“Too many people will never come back.”

Too many people will never come back.” Those are the words of a local pastor. No, he was not talking about people leaving for another religion or denomination or leaving the congregation. Because of our experience with Covid-19, many are waiting it out to see how it all turns out after a vaccine works. The virus is under control before they come back into a physical world of close interaction with non-familiar people. This could take years to bring about a level of comfort for many people. 

Members of many congregations and many in other social groups will continue their “connection” to their churches, through their tithe, mail-in contributions, memberships, and technology via satellite and fiber optic cables.

In conversations over the past four weeks with former colleagues from the world of insurance, banking, supply chain, and consulting, many ask, “Will we ever come back?” Will we ever go back to working daily in buildings? This question is based on the reporting of companies experiencing increases in productivity and reduced operating costs during this period of remote working, leading many to ask for a change in the air? Is a new “normal” evolving?

Social change occurs in phases, and we usually see long periods of assimilation into the fabric of society. Today we are experiencing accelerated change. We are becoming comfortable with technology tools that allow us to have a sensory experience with our communities, whether that is church or work or social worlds. Our institutions are operating with new technologies, establishing new “rules” and altering our sense of time, space, identity, and oneness.

We have seen this change throughout history, first with the agricultural revolution and the story of Gilgamish to the Industrial Revolution. Human beings adapted to living and working in urban areas, experiencing new forms of solidarity and the rise of physical process and automation.

What we are experiencing in this time of Covid-19 is the acceleration of the autonomous revolution and the technologies that are driving the phased change of society. In each phase of evolution, we experience what is called “substitutional equivalences,” That is precisely what we are experiencing in this time of Covid-19.

It is a time when we try to replace one world that we have become comfortable with another world that all too often slaps us on the backside of the head with a most radical and different experience of life that is in many ways functioning similarly as our old world but not identical. And that is where the angst enters our gut. 

What we are experiencing at this time is “Informational Equivalency.”   We are experiencing a large scale substituting the virtual processes of communication, work, and social interaction for the physical ones we have become used too. 

Our world of work, worship, shopping have moved to virtual space and time, and by the mere fact we engage in the virtual processes, we see and experience the form change, the rules change, and our modus operandi change.  Artificial Intelligence (AI)becomes the backbone of our existence. Artificial Intelligence is being used much in the same way as mechanical power replaced muscle power during the industrial revolution. The Autonomous Revolution uses AI to create artificial senses of touch, smell, sight, sound, and to some extinct taste and replace them in our minds and enhance our brains in ways we are just discovering. We are just beginning to see the human repositories of knowledge shifting, evolving to autonomous devices, databases, and knowledge banks. 

Why is this going to be a struggle for humans? Humans do not multitask for starters, and every time we try, the results are usually exercising in failure. Devices, machines, databases are design and function at their optimal performance when they multitask.

Society is changing. We can’t measure that rate of change to be predictive of how adaptation will occur and over what period. Still, the industrial revolution did take about two hundred and fifty years. I think we will see our experience occur must faster.

So as the business of doing business evolves, as our society evolves, how does religion evolve? What now becomes sacred space and time? Will new myths that express realty be created? Will we have a modern myth of God? What a unique set of cultural norms are going to be created? Laws will not handle this new world as well as they did in the physical. What forms of further permission will be granted in the virtual that would never be permitted physically? What new inhibitions are created, and which ones are freed in the new autonomous world?

The autonomous world will take over more and more human tasks and provide new experiences of our world of time and space, but they can never love, feel emotions, or daydream. If we learn to use the virtual to enhance our physical, then the virtual will never control humans. The flip side to that coin is we humans surrender who and what we are as humans, and that ultimately means we are not using and leveraging the virtual to advance our society and well being.

The advent of the autonomous world truly means we need to figure out what it means to be human; what it means to be virtual, what it means to be spiritual. It also means we need to create new myths to express the new reality. 

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