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5 days ago
What a new AI system reveals about our hopes for technology
It's easy for anyone to get caught up in the hype surrounding new technologies. A new innovation often debuts with some helpful benefits and great new features, all of which wow us and lead us to believe that we are on the cusp of something truly revolutionary. Promises are made, and there are countless predictions about what is to come next. But soon after the press conferences fade and the hype dies down, we see these innovations for what they really are—helpful tools with innovative benefits that often do not live up to the hype surrounding their release but also reveal a number of potential misuses, abuses, or failures that we did not account for. Part of this is because we grow accustomed to innovation. But it also happens because we put a level of hope and desire on these technologies to usher in a new era of our world. OpenAI recently announced their new language model called GPT-3, which is one of the most advanced AI systems in the world to date. This system is truly amazing. It is able to write prose, design and code basic HTML including various mini applications, and even engage in “deep” philosophical conversations about the nature of God and the universe with you. OpenAI released the technical documentation back in May. And according to Morning Brew, GPT-3 “has 175 billion parameters, a 117x increase over its predecessor’s 1.5 billion.” The system was trained on roughly a trillion words. In layman’s terms, it is pretty powerful. The company decided to allow a small group of select users to test out the system, and many shared their experiments online to show off the power of the new system. Read More The Rundown CEO says TikTok will reveal how its algorithms work – _Axios_ In his first public statement as CEO of TikTok, former Disney exec Kevin Mayer says the company will be releasing the code that drives its content-moderation algorithms so that experts can observe how its policies are enforced in real time. Facebook Offers Money to Reel In TikTok Creators – _The Wall Street Journal_ Facebook Inc.’s Instagram has offered financial incentives to TikTok users with millions of followers to persuade them to use a new competing service, an escalation in a high-stakes showdown between the two social-media giants. Tech liability fight comes back into focus – _Axios_ Legislation taking aim at Section 230 is less of a moonshot than seeking to break up tech giants. But it still may be a tall order to move any major tech legislation before the November election. Google to Keep Employees Home Until Summer 2021 Amid Coronavirus Pandemic – _The Wall Street Journal_ Google will keep its employees home until at least next July, making the search-engine giant the first major U.S. corporation to formalize such an extended timetable in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
Jul 22, 2020
A conversation with Trillia Newbell about parenting, kids, and technology
This week Trillia Newbell, author, speaker, and commentator on World Radio, joins me to talk about parenting our kids in this technological day. We discuss Moxie, a forthcoming robot companion for children, from the company Embodied. We consider some of the implications of personifying technology in this way and the need for wisdom in teaching our children about interacting with technology. We dive into what it means to entrust our kids to the Lord and discuss the importance of not simply handing over a tool but taking the time to learn with your child. Links * Embodied's Moxie and promotional video * John Dyer's article on thinking about screen time and using technology actively rather than passively More about Trillia Newbell Trillia Newbell is the author of numerous books and her writing focuses on issues of faith, family, and diversity. She is also a commentator for World Radio, the sister platform for World Magazine. She is a sought after speaker and also serves at Moody Publishers as an acquisitions editor. She also serves as the Director of Community Outreach at the ERLC.
