John J. Blanchard
October 4, 2012, Feast of Tabernacles
Good morning, everybody. The world is all abuzz. The next wave of high tech gizmos is washing over us! The “I’s” are coming, such as the iphone5! People are lined up for blocks to get the next iPhone. The new more powerful iPads are coming out! Don’t forget the meBerry. That’s the advanced BlackBerry. BlackBerry10 is coming out! Then there are the MyReaders such as the Kindle, the Nook, and the iPad. Get rid of the books. You are not going to need a Bible soon! Get your pads out and these reader books, and everything will be there for you.
Social media keeps advancing. There are Smart Phones and droids, whatever droids are! You know what a My Face Transmitter is, right? My Face Transmitter, Facebook, use your imagination, folks! My Twitter, My Fame Tube, My Interactive Infotainment, Blog My View, write my news and don’t pay attention to other news. My personal war game should be your personal war game. There’s My Farmville. Forget raising real food! My Cityville, My angry birds—they’re stronger than your angry birds! My text, my e-mail, my tweets—I can do it in two characters—bleep, bleep! It’s all over the world where people are exclaiming things like look at me, I’m famous! I’m a celebrity! I have 10,000 friends! How many do you have? You don’t have 10,000 people following you!
TECHNOLOGY AND THE BRAIN
It is a very interesting time to be alive. You can have your own flash mob, your own riot, or your own revolution! Now comes the ultimate—icrazy! This is Newsweek, July 16th of this year. The article that I want to refer to first is Is The Onslaught Making Us Crazy? Here you go! Here is a picture of a guy curled up at his computer with his head in his hands. The article is by Tony Dokoupil, and it is a very very interesting article.
In this article they have identified five new diseases which are basically mental disorders. I am going to go through them, and then we will talk about them a little bit. The first one is “i” disorder. These are actual disorders. It is iPhone addiction. It is strictly with iPhones and iPads. It leads to Facebook depression, which is actually a term. The second one is Internet addition disorder. The third one is Internet psychosis which used to be called reactive psychosis, but now this is caused by too much exposure to the Internet. Just in case you want to know, it is insanity. People are locked up with this one. The fourth one is phantom-vibration syndrome. The author of the article has that.
The average teen gets 3700 texts a month, so now people are actually going to the doctor and saying my leg or whatever vibrates. All day long I keep getting this, but there is nothing there! It is a disorder. The brain has actually picked up these vibrations from the little devices and apparently does not know when to stop vibrating!
The last one is dissociative identity disorder. It is a brave new world where people can move into their devices and become one with their devices.
I want to read a few quotes from this article. I found it absolutely fascinating. I am on page 26 of that Newsweek. I would love to read the whole article to you, but we don’t have that much time.
“Questions about the Internet’s deleterious effects on the mind are at least as old as hyperlinks. But even among Web skeptics, the idea that a new technology might influence how we think and feel–let alone contribute to a great American crack-up-was considered silly and naïve, like waving a cane at electric light or blaming the television for kids these days. Instead, the Internet was seen as just another medium, a delivery system, not a diabolical machine. It made people happier and more productive. And where was the proof otherwise?
“Now, however, the proof is starting to pile up. The first good, peer-reviewed research is emerging, and the picture is much gloomier than the trumpet blasts of Web utopians have allowed. The current incarnation of the Internet—portable, social, accelerated, and all-pervasive—may be making us not just dumber or lonelier but more depressed and anxious, prone to obsessive-compulsive and attention-deficit disorders, even outright psychotic. Our digitized minds can scan like those of drug addicts, and normal people are breaking down in sad and seemingly new ways.”
I want to digress for just a moment because he hints at something here, and I will read about it and then comment. It is called singularity. I did not bring that article, but there is a concept called singularity.
Continuing reading this Newsweek article we read.
“In less than a span of a single childhood, Americans have merged with their machines, staring at a screen for at least eight hours a day, more time than we spend on any other activity including sleeping. Teens fit some seven hours of screen time into the average school day; 11, if you count time spent multitasking on several devices. When President Obama last ran for office [I found this astounding], the iPhone had yet to be launched.” That’s only four years ago. “Now smartphones outnumber the old models in America, and more than a third of users get online before getting out of bed.
“Meanwhile, texting has become like blinking: the average person, regardless of age, sends or receives about 400 texts a month, four times the 2007 number. The average teen processes an astounding 3,700 texts a month, double the 2007 figure.” You can imagine if that doubles again! “And more than two thirds of these normal, everyday cyborgs, myself included, report feeling their phone vibrate when in fact nothing is happening. Researchers call it ‘phantom-vibration syndrome.’”
