CHARLOTTE, N.C.—In a world increasingly driven by technology, the term “digital age” is certainly accurate. As many people of all generations share their every thought, feeling and action throughout the day on social media, it’s seemingly possible to piece together an entire life from social media posts.
That’s exactly what one computer specialist claims will someday be possible—to virtually keep alive family members who have passed on, creating a virtual life even after death through technology.
Within 50 years, according to a Teesside University specialist in animation and computers, “computers will be advanced enough that they can create ‘synthetic digital life’ based upon people’s past movements, preferences and history on social media,” reports the UK’s Telegraph.
Dr. Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES, www.ses.edu), which specializes in scientific apologetics, says advances in trans-humanism like these, which would seek to keep loved ones alive through technology, are really attempts at immortality—to live forever and never deal with the inevitability of physical death.
“The problem with the concept of virtual avatars is that it is based upon a faulty understanding of the most important moral question of our time: who and what is a human being?” Land said. “Only people who believe that human beings are just very complicated machines, basically ‘meat computers’ and collections of chemicals, would presume that they could bring a virtual person back to life and that person would bear anything other than superficial robotic similarities to the departed loved one.
“If, as Christians assume,” Land continued, “man is the special creation of God with a soul and a spirit, bearing the image of God, no matter how flawed and warped it may be by sin, then human beings cannot be reconstructed by other humans as mere machines—virtual or otherwise. There is indeed a divine spark in human beings that no man-created machine or technology can reproduce.”
According to The Telegraph article, after a loved one dies, a process called “‘photogrammetry’ could accurately reconstruct a virtual 3D shape of a human being from existing photographs and video.” Computer voice synthesis could also take on local and regional accents to make the avatar sound just like the actual person once did. These “digital lifeforms” could also be linked to social networks so they could be kept “up to date” with their family member’s goings and doings and even communicate with them about their day.
Land added, “The desire to keep ourselves and loved ones alive forever—even virtually—is an illustration of the innate desire and the misplaced and distorted hunger human beings have for immortality. Christians know that ‘it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment’ (Hebrews 9:27 KJV).
“Of course,” he continued, “Christians understand that after this one life on earth, our souls are indeed eternal and will spend eternity either in fellowship with God or in perdition. And where our eternal destination ultimately will be is determined by whether we have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ—our Lord and Savior.”
Southern Evangelical Seminary is a leader in apologetics education—teaching students to defend their faith and talk intelligently, passionately and rationally about what they believe and why they believe it. Many courses focus on societal issues from a Christian worldview, delve into scientific apologetics or contemplate creation research.
SES’s “Ethics in Emerging Technology” program allows faculty and students to pursue research into subject matter such as robotics, bionics, human enhancement, artificial intelligence, trans-humanism and nanotechnology. This research delves into the many ethical questions that will undoubtedly rise, such as: “Should robots do our jobs?” “Should they care for humans in a hospital or nursing home setting?” “Will care like this take away the human touch and ultimately become a violation of ethics on a human level?” The world simply cannot afford to leave these mega-ethical issues to technicians, scientists and sociologists alone. Theologians and ethicists must be included in the conversation as well.
Land is featured in his nationally syndicated daily radio commentary, “Bringing Every Thought Captive,” which airs on 235 stations on the American Family Radio Network and 100 stations on the Bott Radio Network. “Bringing Every Thought Captive” is also podcast daily on the free SES mobile app and airs locally in the Charlotte, N.C., area every weekday. The “Bringing Every Thought Captive” television program, hosted by Land, debuted in January on the NRB Network, and airs on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. and midnight EST. “Bringing Every Thought Captive” also reaches nearly 2 million households in the Chicago area on the Total Living Network. For more information about stations, times, downloads and more, click here.
Land has taught as a visiting or adjunct professor for several seminaries and has authored or edited more than 15 books. He earned his Doctor of Philosophy degree from Oxford University in England and his bachelor’s degree (magna cum laude) from Princeton University. Land also earned a Master of Theology (Honors Program) degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where he received the Broadman Seminarian Award as the Outstanding Graduating Student. Dr. Land was the 2013 Watchman Award recipient from the Family Research Council for his leadership on moral and cultural issues. He also received the Phillip E. Johnson Award for Liberty and Truth from Biola University in 2010. Land served previously (1988-2013) as president of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the Southern Baptist Convention’s official entity assigned to address social, moral and ethical concerns, with particular attention to their impact on American families. In 2014, he was appointed as a Senior Research Fellow of the ERLC’s Research Institute, and in 2015, he was named in the top 15 of Newsmax’s “Top 100 Christian Leaders in America.”
Southern Evangelical Seminary invites visitors to its web site to join the more than 20,000 people who have already downloaded the SES Apologetics App for Windows mobile devices and Android and Apple phones and tablets. Those with the app can get the very best news and information in Christian apologetics, including articles, audio, video, blogs and more from today’s most able defenders of the Christian faith—William Lane Craig, Lee Strobel, Josh McDowell, William Dembski, Frank Turek, Hugh Ross, Gary Habermas and other well-known speakers, authors and teachers.
Southern Evangelical Seminary has been ranked as one of the top graduate programs for General Christian Apologetics by TheBestSchools.org’s “Top 10 Graduate Programs in Christian Apologetics.”
For more information on SES, visit its web site at www.ses.edu or its Facebook page, follow the SES Twitter feed, @sesapologetics, or call (800) 77-TRUTH. For more information about SES’ “Ethics in Emerging Technology” program, visit www.ethics.ses.edu.