Jul 8, 2020
A conversation with Jay Kim about technology in this cultural moment
This is the second in a new series of interviews on the WeeklyTech Podcast, where a couple times a month we will highlight an interview with leading cultural and thought leaders about the role technology plays in our society. This week Jay Kim, a pastor at Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, California, joins me to talk about his new book, _Analog Church_. We discuss how his book speaks to this cultural moment, the importance of utilizing technology as tools rather than allowing it to utilize us, as well as our need for community in this digital age. We dive into what it means to be embodied creatures and discuss how to find a balance in our responses to technology in order to utilize technology well. Check out Jay’s new book _Analog Church: Why We Need Real People, Places, and Things in the Digital Age__._ Listen to WeeklyTech online or subscribe at most major podcasting apps such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or Spotify. More about Jay Kim: Jay Kim serves on staff at Vintage Faith Church. He is also on the leadership team at The ReGeneration Project, where he co-hosts The ReGeneration Podcast. Some of his written work has been featured in Christianity Today, The Gospel Coalition, Relevant Magazine, Missio Alliance, Outreach Magazine, and other places. He is a graduate of Fuller Seminary. In March 2020 he released his first book, called Analog Church (InterVarsity Press). It’s about the challenges and opportunities churches face in the digital age, offering a new and hopeful way forward. He and his wife Jenny, along with their kids Harper and Simon, call the Silicon Valley of California home._
Jun 29, 2020
2084 Isn’t That Far Away
When you read or hear about artificial intelligence (AI), you probably have one of two reactions: fear of the unknown or some level of disregard because of other seemingly more pressing issues. Both reactions are understandable. AI seems like a far off, futuristic technology that doesn’t yet affect daily life. In reality, though, AI is around us all the time and, for all its tangible benefits, major promises have been made about how this technology will revolutionize our lives. Along with many of these overhyped predictions, there’s a great need for ethical reflection, because these technologies _already_ drive our communication tools, medical innovations, weapons of war, economy, office work, and even the smart devices in our homes. There are many moral concerns about how these technologies will be developed and deployed in our local communities, as well as major philosophical debates over the role of theistic faith in the sciences. But a quick survey of popular AI literature reveals too few thinkers engaging with these issues from a distinctly Christian worldview. This is exactly where John Lennox’s new book, _2084: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity_, enters the conversation. Lennox serves as emeritus professor of mathematics at Oxford University and is a prolific writer on the interface of science, philosophy, and religion. In this book he engages a wide swath of AI literature, highlights the promises and perils of this technology, and ultimately shows how the Christian faith is the most coherent worldview for engage the pressing issues of AI. Read More The Rundown Apple WWDC 2020: the 18 biggest announcements – _The Verge_ Apple’s WWDC 2020 was unique before it even began. There were some big announcements, including some you might have been expecting and others that might catch you by surprise. Here are the biggest announcements. The Cost of Privacy Report – _Okta_ To better understand how people perceive both their digital identity and how it is managed, Okta commissioned Juniper Research to conduct an online survey of over 12,000 people between the ages of 18 and 75 in six countries. An Algorithm That ‘Predicts’ Criminality Based on a Face Sparks a Furor – _Wired_ Race science was debunked long ago, but papers that use machine learning to “predict” innate attributes or offer diagnoses are making a subtle, but alarming return. Google employees demand the company end police contracts – _The Verge_ Over 1,650 Google employees have signed an open letter to CEO Sundar Pichai demanding the company stop selling its technology to police forces across the US.
Jun 22, 2020
Why we need to retain the countercultural nature of the church
A book’s publication date is often set as an author signs the contract, and it usually feels far away and distant. But sometimes you read a book that reminds you that God is sovereignly orchestrating the entire universe, including book launches, because one is so perfectly timed that not even a publisher could have planned for the moment. That is true with Jay Kim’s new book, _Analog Church: Why We Need Real People, Places, and Things in the Digital Age_. Neither Kim or his publisher could have predicted the COVID-19 outbreak and the disruption to the normal analog patterns of our churches. In a season of upheaval, Kim’s book is a refreshing reminder of how the church was designed by God and how its rhythms speak to a grander story of hope and witness to a world decidedly digital in our daily life. Kim serves as pastor of teaching and leadership at Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, California, outside of Silicon Valley. He is able to see firsthand the influence that technology has on the church. _Analog Church_ is written for ministry and lay leaders alike, calling readers to be purposeful about how we adopt and rely upon technology in our everyday practices and calls us to reexamine how dependent the people of God have become on digital tools that often function as a shallow substitute for real community. Kim helps dissect the motives behind our digital adoption and provides a compelling path forward in the digital age. Read More The Rundown Boston Dynamics Starts Selling Spot Robot for $74,500 – _Morning Brew_ One of the internet’s most famous (or infamous) robots is officially going on sale. Yesterday, Boston Dynamics added Spot to its online storefront, making the four-legged robot available to any business that’s willing to cough up $74,500. Twitter starts rolling out audio tweets on iOS – _The Verge_ Twitter is rolling out the ability to record audio snippets and attach them to your tweets. The new feature is available first on iOS and launching today for “a limited group of people,” according to the company. NBA restart plan includes using Oura rings to catch COVID-19 symptoms – _Engadget_ The part that’s specifically interesting to us… is its proposed use of Oura’s smart rings. At least one study showed signs they can help detect COVID-19 symptoms early. Saving the elderly from coronavirus – _Axios_ CarePredict sells a wearable device called Tempo that tracks indoor location, pulse rate, blood-oxygen levels and more. Originally targeted as a way for caregivers and family members to monitor the physical and mental health of seniors, Tempo is now being used to tackle COVID-19, including contact tracing.