Singularity is this blending of the human mind with computers. The article that I have in my file at home is so scary I hope it never comes true. I don’t believe it will come true, because I think Christ will return before that. But they are actually saying we can have eternal life now through our devices, because within a few years—I am talking ten—you will be able to offload your entire memory on a hard drive. Then you will be able to have your body cloned and put your memory back in, so that you have eternal life! We don’t need God! We don’t need the Bible! We don’t need the Holy Spirit! Isn’t that a scary thought? They are actually talking like this is going to be possible. Talk about merging mind and machine! That is called singularity. Man becoming single and unified with his devices.
Also they found here that it rewires our brains, and that was hinted at earlier. I brains can scan like addicts. I want to continue in this article.
“This is an issue as important and unprecedented as climate change…” You hear people worried about climate change all the time, but they are starting to realize this is actually as serious as climate change. “….says Susan Greenfield, a pharmacology professor at Oxford University who is working on a book about how digital culture is rewiring us—and not for the better. ‘We could create the most wonderful world for our kids but that’s not going to happen if we’re in denial and people sleepwalk into these technologies and end up glassy-eyed zombies.’
“….Peter Whybrow, the director of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, argues that ‘the computer is like electronic cocaine,’ fueling cycles of mania followed by depressive stretches. The Internet ‘leads to behavior that people are conscious is not in their best interest and does leave them anxious and does make them act compulsively,’ says Nicholas Carr, whose book The Shallows [which I have read and have here], about the Web’s effect on cognition, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. It ‘fosters our obsessions, dependence, and stress reactions,’ adds Larry Rosen, a California psychologist who has researched the Net’s effect for decades. It ‘encourages—and even promotes—insanity.’”
It also says here on page 27 the following:
“…The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [something that psychiatrists get periodically] has never included a category of machine-human interactions.
“But that view is suddenly on the outs. When the new DSM is released next year, Internet Addiction Disorder will be included for the first time…”
It is a very serious disorder. It is a mental disorder. They find that it rewires our brains because it addicts us to different ways of thinking than we would normally have been thinking.
“…Then there was the University of Maryland’s 2010 ‘Unplugged’ experiment that asked 200 undergrads to forgo all Web and mobile technologies for a day and to keep a diary of their feelings. ‘I clearly am addicted and the dependency is sickening,’ reported one student in the study. ‘Media is my drug,’ wrote another. At least two other schools haven’t even been able to get such an experiment off the ground for lack of participants. ‘Most college students are not just unwilling, but functionally unable, to be without their media links to the world,’ the University of Maryland concluded.
That is true addiction!
“…We may appear to be choosing to use this technology, but in fact we are being dragged to it by the potential of short-term rewards.”
This is true. I have customers who want to e-mail me or who want to text me. I tell them don’t bother. If you want to communicate with me, don’t do that. You will never hear from me. I check my stuff about once every three weeks, and I discard most of it. You don’t use e-mail, and you don’t text! We will accomplish a lot more on the phone or in person. If you want me as your contractor, don’t bother with the technology.
“Every ping could be social, sexual, or professional opportunity, and we get a mini-reward, a squirt of dopamine, for answering the bell.”
This sounds like Pavlov’s dogs where a little bell goes off, and they start salivating.
“‘These rewards serve as jolts of energy that recharge the compulsion engine, much like the frisson a gambler receives as a new card hits the table,’ MIT media scholar Judith Donath recently told Scientific American. ‘Cumulatively, the effect is potent and hard to resist.’”
“…The brains of Internet addicts, it turns out, look like the brains of drug and alcohol addicts. In a study published in January, Chinese researchers found ‘abnormal white matter’—essentially extra nerve cells built for speed—in the areas charged with attention, control, and executive function. A parallel study found similar changes in the brains of videogame addicts. And both studies come on the heels of other Chinese results that link Internet addiction to ‘structural abnormalities in gray matter,’ namely shrinkage of 10 to 20 percent in the area of the brain responsible for processing of speech, memory, motor control, emotion, sensory, and other information. And worse, the shrinkage never stopped: the more time on line, the more the brain showed signs of ‘atrophy.’”
These are real studies. The Internet has not been around that long. At first it was all an academic discussion. Is this good for mankind or not? There were opinions on both sides. Some of us were called old fashioned and fuddy duddies and told, “you’re not with it.” It took a while for enough people to show these characteristics that science could actually quantify what was happening to people. They are finally starting to quantify it.
It goes on to say that they scanned the brains of Internet addicts, and you cannot differentiate them from a heroin or cocaine addict. It is the same brain scan, so they know it is a true addiction. They have pictures in here to prove it. It is actually rather frightening.
