[Paleopsych] Technology News: Technology Challenges for the Next Pope

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Commentary: Technology Challenges for the Next Pope

    By Rob Enderle
    04/11/05 5:00 AM PT

    While new generations have always grown up differently than the ones
    before, the speed of change for coming generations will be
    unprecedented. Organizations which aren't flexible in the face of
    massive change often break, and that, in the end, may be the biggest
    problem the new Pope has to face.

    With the passing of Pope John Paul the II comes an opportunity to look
    back -- as well as ahead -- at the kinds of technological changes that
    can occur in 30 years. In the late '70s we didn't have cell phones
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    positioning system navigation systems; cloning people was the stuff of
    science fiction stories; and [31]IBM (NYSE: IBM) [32]Get the IBM
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    THE provider of technology to the world.

    The definition of life had to do with how much time had passed since
    conception, and, at least at the time, the argument didn't take into
    account breakthroughs in medical technology.

New Times

    Now we are cloning pets and farm animals, and people are not only in
    touch on cell phones, they can talk to each other on the Internet --
    and, as a result, no public figures, particularly priests, have a
    private life. In addition, the technology industry isn't just
    multi-company, it is multi-country.

    With the ability of technology to replace many, if not virtually all,
    critical body functions even after the brain fails, the disputes
    surrounding the definition of life have increased dramatically.

    That's a lot of change, and looking forward, future change is going to
    start coming a lot more quickly. As a result, the next 30 years will
    contain a number of unique challenges for the new Pontiff.

Virtualizing the Bible

    The movie "The Passion of Christ" certainly opened a number of eyes to
    how real an interpretation of the Bible can be and it lays the
    groundwork for what is an obvious next step -- the Bible SIM.

    In ten years, our ability to render to movie-like realities in
    real-time will have been reached. Already there are sites like
    [36]www.heavy.com's "Pimp my Weapon" (which is actually rather
    entertaining in a twisted sort of way) for creating shows using game
    engines for an audience of young viewers. In 20 years or so, our
    ability to place ourselves in these virtual worlds will reach
    unprecedented levels, and it would be natural for someone to
    virtualize the Bible and create a virtual Bible world.

    Being able to talk to a virtual Jesus or God is just the beginning,
    because Christianity is not the only religion out there -- it isn't
    even the biggest, and that suggests that you could have virtual
    debates between religious icons who themselves are simulated to
    various degrees of accuracy. How about a debate between Mohammed and
    Jesus on the legitimacy of the separation of Church and State? How
    about the likelihood of virtual reality TV in this vein?

Looking at the Upside

    The positive side for the new Pope could include exciting new ways of
    educating children about religion in a way that has never been more
    personal as they experience first-hand the events as described in the
    Bible. The downside is this could dramatically increase the
    disagreements around what actually did happen and create a generation
    of well founded experts who fundamentally disagree with current Church
    positions -- and feel they know the material far more deeply then any
    older generation.

    The competing representations of the events surrounding the birth and
    life of Jesus could be hard-fought. Some could even feel that a
    violent response is needed to address what they see as an attack on
    their fundamental beliefs. We have already seen people get addicted to
    online games; what level of addiction could result from the ability to
    talk to a good simulation of God? And what could result if the wrong
    answer was given to a critical question and that answer resulted in a

    Expanding on this virtualization idea, could you actually have a
    virtual church where the Pope spoke to all Catholics directly, and to
    them, personally? We have drive-through and TV-based ministries, so
    why not a virtual Vatican? The Pope would always look young and never
    look sick. If the Pope was on holiday no one would ever need to know,
    and the Pope could avoid most types of physical risk.

    But, for a religious order that hasn't changed its dress code for
    centuries, considering such opportunities may be seen as just short of
    blasphemy. Nevertheless, ideas like these will come up at an
    increasing pace, and, looking at the current Cardinals, there will be
    new ones coming relatively soon, expecting change.

Artificial Intelligence

    If the Church believes strongly that a woman who has lost brain
    function is still alive and a fetus at its earliest stages is human,
    what will they think about a virtual something that emulates a person
    to the highest degree? We have a number of advanced universities and
    well funded companies working at a feverish pace to be the first to
    create true artificial intelligence [37]Latest News about artificial
    intelligence .

    Creating it in the real world is probably more then 20 years out, due
    to the size of things, but creating it in the virtual world could
    start happening as early as next year. Granted, the first attempts
    will be rudimentary, but they should advance quickly. An obvious
    product -- given how much people will currently pay to clone a pet --
    is a virtual clone of a loved one. Basically, what if we could capture
    their behaviors to such a degree that the "virtual" person is to most
    degrees identical to the real one?

    There are actually some games that do a little of this now. In one
    racing XBox game you can model another player and race against that
    model if that other player is not online. This will migrate to more
    complex characters, and the power we will have in about ten years
    should be enough to create an amazingly accurate artificial person.

    It shouldn't be hard to get these constructs to send e-mail, make
    phone calls, and otherwise behave much like the loved one behaved,
    perhaps softening the blow of a loss, or maybe to offset the existence
    of a less-than-ideal real spouse, boss, or child. To some they will
    look alive, and dealing with that could easily be a very big problem
    as we move into the 2020s.

    Now let's take that extra step: We are likely to be able to interface
    into the human body in a complex way in about 15 years. What if, in
    the case of catastrophic brain injury, we tie the body into an
    artificial personality? Is that life? Could the Pope himself continue
    to live on with such technology, and should he?

A Word on Blogs

    How about in the near term? What about blogs? Companies have quickly
    found that executives who blog can pre-release products, embarrass
    their companies, and open the firm up to litigation. On the other
    hand, blogs can bring people closer together. While short of becoming
    some sort of e-mail-based confessional, which I'm sure someone has
    asked about by now, blogging could be a great way for Church officials
    to stay in touch with the Vatican and with their parishioners. If
    allowed, however, how should it the forums be recorded, monitored,

    Those who may be entering the priesthood over the next 20 years will
    have grown up with blogging, will have experienced higher levels of
    virtual reality then ever before, will have seen things that were
    simply not even remotely possible during the last 30 years.

    While new generations have always grown up differently than the ones
    before, the speed of change for coming generations will be
    unprecedented. Organizations which aren't flexible (and the Catholic
    Church is the antithesis of flexible) in the face of massive change
    often break, and that, in the end, may be the biggest problem the new
    Pope has to face.

    Were I a smart Cardinal, I think I'd support someone other then me as
    a candidate for Pope, but regardless, I wish whoever does get the job
    the very best. He'll need it. [end-enn.gif]

    Rob Enderle, a TechNewsWorld columnist, is the Principal Analyst for
    the [38]Enderle Group, a consultancy that focuses on personal
    technology products and trends.


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   37. http://www.technewsworld.com/perl/search.pl?query=%22artificial%20intelligence%22%20artificial-intelligence&scope=network
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