TRUTH MATTERS: Toxic Social Media and the Dark Web: Part II

Let’s continue to define some of the issues that parents, teachers and leaders need to be considering. There is no simple way to define or describe the complexities of the issues causing our children and society to become at risk. The last blog spoke into some surface-level issues that face kids and families. What about all of us – families at work, governance and play? Have you ever stopped to consider the magnitude of the cyber threat to you and your family? Probably not, because if you had, you’d be engaged much deeper with your children and even your own on-line activities and habits. Let’s dig into the “BIG PICTURE” before we get into thinking through some solutions that individuals, families, churches and communities can consider in “fighting back.”

Today, we loosely throw around terms like, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Cyber, Cyber Security, Cyber Space, Cyber Command, Social Media, the Internet of Things (IoT), Network Theories, Neural Networks, Information Security, Information Warfare, Information Management, Deep Learning, Predictive Analytics, Big Data, Big Data Analytics, Behavioral Analytics, Machine Learning, Globalization, and many other seemingly benign terms. Yet, in reality, these terms are anything but benign, and they carry with them a host of context and depth that few actually understand or have even the ability to interpret when confronted in terms of daily life or work. That’s the case in our daily lives, and as it relates to our personal and professional work environments. But what about ministry – the Church at large, and global “missions”? Are there any implications for pastors, churches and ministry leaders, missionaries, and even Christian business owners?

Generally, the average American or European consumer has no actual idea what is really being communicated when it comes to the rapid pace and tempo of international commerce and security. The average consumer nods and affirms what she does not understand and then develop opinions and even emotional attachments to thimble-deep knowledge transfers – and largely because of what she “feels” or her inherent need to formulate opinions or appear knowledgeable. So, what does this mean in the tapestry of life as it unfolds around U.S. communities, businesses, and community -based organizations? What does it mean for ministry?

In a recent PJMedia article, David Goldman (2019) made an interesting case for government support of industry initiatives… However, generally, and while the article seeks to argue industrial strategy, the larger issue of the U.S. falling behind China in a contemporary technology race, seems to get lost in the narrative.

The empires of the future are the empires of the mind.

Winston Churchill, September 6th, 1943, Harvard

Goldman states, this is war, of sorts. I don’t think the United States and China will start shooting at each other at any time in the foreseeable future, but that isn’t the way this war will be fought. China is striving to dominate game-changing technologies starting with 5G broadband, but also including quantum computing, quantum communications, artificial intelligence, and others. If it succeeds, the United States will be poorer and weaker, and our alliances in Europe and Asia will crumble. We will resemble post-imperial Britain, a second-rate former great power. (Goldman, 2019 https://pjmedia.com/spengler/you-may-not-be-interested-in-war-but-war-is-interested-in-you)

Side note, I wrote some of this blog a year and a half ago and as you can see, the notion that 5G is not available in the U.S. is no longer true. Have you paid attention to the news, or maybe what one might consider the back side of the news? Why is the U.S. military interested in owning the U.S. 5G network? Let’s think outside of the box as families and what this means to our everyday lives. Let’s consider the larger picture as it relates to the global stage of power, control and commerce. Let’s keep going!

He goes on to discuss generalized implications, but still seems to ignore or miss the much deeper implications of national and homeland security. After rightly intimating that no American company offers 5G services and provides a basis for stating that China, and it’s “flagship telecommunications firm Huawei spends $20 billion a year on R&D and now leads the world in fifth generation (5G) broadband. With download speeds perhaps 2,500 times as fast as 4G LTE broadband, 5G makes possible an entire range of new technologies: robotic controls that communicate with each other, highly-coordinated drone swarms, driverless cars, augmented reality, big data processing, and many others.” (Goldman 2019) He further discusses how Huawei has been contracted by Mexico to develop a similar network – in Mexico. Concerned? Why not?

So, what about the numerous recent privacy breaches by social giants like Facebook and others? Or, how about the U.S. Congress’ inability to adequately address or question Mr. Zuckerburg regarding the matters? The implications are staggering, but what is actually more alarming is how many people, literally tens of millions, are ignorant, and have no idea what is unfolding right in front of their eyes weekly.

 Bandwidth has always been an issue. There’s never enough, so it seems. However, solutions are beginning to emerge and private sector companies, as well as governments are now racing for dominance. Why? Because information speed and dominance create more opportunity. What kind of opportunity? Innovation… Hardware and AI development and operations…

But, the relationships between information and data speed have a symbiotic relationship to hardware development, which in turn has direct and indirect implications for next-gen research and the focal points of the evolution of AI.

Yann LeCun, with respect to deep learning stated, “The kind of hardware that’s available has a big influence on the kind of research that people do, and so the direction of AI in the next decade or so is going to be greatly influenced by what hardware becomes available,” he said. “It’s very humbling for computer scientists, because we like to think in the abstract that we’re not bound by the limitation of our hardware, but in fact we are.” (Johnson 2019 https://venturebeat.com/2019/02/18/facebooks-chief-ai-scientist-deep-learning-may-need-a-new-programming-language/amp)

So, consider this… LeCun is the Chief AI Scientist for Facebook. Ask yourself, what implications does this have for ministry – for that matter – the government? Recently, Facebook announced that it is working on its own semiconductor… Why does this matter? Not for this article, but didn’t you think that Facebook was just a “social media” company? It’s time for the best and brightest that the American Church has to offer, to open their eyes and begin to think critically and with the future of the Church in America, and globally, in mind.

What of “War”? Are We at War?

So, here’s the real issue in the U.S. and around the educated world today – it’s World View. I admittedly come at this terrestrial topic from a Christian worldview. However, there are elements within the dynamics of the cyber world that are universal. The truths that surround these threats to your well-being do not require you to believe as I believe or for us to agree on our worldview.

On the other hand, what if the Christian worldview is correct? Two well-know teachers who have lived in different times and different cultures identify the same dynamic. Spiritual War. Consider this comment from C.S. Lewis:

“Enemy-occupied territory—that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.”

― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

I guess I have to ask you, what if this is true? Lewis was a highly respected and widely acclaimed author, teacher and evangelical minister. You’re probably familiar with his works. Interestingly, this claim is consistent with the teachings of the Bible. I suppose sometimes it is easy to become confused in the crossover from the focal points of my own professions, but as I work within the constructs of the cyber dimension, I am reminded also of a quote from one of Os Hillman’s recent books,

Called Into Battle. When God created the earth and Satan was thrust from his heavenly domain, a war began for control of the earth. … Satan attempts to kill gods change agents and their destinies before we are ever born.

Os Hillman, Change Agent

We might do well to pay attention to the news in the sense that nearly every day, we are confronted with some new internet and on-line scandal, scam or dark evil that has risen within the framework of what we now call cyber-space. In the next blog, let’s talk a little about the “dark side” of the web and why ALL people need to be concerned and remain vigilant. It might seem like this series is headed down a dark rabbit hole, and in some ways, that might be a true statement. However, remember this, if you are going to solve a problem, you must first understand the elements of the equation. Without the TRUTH of a matter, there is no way to address or mitigate an issue or a problem. Truth Matters, and it’s time for those who see with spiritual eyes to awaken and to engage in the battle that is raging for the very soul and spirit of humanity. If you’re going to go down, at least go down with a fight. Don’t give in or give way to ignorance and complacency. See you soon right back here!

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