Continuing on page 30 of the article: “Recently, scholars have begun to suggest that our digitized world may support even more extreme forms of mental illness. At Stanford, Dr. Aboujaoude is studying whether some digital selves should be counted as a legitimate [digital selves means you have your regular self and then your digital self], pathological ‘alter of sorts,’ like the alter egos documented in cases of multiple personality disorder (now called dissociative identity disorder in the DSM).”
THREATS TO PRIVACY
Another article in the same issue of this magazine on page 12 is called Eye Spy. “The best technology, as Google co-founder Sergey Brin recently noted at the company’s annual developer conference, ‘gets out of the way’ while helping you do what you want to do. Brin was introducing Project Glass, computerized eyewear that works like a hands-free smartphone, displaying messages, images, and maps onto the world in front of you. The glasses also have built-in cameras, allowing you to capture moments without disrupting them—moments like Brin tossing his son in the air. ‘Obviously,’ Brin pointed out, ‘I couldn’t capture that with a camera or I’d drop my son.’”
Wow, look I can catch my son, and it is all filmed!
“The thing that makes wearable computers like Project Glass appealing is their ability to fade into the background.”
Soon you will not be able to tell them from regular glasses. You will not know who in the audience has eye glasses that are eye glasses.
“What makes them potentially risky is that unlike camera phones where lifting the device and snapping a picture will probably tip off your subject that he is being photographed, wearable devices can be on for hours unobtrusively recording everyone in your line of sight.”
They sent me a pair to test! laughter
“This is a threat to privacy. You can’t opt out by simply choosing not to use the technology. So long as other people are wearing the devices, you will have to assume you are on camera.”
Everyone with glasses, take them off right now! laughter
“What’s more, the footage may ultimately be owned by Google or whichever company ends up dominating the wearable computer market, and governments and courts will likely demand an access to it as they’ve already done with Google, smartphones, and Twitter.”
Does that worry you at all?
I have a New York Times article. I have a file on this stuff. I can only bring a few things. This is the New York Times Magazine from a month or so back. The article is titled: The Hyperaddictive, Time-Sucking, Relationship-Busting, Mind-Crushing Power and Allure of Silly Digital Games. The author goes on to say it almost broke up his marriage. Now he has been addicted to them for years. He interviewed for his own article. He interviewed the founder of Zynga. He tried to get some statistics. There are some games out there that have 200 million minutes of usage every day! That is one game. How productive—Cityville, Farmville!
It is amazing that this is happening, and so few people are alarmed. I have this book that I mentioned to you. It is called The Shallows. This has been out for a couple of years. This is when they first started debating it. The cover reads: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, The Shallows by Nicholas Carr.
Because we already covered games, I am going to focus here on something that is not in those other articles, and that is memory impairment. I am going to read you a little bit from this book.
“‘Unlike a computer,’ writes Nelson Cowan, an expert on memory who teaches at the University of Missouri, ‘the normal human brain never reaches a point at which experiences can no longer be committed to memory; the brain cannot be full.’ Says Torkel Klingberg, ‘The amount of information that can be stored in long-term memory is virtually boundless.’ Evidence suggests, moreover, that as we build up our personal store of memories [and the theme of this Feast is walking down memory lane], our minds become sharper. The very act of remembering, explains clinical psychologist Sheila Crowell in The Neurobiology of Learning, appears to modify the brain in a way that can make it easier to learn ideas and skills in the future.”
The more you commit to memory, the better your memory gets, and the more skills you can learn.
“What determines what we remember and what we forget? The key to memory consolidation is attentiveness. Storing explicit memories and, equally important, forming connections between them requires strong mental concentration, amplified by repetition or by intense intellectual or emotional engagement. The sharper the attention, the sharper the memory. ‘For a memory to persist,’ writes Kandel, ‘the incoming information must be thoroughly and deeply processed. This is accomplished by attending to the information and associating it meaningfully and systematically with knowledge already well established in memory.’ If we’re unable to attend to the information in our working memory, the information lasts only as long as the neurons that hold it maintain their electric charge—a few seconds at best. Then it’s gone, leaving little or no trace in the mind.
“Attention may seem ethereal—a ‘ghost inside the head,’ as the developmental psychologist Bruce McCandliss says—but it’s a genuine physical state, and it produces material effects throughout the brain. Recent experiments with mice indicate that the act of paying attention to an idea or an experience sets off a chain reaction that crisscrosses the brain…”
“The influx of competing messages that we receive whenever we go online not only overloads our working memory; it makes it much harder for our frontal lobes to concentrate our attention on any one thing.”
Do you notice any harms to multi-tasking here?
