Autopilot without Faith?

Elon Musk threw an epic party in Austin and announced the upcoming full rollout of FSD (Full Self Driving) software. The dual factory launches in Austin and Berlin are astonishing achievements. Elon Musk is doing to cars what Steve Jobs did for phones. It’s an exciting time, but also disconcerting.

My iPhone has kept me on autopilot ever since I was an early adopter right after the product launched. Distraction has become a way of life. The day has arrived when millions of vehicles will award us the freedom to be with our phones even more.

AC/DC crooned about Who made Who in their epic metal hit —- certainly a whimsical anthem for anyone in the tech industry. It’s becoming harder to forge a future that steers us away from autopilot mode with our devices.

I recently did a retreat that essentially became a tech detox. The world needs tech, but humans need their minds back. As autopilot mode consumes us, cognitive loss has done irreparable damage. The kids are suffering the most. The things that once defined us and took decades to develop —- be it faith, presence, love, and purpose —- have become clickable and fungible on a device.

The architects of technology drive the future. What I fear most is that these inventors lack the kind of faith that will outlast their autopilot feature rollouts. A fascinating book about the interplay between work and religion is Work Pray Code by Berkeley sociologist Caroline Shen. Undoubtedly, work became religion at the expense of a more holistic faith-based humanity.

These brilliant attempts to reconfigure humanity are missing something. Perhaps, it’s faith in a higher power. I believe we can reclaim our faith and our families without pursuing autopilot mode. I hope Austin avoids the perils of the ‘live-to-work’ culture that permeates Silicon Valley. Austin has always been about ‘work-to-live’ and ‘working for the weekends.’

The temples, churches, synagogues, and mosques of Austin seem popular and balance out life for locals. Place-based worship has contributed to human identity since the beginning of humanity. As portended by Work Pray Code, what will happen when these institutions wane in the presence of the new lofty tech campuses which offer communities of practice based on a different set of values? Could it be a good thing? It happened in Silicon Valley according to another keen observer. Inevitably, it’s going to happen here. The religious institutions will need to redesign their models of worship to sustain their flock.