“The future is already here; it’s just unevenly distributed,” William Gibson.
The next great religion; and possibly the next major political ideology, to sweep the world will be the worship and glorification of technology.
This faith will become popular because technology; unlike most religions and political dogmas, has actually delivered upon many of its promises. Unlike capitalism, democracy, Marxism, Christianity, nationalism, Islam, socialism, etc. tech has actually improved the lives of average people.
Average people live longer; eat more, enjoy better health, have more money, have access to better communications and more information, and enjoy more entertainment options, than ever before because of technology. In much of the world, this was achieved in spite of government, religion and intellectuals.
The New Faith and the Coming Battle
There are already strong messianic tendencies in the American tech culture. This includes the personality cults that have grown up around figures like Elon Musk and Steve Jobs; the calls for Silicon Valley to “address America’s problems,” and the singularity – the absurd belief that information technology might somehow convey immortality.
Such beliefs could easily form the underpinnings of some sort of popular religion or political ideology. All it would take to spread such a dogma to the masses; would be an effective prophet in the form of a charismatic spokesperson or a talented writer. When this leader appears he or she will find many willing disciples waiting.
It is not hard to imagine a man who spends his workday in front of a computer screen; uses a smartphone and WhatsApp to communicate with friends and family, gets his news from the internet, and plays video games for relaxation turning to the Church of Tech for moral or spiritual guidance. Nor is it hard to imagine such a man casting his vote for the Technocracy Party – which promises to solve society’s problems with tech.
Driving this paradigm shift will be the popular disillusionment with established religion. The available statistics indicate that a growing segment of the population in two of the world’s most influential nations has rejected the existing religion.
People with no faith are now the second largest religious group in the United States; with 72.70 million members or 22.8% of the population, according to the Pew Religious Landscape Study. The nonreligious are now the largest “faith” in the United Kingdom, 48% of Britons admitted to having “no faith” in a poll, The Spectator reported.
Also feeding it is the popular frustration with government and status quo politics. This has already manifested itself in the Brexit vote in the UK and the popularity of disruptive politicians; such as Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, in the United States. Trump in particular has embraced some aspects of technocracy inviting Silicon Valley leaders to a summit, and forming close relationships; with tech gurus like Peter Thiel and Elon Musk.
The organized worship of one tech mogul; Alibaba (NYSE: BABA) founder Jack Ma, has already begun in China. Thenanfang reported that Chinese businessmen have built an altar to Ma and are praying and making sacrifices to it.
This will set the stage for the next great intellectual and ideological conflict: the war between traditional religion and philosophy and technology. We already see the beginnings of this conflagration in all the professors and authors writing books, blogs and articles condemning technology as worthless or soulless.
Predictions for the 21st Century and the Church of Tech
Here are some predictions that can be safely made when this line of thought is taken to its logical conclusion:
- Some sort of popular religion that promises salvation, enlightenment, holiness, redemption, moral guidance and possibly immortality or reincarnation through technology is likely to appear in the next few decades.
- There will be organized opposition and a negative; and possibly violent, reaction to this “faith” from intellectual elites and traditional religious hierarchies.
- One or more widespread political movements that aim to replace existing governmental institutions with technological solutions will appear. An early harbinger of this might already be here in the form of the Basic Income movement; which aims to replace traditional welfare with a flat payment. Another example of this is proposals to replace paper money with cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrency advocate; and Trump supporter, Peter Thiel is reportedly considering running for governor of California.
- There will be organized opposition to these proposals from vested interests, professional bureaucrats and intellectual elites.
- The debate and conflicts over technocracy and technological faith are likely to take on overtones of class warfare. Working-class people that might benefit from technology are likely to embrace technocracy the college professor: who has a secretary to handle his correspondence, is likely to oppose it.
- Organized anti-technology movements and anti-tech philosophies will become widespread but not widely adopted.
- The ugliest battles will occur when the working-class types realize that they might be able to replace the politicians and bureaucrats, with computer algorithms.
- Public intellectuals such as philosophers, educators, theologians, political scientists, journalists and writers will become increasingly hostile to technology. Particularly when it starts threatening their jobs and influence.
- There will be attempts to organize alternative no-tech or less-tech societies particularly by people of faith. There will be efforts to emulate or imitate low-tech societies like the Amish and to revive past societies like those of Native Americans.
- What exactly the Church of Tech will preach is unclear. It might be a totally new faith; or co-opt tenants of some existing religion, such as Christianity or Islam? It might be something like Mormonism; which claims to be Christian yet has a vastly different theology than the historic church. It might even be a faith; like Marxism, that claims not to be a religion at all.
- There are likely to be several competing different Churches of Tech and technocracies; each claiming to the true faith or offer a complete solution to society’s problems. Such a scenario sounds like a prescription for war to me.
Technology is likely to become the basis of our philosophy, religion and politics in the near future. When it does it will mark a paradigm shift as great; and perhaps as bloody, as the rise of Islam or the Protestant Reformation. Whether we are ready for that revolution is anybody’s guess.