“You shall be like God.” So the serpent deceived Eve; in disobedience to God, she was to become like him. In eating the fruit, however, Adam and Eve did not attain to the exalted state Satan promised—they fell and were cast out of Eden. Man has ever since attempted to make himself like God, and modern man is no different. He seeks to transcend his own nature, and he believes he has found a way to finally do so: he will merge with machines.
“The very idea of ‘human’ being some sort of natural concept is really gonna change. Our bodies will be so high tech, we won’t really be able to distinguish between what’s natural and what’s artificial.”
So begins the World Economic Forum’s 11-minute documentary, The Fourth Industrial Revolution, about an emerging period of rapid technological growth which the WEF’s founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab says will lead to “a fusion of our physical, our digital, and our biological identities.” Toward the conclusion of the short film, we hear the following words: “We need to take responsibility at every level of society, from the individual and the personal, to the institutional, to the global, to adapt to these technological challenges which are redefining what it means to be human.” The truth, of course, is that technology cannot redefine anything. It is men and women, in defiance of God, who are redefining what it means to be human.
This assault on the image of God is nothing new. Since Darwin, the scientific community has become dominated by what C. S. Lewis, in his essay Modern Man and His Categories of Thought, called “Developmentalism”: “What I call Developmentalism is the extension of the evolutionary idea far beyond the biological realm: in fact, its adoption as the key principle of reality.” Thanks to universities, public schools, and the media, our world has been soaking in this idea for many years. The notion that men and women have a God-given nature and identity has been rejected, and it has been replaced in the minds of the masses by a different doctrine: man, being the product of a blind evolutionary process and having no eternal judge, is free to redefine and recreate himself as he pleases. Man is the crowning achievement of the cosmic evolution and is finally learning to unshackle himself from his past.
This evolutionary religion, however, is evolving. The scientific community is being taken over by a new development in Developmentalism: it is embracing an evolutionary eschatology. According to this emerging belief system, most often called “transhumanism,” mankind does not constitute evolution’s end. The human being, which is the most complex data-processing system yet to emerge from the cosmic evolution, is soon to be surpassed by a superior data-processing system: artificial intelligence. Human life, then, will not remain as it is, but will transcend its biological limitations by merging with machines. Israeli historian and best-selling author Yuval Noah Harari (who has spoken several times at the World Economic Forum’s annual gathering in Davos, Switzerland) calls this new religion “Dataism,” and he devotes to it the final chapter of his book Homo Deus. Harari writes that Dataism is “currently spreading across all scientific disciplines,” and that its emergence “heralds a tremendous religious revolution.”
As our world is increasingly pushed into technological dependence and integration, we as followers of Christ must hold fast to the reality of who God made us to be. We cannot remake our nature, and we should not dare try. We cannot enact our glorification—it is God alone who saves. In a world that desires to deface and destroy the image of God, and that desperately seeks technological salvation, may we faithfully proclaim what God spoke through the prophet Isaiah:
“Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior.” (Isaiah 43:10–11 ESV)