“The process of memory consolidation can’t even get started. And, thanks once again to the plasticity of our neuronal pathways, the more we use the Web, the more we train our brain to be distracted—to process information very quickly and very efficiently but without sustained attention. That helps explain why many of us find it hard to concentrate even when we’re away from our computers. Our brains become adept at forgetting, inept at remembering. Our growing dependence on the Web’s information stores may in fact be the product of a self-perpetuating, self-amplifying loop. As our use of the Web makes it harder for us to lock information into our biological memory, we’re forced to rely more and more on the NET’s capacious and easily searchable artificial memory, even if it makes us shallower thinkers.”
I could go on and on. This is a whole book on the subject. I recommend you read it. What are the other effects? None of these articles talk about these effects. These are my thoughts.
REPLACING JOBS WITH TECHNOLOGY
I feel high unemployment that they can’t shrink is computer and Internet driven. You don’t need cashiers anymore at the stores. Soon you will just need your phone. Right now you can self check-out. You won’t need bank tellers anywhere. That is all done on your phone soon and already by some. You won’t need to go through Security at the airports. They are already talking about eye scanning everybody and putting it in their computers. When you walk through their computer, it will identify you and know your entire history without you talking to anybody! You won’t need postal workers. There are 120,000 jobs we won’t need anymore because it will be done all on the Internet. We won’t need any manufacturers anymore. They have factories in theDetroitarea that used to employ 10,000 people that now have 300 because of robots.
We won’t need teachers. According to Arne Duncan the head of the Education Department, it will all be done through the Internet with the best teachers in America teaching all the classrooms across the country! You won’t need teachers.
They even have restaurants now where you order on line and literally a conveyor brings your food. You won’t need waiters and waitresses. The first one of those I saw advertised a couple of years ago, actually.
There is a Best Buy store up the road here that I want to focus on. I went there to purchase a card the other night for the camera, and there was hardly anyone in the store. There were a few people looking at TVs and that sort of thing. People love to go and see which is the best TV or which has the best sound system. They get all the information from the highly trained sales staff who is trained in all the various models, their prices, and what have you. Then they walk out the door, and they order it on their “i” device or whatever from Amazon or wherever. They save themselves a few percent, but they are wiping out all the stores. You won’t need brick and mortar stores.
It is getting to the point where we won’t need farmers because tractors are now operated by GPS. All the delivery systems for whatever chemicals they are using is operated by computers, and the tractor drives itself with no people.
You won’t need loggers (tree processors). Soon they will all be done with computers. We have a minister in Australia who is in the mining business. He was telling me they are already using machines that are operated above ground, so you do not need miners. The machines do everything automatically underground.
What, I ask, is going to happen to generate income in the future if none of us are really working? Who is going to generate tax dollars? How are they going to get the unemployment rate down? Who is going to pay into the Social Security Trust Fund? If you want a tip, if you want a secure future, psychiatry is the place to go. We are going to need a ton of psychiatrists.
Is this the Millennium that God has prophesied for us? I don’t think so. We are not going to have a Millennium of isolated home-bound rewired human beings. If God wanted computers and robots, He would have made computers and robots in the Garden of Eden. I am not saying there is no use for computers and no use for robots. Do not get me wrong. I am trying to give you the other side. People need to have all the information to decide how connected they want to be.
Turn to Proverbs chapter 18. In verse 1 there is pretty sage wisdom: “A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; he rages against all wise judgment.”
The more you get isolated into your devices even if you have 10,000 friends around the world, your world shrinks. You are really seeking your own desire. You put yourself in a little box with very little real interaction with people. The Psalmist wrote this a long time ago. There have been people who have isolated themselves from other people for a long time. There are hermits. Really it is an act of selfishness because they don’t want to be bothered with people. That was the point that the Psalmist was making here in the Proverb.
We need each other. There used to be a saying, “no man is an island.” People need people, and the people who are the happiest are the people who are happy because they are around people. God’s Millennium is going to bring people together, not isolate them. When people use their devices, it will be to truly get together. This makes us more in the image and likeness of God.
God wants children, if you notice. He does not want machines around Him. Turn to Genesis chapter 1, verse 26: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
We are made in the image and the likeness of God. He has a mind. He controls His mind. Nothing from the outside controls His mind. If He wants to use something from the outside, He is going to make absolutely certain He is in control of it.
Turn to Genesis 2, verse 7: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”
Notice He did not plug him in! The breath of God came into man. People need people. We have to remember that.
