The Internet, Religious Decline, and Digital Witness

The Internet, Religious Decline, and Digital Witness

A study published on Cornell’s blog argues that declining numbers among those who consider themselves religiously affiliated can partially be accounted for by the increasing use of the Internet. This renders the idea of an authentic digital witness all the more necessary.  Continue reading

Cybergrace: From Connection To Encounter

Cybergrace: From Connection To Encounter

It all started back in February, as a typical theology department lunch conversation…

“Who is going to be lecturing at Seton Hall this year?” my colleague Ralph asked. “I don’t know”, I said. He turned to his computer and searched Google for “Seton Hall lecture in March”. After a few clicks, he said “It looks like it’s going to be a Jesuit, Fr. Antonio Spadaro.” Continue reading

Technology and Child Safety

Molly Wood, writing for the NY Times back on March 19th - Review: Ways to Keep Your Devices Safe for Children –

If your child knows your password, iOS 7 lets you establish parental restrictions with a new code. Go to General > Settings > Restrictions. Enable restrictions, set up a passcode, and you can turn off specific options that include app purchases and in-app purchases as separate categories.

This handy reminder came at almost the same time as Adam Graber’s “The Railing Principle” on Second Nature about safety in technology based on Deuteronomy 22:8

When you build a new house, put a parapet around the roof, so that you do not bring bloodguilt upon your house if someone falls off.

Graber argues that modern OEMs, like biblical masons and artisans, have a responsibility to make sure that innovative technology comes with appropriate safeguards pre-installed.

For technologists, this Biblical law commends itself. It offers a principle that can guide ethical innovation. After all, homes were and are technological. Homebuilders—technologists in their day—were commanded to install railings. These railings couldn’t stop every disaster, but they provided reasonable preventative measures. In the same way, every technologist today should be installing railings around his or her innovative devices.

Exactly. Apple can’t prevent every parental failure with children, but it can equip iOS with features that enable responsible parents to safeguard the use of iDevices by children. As Molly Wood notes in her Times piece, this is an advantage that iOS has over Android.

Technology manufacturers have a responsibility to make safe products. Parents have a responsibility to their vocation to create a safe environment for their children. Both are required to truly enhance the lives of users, no matter how young.

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

Especially when you’re Apple. Especially when you’re a parent.

Mindreading from M.I.T.

Better late than never…TGIF

On Tuesday, Yale University News published a story about the ability of researchers at M.I.T. to reconstruct visual representations of faces that subjects were thinking about during a recent experiment.

…Alan S. Cowen, then a Yale junior now pursing an advanced degree at the University of California at Berkeley, wanted to know whether it would be possible to reconstruct a human face from patterns of brain activity…Working with funding from the Yale Provost’s office, Cowen and post doctoral researcher Brice Kuhl, now an assistant professor at New York University, showed six subjects 300 different “training” faces while undergoing fMRI scans. They used the data to create a sort of statistical library of how those brains responded to individual faces. They then showed the six subjects new sets of faces while they were undergoing scans. Taking that fMRI data alone, researchers used their statistical library to reconstruct the faces their subjects were viewing. Cowen said the accuracy of these facial reconstructions will increase with time and he envisions they can be used as a research tool, for instance in studying how autistic children respond to faces.

This has enormous potential; not only for Autism but for better understanding our ideas on the theological value of tele-presence.

“Cosmos”: A Teaching Moment For The Church

30 years after its initial premiere with Carl Sagan and rise to international acclaim, the popular science series “Cosmos” has been rebooted under the guidance of Neil deGrasse Tyson. If social media and news outlets are good indicators, this series, like its predecessor, has stirred the imagination of millions. Its popularity presents a timely opportunity for the Church to affirm its teaching on the relationship between faith and science.

Continue reading

Millennials, Mobile, and Mission

The mobile revolution in computing has affected millennials in the developed world more than any other demographic. Nearly 3/4 of them own a smartphone and are intimately connected to their daily use in unprecedented ways. They live through them, with them and in them. It’s time for all believers to acknowledge that this fact, along with other indicators, has enormous consequences for how the Church imagines its mission. Continue reading

Apple Introduces CarPlay

On Monday, at the Geneva International Motor Show, Apple went public with “CarPlay”, a re-named and updated version of “iOS in the Car”. Starting later this year, Ferrari, Mercedez-Benz, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar and Volvo will debut the in-car version of iOS with many manufacturers (thank you, Subaru) following suit in the future.

Users will be able to access a limited range of apps on their iPhones by plugging it into the USB port of the car. They will then have access to Music, Maps, Messages and Phone apps with further compatibility with other apps coming soon.

This will be Apple’s first venture into non-stand-alone computing or mobile devices and into the “Internet of Things”. The upcoming iWatch will be its second. With both of these set to arrive this year in addition to the iPhone 6 and improved Apple TV, Apple looks to be set for a great finish to 2014.

I doubt Pierre Teilhard de Chardin ever imagined a globe covered with smart/connected cars, but if he had, I’m sure he’d identify it as being one step closer to the Noosphere. It will be interesting what issues this kind of technology raises for theology and the work of the Church. I’m thinking about a praxis of less distracted-driving.