Jun 15, 2020
Should you be concerned about facial recognition technology?
Imagine a society where a criminal could be tracked down almost immediately by police and taken into custody, all by using his face as identification. Or a world where you no longer need to carry your ID card, insurance information, or even your credit or debit cards because you could pay for your meal using facial recognition, as many do today in the eastern city of Hangzhou, China. While all this might sound futuristic and far-fetched, it’s already creating a stir in our society. Governments and businesses around the world are thinking through innovative uses of facial recognition technology and are entering into lively debates over its merits and downfalls. And its uses seem to grow more controversial each day. Read More For more on the ethics of facial recognition, check out my latest book _The Age of AI: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity_ or the recently released _Artificial Intelligence: An Evangelical Statement of Principles_ from ERLC. The Rundown IBM will no longer offer, develop, or research facial recognition technology – _The Verge_ IBM will no longer offer general purpose facial recognition or analysis software, IBM CEO Arvind Krishna said in a letter to Congress today. The company will also no longer develop or research the technology, IBM tells _The Verge_. Hawley calls for FTC inquiry into new TikTok rival – _Axios_ Zynn, a rising TikTok-like service that pays its users, is drawing the attention of China hawk and Big Tech antagonist Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who wants the Federal Trade Commission to look into it. Schools Turn to Surveillance Tech to Prevent Covid-19 Spread – _Wired_ When students return to school in New Albany, Ohio, in August, they’ll be carefully watched as they wander through red-brick buildings and across well-kept lawns—and not only by teachers. TikTok Plans D.C. Office Amid Lawmaker Pressure on Privacy – _Bloomberg Law_ ByteDance Ltd.’s TikTok is opening a Washington office later this year to share information about security practices as lawmakers question its protections for children’s privacy and its ties to China.
Jun 8, 2020
5 Things You Should Know About TikTok
By now, you’ve probably heard of the rapidly growing social media app called TikTok that is taking the United States and the world by storm. It’s hard to describe just how influential and far-reaching TikTok has become so quickly. In less than two years since it was released, it has been downloaded over 2 billion times. In just the last quarter, TikTok was downloaded 315 million times—the best quarter for any app, ever. However, many Americans don’t know exactly what it is or how it works. Here are five things you should know about this viral app and how it is changing the nature of social media. Read MoreThe Rundown Microsoft Lays Off News Editors – _Morning Brew_ Microsoft is automating part of its news service. The company laid off about 50 U.S. editors and news staffers, Business Insider reported Friday, and 27 U.K. contractors, The Guardian reported Saturday. The technology of witnessing brutality – _Axios_ From news photography to TV broadcasts to camcorders to smartphones, improvements in the technology of witness over the past century mean we’re more instantly and viscerally aware of each new injustice. Snap says it is no longer promoting Trump’s account, adding to social media backlash against president – _The Washington Post_ Snapchat will no longer promote President Trump’s account in the “Discover” tab on the social media app, the company said Wednesday, after a week of showdowns between the president and social media companies. NASA astronauts just flew SpaceX’s Crew Dragon into orbit for the first time – _MIT Technology Review_ NASA astronauts launched from US soil for the first time in nine years. And they did it on a private vehicle, for the first time in history. Chinese coronavirus test maker agreed to build a Xinjiang gene bank – _Axios_ A leading Chinese gene sequencing and biomedical firm that said it would build a gene bank in Xinjiang is supplying coronavirus tests around the world.