FIVE REALLY GOOD FRIENDS
Let’s go to Proverbs and look at a few Scriptures again. Proverbs 18 and this time verse 24: “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
Before the age of Facebook which is just a few years old, we all knew what a friend was. My father taught us as children, if you go through life and have five really good friends, you did very well. Because that generation knew what a friend was. You could not have 10,000 friends. It was impossible because a friend sticks closer to you than a brother. When you are hurting, when you are in need, when you are lonely, your friend is there. It is not inside a device.
Turn to Proverbs 17, verse 17: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
You cannot love through the Internet or through a Tweet. When you understand what true love is and that it is a willingness to lay down your life for your friend, it negates anything that Facebook would define as a friend. It is not that you can’t get to know people around with these devices, but do not call them your friends. They are acquaintances. They are strangers. They are interesting people who you have had Internet association with. They are not friends. They are not like brothers. They are not like sisters. If you met them, you probably couldn’t stand most of them. You can make yourself appear like anything over a device.
Turn to Proverbs 27, verse 17: “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”
I have had some wonderful discussions even at this Feast site sitting next to one or two of you and really discussing something. That cannot be done when you put out a Facebook page or a Tweet that 10,000 people see and a thousand people respond to. That is not a conversation. It cannot be handled in a deep, provocative, scintillating discussion. You don’t know who is being a fraud by what they are saying either.
I am really only scratching the surface with this sermon. I would like all of you to give it some real quality time. Think about it, and read the studies yourselves. Decide what kind of person you want to be in the future and how much you want to be controlled by devices.
Turn to Luke 11, verse 5: “And He said to them, ‘Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him”; and he will answer from within and say, “Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you”? I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.’”
The point I am making here is even when a friend is annoying and bothers you in the middle of the night, they were close enough that the person in need was willing to go to that friend. He knew he could persist with that person. He says to himself, they will give me what I need to have because they are my friend. It takes that kind of inner personal relationship with our neighbors, the people at work, and our family to be able to do that in the middle of the night.
In John 15:9 Christ explains what friends are. “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another.”
How many in depth conversations did He have with His disciples before He could say this? How many miles did they walk together? How many meals did they share together? How many questions that He answered? How many times was one of them injured, and the rest helped out? The Bible doesn’t really say, but I know John at one place said, if we wrote down everything Christ taught us, the world’s books could not contain it all! That is a lot of in depth discussion! That is a lot of face time.
In the Millennium we are going to be neighbors. We are going to visit. We are going to get together. We are physically going to help each other. We are going to have real gardens and beautiful cities.
Turn to Proverbs 27, verse 10: “Do not forsake your own friend or your father’s friend, nor go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity; better is a neighbor nearby than a brother far away.”
In the last thirty years we have withdrawn from our neighbors. They say there really are no neighborhoods left anymore. Most people can live and die their whole life on a street and hardly know the people next door. It is only getting worse. It used to be families withdrew together in front of the TV set. Now even in the same house, each person will withdraw to their bedroom with their computer, with their iPad, or with their smartphone. They are lucky if they get together to eat.
TECHNOLOGY IN THE MILLENNIUM
Technology in the Millennium truly will be good. It will not alter or rewire our brains because we are made in the image and the likeness of God. It will not appeal to our weaknesses like so many programs and games do. It will not promote isolation or depression. It will not invade our privacy. I am sure there won’t be glasses recording everything that we look at. They will save energy and be good for the earth. Inventions will be kind to the earth. They will create good jobs. Somehow I know in the Millennium there will be good jobs. These devices certainly will not make weaponry that kill and maim and destroy, nor will there be games that promote that kind of thinking.
Let’s turn for the final Scripture to Isaiah chapter 2. We are going to start reading in verse 3: “Many people shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
There will be no more violent games, no more violent TV programs, no more weapons, no more isolation. Neighbors will walk together to the mountain of the Lord to be taught by God.
A SHORT TEST
I would like to make a challenge to all of us here in this room. We are at the half-way point of the Feast of Tabernacles. For the last half of the Feast try this. See if you can go without texting, without Twittering, without face booking, without e-mailing. See if you can do that. Have only “real” fellowship and “real” communication. The first and the best is in person. The second best is writing letters. Write a well written letter or a card, maybe to those who could not attend the Feast. The third best is on the phone. You can use your cell phone. Talk to each other, but it is a conversation, you see. The fourth is no on-line purchases and no going through self-check at the store. Use people! Say, “hi” and “how are you today?” Isn’t the weather great or isn’t the weather crummy? Have some interaction. Mail your gifts. Do not purchase them on line and send them home or send them to your friends. Mail them. There is nothing like getting a package from a friend with a letter inside. See if you can do it. I am sure you can. I feel very strongly that if you can do it, you are preparing for the way technology will be in the Millennium.