The last “big thing” was the internet. Something we all take for granted today. The internet provides us the ability to make significant leaps in our efforts to ensure efficiency and know-how in our life and work. The internet has provided us with the integration of missional strategy and technology.
The internet is fundamentally just about things:
• A set of standards for communication networks to run over existing communication media
• A world-wide collection of software standards for email, file transfers, browsers, web software and mountains of applications and data.
The internet is global. I don’t think we truly appreciate what that means in the context of information sharing. We take it for granted. The protocols and all the infrastructure are designed and keep going through a redesign to withstand attacks from conventional weapons. And if you have not figured out as of yet, this is an on-going battle. But that topic will be for another musing. If you think about the internet concerning economics, the internet is relatively inexpensive in the grand scheme of what it provides. Because of this we saw and are experiencing the evolution of the fourth and fifth industrial advancements using the internet.
Think back to the 1980’s and the use of email, the 1990’s and decision support systems, groupware, workflow and multimedia all in one decade of time. As all this developed and expanded we saw higher bandwidth of physical media, we began to examine and understand the ways humans were interacting with the technology, and we saw the rise of serious research globally in this area such as the MIT Media Laboratory. We saw churches “dipping their big toe” into the waters and coming to realize the internet is giving new meaning to missional church and church planting efforts. Think about what the internet has provided for your church already. Are you starting to just take it all granted? See what I mean?
The internet and all that evolved with it during the 1990’s and 2000’s has given rise to the next big thing: Robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, quantum computing, biotechnology, The Internet of Things, 3D printing, and autonomous vehicles.
We are seeing the collaborative integration of the next big thing such as AI as the core driver of Robotics, quantum computing and biotechnology and autonomous vehicles. When you rethink your mission, rework your church, you can begin to see where autonomous cars enhance the missional church, you see where AI and quantum computing play a role in church planting.
Every judicatory, diocese or governing body of churches is involved in processing data, information, and transactions. Robotic process automation(RPA) is the new form of “clerical processing” using software robots and AI to accomplish the task. True, for many judicatories who are looking to gain efficiencies and accuracies in the workflow process many churches are thinking beyond the efficiency aspects and are examining the cause/effect for people, technology and expanding missions. As in all forms of change, we need to understand what the purpose is today; we need to look at the DNA of the technology and the DNA of the mission. For example, RPA has its roots in screen scraping and automated workflows of the mid-1990’s. AI a term first coined in 1956 at Dartmouth College and gave rise to decision support systems. Let’s not forget that RPA is a developing technology, it relies on the techniques of artificial intelligence, screen scraping, and workflow automation and transforms and collaborates these technologies to perform in a significantly improved way we have never imagined.
I recently facilitated a panel discussion around news ways to automate processes, and this was a look into the future for the participants, and they saw more than just processes being automated they saw their mission and goals expanded. They see RPA in new ways and across more operations than it is today. They don’t see it as a “headcount reduction” but see it as a means to allow their people to be more strategic, more creative in problem-solving issues. More involved in the mission of God.
As with humans and our DNA and how it has evolved over the centuries so too with technology. We will see RPA used together with other types of techniques. Different DNA will be present as the technology emerges. The ability to trace that DNA will always be there just like us humans. Heck, I had my DNA tested by 23 and Me, and ancestry.com, and I have 281 Neanderthal traits, I would have never thought of having any roots to the Neanderthal period of time, but my wife did say it has been evident to her all along, LOL. Think about what technology means. The Neanderthal DNA in me is from 65,000 plus years ago still present today. We as humans adapted over time and our DNA adapted. So, too, with the technology, it will evolve because people have a vision, and realize in the world all workflow and technology will continue to develop. Churches that believe their operations will always exist with autonomous legacy systems they have today will die an “operational death” because someone will “eat them for lunch.” (that is an old technology saying ) The realization that applications will all go through a transformation and integration with other tools so we can achieve the most out of them. Conversion is the heart of the evolution. I find it most fascinating to see the similarities between the anthropology of humans and the anthropology of technology.
As the Fourth Industrial “Revolution” evolves, we will no longer think of AI as something futuristic, and we will stop saying “I see no way that works in my church or mission.” We will see the technology as a self-learning tool and no longer be “rule-based” and will integrate with other systems. One more reason why the system will no longer be stand-alone. We see the technology of the fourth revolution shaping the needs of the church which will mean knowing and understanding your missional strategy will be paramount to the evolution. As technology DNA evolves, we see the new world on the verge of the rise of the new “digital enabled missions and churches.” The church workforces are entering a period of digital transformation. Are you rethinking and reworking your mission?