Jun 4, 2020
A conversation with Dr. John Lennox about AI and science
This week Dr. John Lennox, a world renown author and Oxford professor, joins host Jason Thacker to talk about his new book, 2_084: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity_. They discuss artificial intelligence, the origin of the science, as well as the ethical and moral implications of technology. They also dive into the relationship between faith and science and realize that a Christian understanding and a Christian worldview is more than adequate for dealing with a lot of the moral and ethical issues surrounding emerging technologies. You can pick up a copy of Dr. Lennox’s new book on AI at 2084Book.com Listen to WeeklyTech online or subscribe at most major podcasting apps such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or Spotify. More about Dr. Lennox: _John C. Lennox (PhD, DPhil, DSc) is Emeritus Professor of Mathematics in the University of Oxford, Emeritus Fellow in Mathematics and the Philosophy of Science at Green Templeton College, Oxford. He is also an Associate Fellow at the Said Business School. He is author of Can Science Explain Everything? on the interface between science, philosophy, and theology. He has lectured extensively in North America and in Eastern and Western Europe on mathematics, the philosophy of science, and the intellectual defense of Christianity, and he has publicly debated Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Peter Singer._
Jun 1, 2020
How God is using technology during a pandemic for mission
As stay-at-home orders went into effect throughout our nation in March, I was encouraged to see many pastors take to social media. They sent video updates to their people about the shift to online services and digital discipleship. They were using the tools they had at their disposal in order to bring calming and encouraging words to many who were scared and confused. Soon, many of us would find ourselves glued to these same devices, seeking answers to the unknowns and hoping to grasp some semblance of control. In the last few years, we have all heard about the dangerous effects of technology in our lives and how we need to balance our use of these tools, but all of that advice and discipline simply went out the door as the virus cut us off from the normal rhythms of our daily lives. Throughout March and April, most of the headlines about technology were about how we can utilize it to continue working, socializing, and staying connected. Much of the conversation originally shifted away from the negative and polarizing effects of these technologies to how they became a life raft in the midst of this storm. But the public mood is shifting once again, and we are starting to see many of the corrosive effects of technology on our lives. Read More The Rundown Amazon’s Audible Goes Beyond Books to Chase Spotify in Podcasts – Bloomberg In recent months, Audible, the audiobook service owned by Amazon.com Inc., has been meeting with talent agencies and producers to discuss acquiring potential new podcast projects—or, in the terminology that Audible prefers, “Audible Originals.” The DHS Prepares for Attacks Fueled by 5G Conspiracy Theories – Wired The claim that 5G can spread the coronavirus has led to dozens of cell-tower burnings in Europe. Now, the US telecom industry is on alert as well. Facial Recognition Firms Pitch Covid-19 ‘Immunity Passports’ For America And Britain – Forbes A handful of companies are bidding for business that will help the Trump and Johnson administrations on either side of the Atlantic keep tabs on travel (or attempted travel) of the infected. Netflix’s Plan to Auto-Cancel Subscriptions Is Radically Sane – Wired If you don’t watch anything on Netflix for a year after you join, the company will send you an email asking if you want to keep your membership.
May 25, 2020
Why Smart Devices Can Never Replace Human Connection
According to a 2019 report from NPR and Edison Research, about 53 million Americans own a smart speaker assistant. The consulting firm Ovum predicts that by 2021, there will be more than 7.5 billion of these digital assistants used throughout the world, which is nearly the same number of people living today. If you don’t own one of these AI empowered smart speakers, I bet that your neighbor or co-worker does. But some people are starting to question what these smart devices are doing to us. Judith Shulevitz wrote in an article for The Atlantic in the fall of 2018 that she has started to develop an actual relationship with her smart speaker. She explains, “Gifted with the once uniquely human power of speech, Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri have already become greater than the sum of their parts. They’re software, but they’re more than that, just as human consciousness is an effect of neurons and synapses but is more than that. Their speech makes us treat them as if they had a mind.” And if they have minds, then we might be able to develop relationships with them even though we know they aren’t able to know us. Read More The Rundown The real reason Facebook bought Giphy for $400 million – Fast Company When Facebook confirmed that it had acquired Giphy last week for a cool $400 million, the reasons weren’t immediately apparent. Giphy has only the seeds of an advertising business, and GIFs aren’t a revolutionary advertising product. How a Chinese AI Giant Made Chatting—and Surveillance—Easy – Wired Alexa can tell you the weather. Siri knows a few jokes. In China, voice-computing company iFlytek built similar smart assistants beloved by users. But its tech is also helping the government listen in. How Do Just War Principles Apply to Drone Warfare? – Bruce Ashford Rapidly developing technologies have not been accompanied by ethical reflection on the proper use of those technologies. One such technology is unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) which, in this article, will be referred to as drones. Marco Rubio tapped to serve as Senate Intelligence Committee chairman – Politico Sen. Marco Rubio will temporarily serve as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced on Monday. Big Tech’s aid to small business comes with a catch – Axios Big tech companies, including Facebook and Google, have made much of their efforts to help small businesses hurting from the pandemic. But the same programs that make life easier for those businesses today could end up separating them from their customers.
