit individuals who are called to serve the people in the 10/40 window. These individuals will then be hired by the company to take the new technologies to the new areas in this 10/40 window. When they are hired they will be put through a rigorous 6 month to 1 year training program that teaches them how to implement the new technology. The individuals will receive a salary and other benefits as they move to other countries and seek to implement the new technology.
This will be the mission field for these individuals. As they teach how to use the internet this will open opportunities to share the Gospel. It will also allow new groups of people to thrive because of opportunities they have never had before (listed above).
That is a three paragraph limited synopsis of this vision. More to come in a later post.
I Know What You Are Thinking
Let me qualify a few things here that may have crossed your mind. I do not believe the internet and access to the internet are the answer for these people groups. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only source of hope and salvation for these unreached groups.
I know that the problems that this idea faces seem insurmountable. One problem that exists is the fact that in this 10/40 window there is also a large concentration of people that live in poverty. I have included a map below.
You will notice this map, in many ways, looks like the other maps above. The areas where I am proposing to start this business are some of the poorest in the world. Which brings up the question; How can you operate a business where the majority of the people live on less than $2.00 per day and have no access to the basic necessities for life? To answer that I say, That is a great question and I believe it has a number of good answers. Like I said above there will need to be some new technologies created and also some creative business models created. That would be one of the first problems this new company would need to solve.
I Am Not Crazy
If you are reading this and thinking, “This is a crazy idea!” Then you need to check out these links. Two companies, facebook and Google are already at work trying to provide the internet to the 2/3 who are without it. Here is what Google is doing through their Loon project. They are going to provide the internet through a network of balloons that move up and down in the atmosphere to achieve consistent access. And here is the facebook program. They are attempting to create a network of satellites that provide internet access.
These giants of our day are working to provide this and I think we should work here too.
To use a football analogy, facebook and Google are the passing game and this company would be a part of the running game. To accomplish this task it will take all of these efforts and more.
Don’t Abandon The Internet
The internet is place where people are and I believe we should have a consistent Gospel presence there that seeks to bring Glory to the Lord through what we say, do, and teach. Of course, just like anything, we need to be cautious in this area. The internet is only a tool that can help in the advancement of the Gospel and that tool is only useful when used by faithful servants.
I often think about the technological advancements that we are seeing take place in our day. It seems as if once we get used to some new piece of technology then it changes the next day. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy technology and all the great benefits that come from advancement but sometimes it just moves too fast.
I think that in this advancement there are some conversations that need to be had in order to best handle new advancement. Take for example the smart phone. When Apple introduced the first iPhone eight years ago it was a great advancement that opened communication and allowed us to do things on our own that was never thought possible. But no one thought about what the smart phone phenomenon might do to interpersonal relationships and face to face conversations. We were so enthralled with the idea that we could carry a small television in our hands that we didn’t think much about the consequences. At least not at first.
Now here it is 8 years after the first smartphone and we are beginning to see some consequences of this advancement. We are witnessing a generation of young people who have trouble having a conversation face to face. I am not saying that we should do away with phones or other technological advancements that are designed to make life easier and more efficient. But I am suggesting that as these new advancements come along we must begin discussing the positives from the new technology and also consider the consequences.
This brings me to my biggest concern. As Christians we are well known for what we are for and what we are against. Some have said that we are better known for what we are against. I think this is a problem because we take a side and therefore remove ourselves from the conversation. We isolate ourselves on an island and therefore are not able “come to the table” and discuss different options for how new technologies are handled.
As Christians we can no longer sit back and watch the world move by us and then offer our opinion on the back end. We must be at the forefront of these advancements offering insights into the ethics, morality, and theology of these new advancements.
There are times that we should be saying, “Stop! We do not need to go down that path.” Such as in areas of genetic engineering and modification. There are other times that we need to help work out the ethics and moral issues that surround a new technology. And there are times that we need to get excited about a new technology and help with its advancement. For example, there are plans in the near future to open the internet to all of Africa and most of Asia. Here is a link to one of those plans. This will open the web to millions of people and as Christians this will open the door for a Christian presence with those people. This will allow us to advance the Gospel in areas that may have never been reached before. That is truly exciting.
There are many other examples of conversations that we need to be in the middle of but for now I want to give a few practical ideas on how we can be involved in the conversation.
- Have discussions with your family about technology and how your family will use it.
- Read and comment on blogs and magazines that discuss the advancement of technology. Be involved in these conversations.
- Read books that cover advancement and communicate with the author and other readers.
- Consider a career in a key area of technology. This could be computing, robotics, engineering, medicine, and the list goes on and on.
- Maintain friendships outside of the church. Have discussions about your faith with these individuals.
What are some other ways that we can be on the forefront of human advancement? i would love to hear from you in the comment section below.
One of the ways I am going to be involved in the conversation is through a podcast. I am working on a podcast to interview individuals in different fields of tech advancement. I would like to have professors of philosophy and business leaders and doctors and more on the show. I am currently working on developing a structure for the podcast and then will begin seeking individuals to interview. Here is a link to my podcast page. Look for the first installment in early 2016. If you have any suggestions for individuals to have on the show I would love to hear from you.