May 18, 2020
Should We Give Up Privacy to Fight Coronavirus?
Last fall, my wife was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and had just recently finished her chemotherapy treatments. Because her immune system has been severely weakened, the COVID-19 threat to her health is potentially lethal. We decided to isolate well before the stay-at-home directives from state and local governments. By now we’re all familiar with one of the key ethical dilemmas that’s arisen during the pandemic: Do we isolate from one another and risk a catastrophic economic downturn, disproportionately hurting the poor and vulnerable but protecting the elderly and the high-risk, like my wife? Or do we risk public health by keeping the economy open? Another ethical issue, however, is also emerging. It concerns the question of how best to use data and tracking technology to protect human life, while at the same time not sacrificing our personal privacy. Read More The Rundown Twitter Announces Blanket Work from Home Policy, Signaling Shift – Morning Brew Yesterday, Tw…
May 11, 2020
What Facebook’s board discussions reveal about our hearts
Amid all of the cultural conversations surrounding the role of technology in our society, Facebook has been at the top of the headlines. From issues over privacy and a recently announced crypto-currency, public opinion of the platform has shifted in recent years. But Facebook has also been working behind the scenes to collect feedback and put together an external oversight board to advise and guide the company on how it deals with content moderation on its platform. When CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the creation of the board in November 2018, he stated the purpose of the board is to create a mechanism for the public to appeal content decisions through an independent body. With Facebook having over 2.38 billion active users in the first quarter of 2019, the reach and influence of this company is one of the greatest the world has ever seen. With all of this connectivity and influence, the company has entered into an age-old debate about what constitutes free speech and expression as it…
May 3, 2020
3 Steps Families Should Take to Teach Kids About Artificial Intelligence
As my wife and I parent our two young sons, we see a world that is increasingly shaped by artificial intelligence (AI). Our boys will not just grow up with dreams of robot maids and space toys, they will grow up alongside AI-empowered devices like our Apple HomePod and even better AI yet to come. Seemingly every day I see ads for new personalized robots powered by AI. For example, a new home robot, Vector, was released a few months ago. “Meet Vector, the good robot. The robot who hangs out and helps out,” reads the company’s website. The future is progressing so fast that it is hard to keep up as parents. We feel overwhelmed with the rate of technological innovation and often fearful of what technology will do to our kids. But our role is not to shelter our kids from the world but to disciple them as they grow in wisdom and maturity. So where do we start? How do we teach our kids about stuff that is new to us? Read More The Rundown Google Meet video conferencing is now free…
Apr 27, 2020
A solid foundation for navigating the ethics of big tech
There isn’t much that Americans seem to agree on these days. Even as COVID-19 brought some national unity, we are beginning to see the fraying of American society once again. Political, social, economic, and religious issues have sorted us into tribes and tribes of tribes. It is difficult to keep up to date on the number of differing viewpoints and interest groups. But there is one concern that seems to bring the fraying parties and proported enemies together: the power and influence of technology on our lives. Last fall, Pew Research Center released a report that for the first time in their research, Americans now have less faith in technology companies than in churches. This is striking based on the secularization of society and many popular claims that religion only divides us. This study proves what most of us already know—technology is ubiquitous in our society. The power that these tools have over our lives is beginning to be revealed. Read MoreThe Rundown Amazon Scooped U…
Apr 22, 2020
Announcing the new WeeklyTech podcast
Each week we will focus on one big story that we will dig into and see how Christians can think wisely about it. Then the Rundown will highlight 4-5 news stories connected to technology that you should be aware of for the week ahead. We hope this podcast will serve you well in the midst of a busy and often hectic schedule by providing insight and depth. Coming soon we will also launch special interview episodes with leaders from across culture to talk about how technology is affecting each of our lives. You can find WeeklyTech on your favorite podcasting app, such as Apple iTunes, Spotify, or Google Play. Tune in next Monday, April 27th!