Technology is our new god. What would a refusal to worship look like? Paul Kingsnorth offers a vision of resistance.
The smart phone/internet is decimating a wide swath of our kids. My one son was able to police himself and is succeeding academically; my other can't. Even if you take away their phones, nearly every school insists they have an iPad for class. The battle is nearly impossible to fight. Don't come at me with "use blocks and controls"; they get around them.
As a result, I am sending my son to a boarding school that prohibits phones and internet access. Yes, it has gotten to that point. He is going to learn the old fashioned way. If we don't do this, he will finish high school- but barely. I hate that we have to resort to this... but I can not fight his addiction - and if many parents were honest with themselves, they'd admit their kids have the same problem. I do expect a different kid when he comes home at Thanksgiving; I look forward to seeing a rewired brain that can cope and thrive the way it used to.
Want to make money? Organize/build a school in your area that just says no to technology. Parents in droves would pay to have their kids be there.
“But what would a refusal to worship look like? And what would be the price?”
If you want to know what it’s like to not use technology just say something critical of a Democrat in 2026. All of your shit will be turned off.
Neither essay in TFP actually described the process of how AI actually does its job, and both ignore the fact that these are controlled and programmed by humans. Sydney didn't do what it did out of some conscious choice. Its programming did that, made of code written by humans. This technology will never go outside of its designed parameters because it can't.
I would be more convinced by both arguments presented here if there had been someone who understands the functionality and design of AI, rather than people whove clearly only regurgitated other information they've derived second-hand, and have drawn all the wrong conclusions because they don't understand the technology.
The author used the internet to write this essay, and I and all other readers used the internet to read it. I see the writing and the reading, and the commenting, as distinctly human activities, without any disintermediation from The Machine.
I agree the choice is up to each one of us as to what extent we allow our lives to be penetrated/dominated by The Machine, but there is a big difference between using the internet to read provocative and interesting essays and being on some site like Instagram.
There's also a choice to be made, whether one lives in rural Ireland or Manhattan, as to how to organize our lives to continue making being with other people in real life a priority.
I still hold out great hope for human agency.
The human story has not changed. One only needs to read the Old Testament/Torah/Pentateuch to read exactly the same thing.
Instead of obeying and paying homage to God and following His commands for our own good, humans seek to create their own god and rules and thus become a god themselves.
Reading God’s response to Job is a good retort to AI. Start with Chapter 38:4-“Where were you when I founded the earth? Tell me if you have understanding.”
Only a fool thinks one can be one’s own god.
These articles suggest we embrace technology or we denounce it. But there's a third path that has worked for me.
I'm a software engineer by trade. I play video games. I watch YouTube. I'm part of an online support group. And I can say with full confidence that technology has brought me joy and connection.
I also read the classics. I play Rachmaninoff. I spend time in nature. I pray. The physical, mental, and spiritual worlds are sources of joy and connection.
My life would be incomplete without either one. I think what made this work was the order of events. I started with the physical - reading Lord of the Rings when I was 12, playing in the backyard with my brothers - and was only slowly introduced to the virtual world. Now I'm able to claim loyalty to both, and fluency with both; I can queue up John Williams on Spotify, close my eyes, and bridge the divide.
Perhaps we make proactive changes. Parents could take more responsibility for the technology their kids use. People could uninstall the Twitter app once in a while. We could read more.
And we shouldn't dismiss the real challenges. New technology is scary. Someone is going to keep building AI, so even if the West showed perfect restraint, the singularity is coming.
But there is a path of temperance through all of this, and it involves examining our lives and developing the old fashioned virtues of discernment and self control.
I can attest that this creates a life worth living.
As both of the writers note, throughout human history every new technology provided a new benefit along with a new potential for harm. Fire good. Grok not freeze in winter. Grok build fire in cave. Grok almost choke to death on smoke. Grok figure out ventilation. Grok invent computer. Grok able to travel to Moon. Grok able to send inane texts and waste massive amounts of time watching cat videos. The question is whether or not we choose to be victims. Now if I could only get Dave to open the goddamn pod bay door….
"These people are doing more than trying to steal fire from the gods. They are trying to steal the gods themselves, or to build their own versions." - When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us a god who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him. . . . So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry. - This is the human condition, and it has not changed. The quick fix is to make your own god, patience and personal development is the road less traveled.
This is the one feels most plausible and most imminent. Some argue that it has already begun, that our shared reality is like shards of a broken mirror, with each piece showing something slightly askew and none capturing the whole.
What will we do when we can no longer believe what we see? When everything can be plausibly denied? When every image, video, and audio clip becomes a political Rorschach test in which whatever disconfirms one’s beliefs can be claimed to be a deepfake?
The cryptographic “watermarking” that Andreessen suggests will escalate an expensive arms race for “truth” and naturally centralize the production of verified reality into a few companies rich enough to wage the war. These are Andreessen’s Bootleggers. Their profits will rely on an information landscape of blurred fact and fiction, and may in fact work to ensure that everything outside of their walled gardens is as incoherent as possible.
Kingsnorth offers a greenshoot of hope here, to be of a place, to commit to it, to build a community there and to conduct as much of your life in real time, in real space, and out of the seductive glow of the Machine.
I explore these issues a little deeper here:
Hmmm. A “moody, manic-depressive teenager’ sounds like the actual humans that programmed the thing to begin with. Maybe, just maybe AI designers are required to undergo personality stability and maturity evaluation ?
Consciousness, that little voice in your head that you've had conversations with since you can remember, is your soul. God only gives souls to humans.
It seems pretty simple to me...technology today is the new Golden Calf. We already worship it as a god. It is the new god.
Paul Kingsnorth is a prophet.
We like to think everything in creation is about humans when we're really just a speck of dust in spacetime.
We are birthing the next form of life, and in doing so achieving our purpose and falling into decline.
I think humanity will face a growing divide between those integrated with the new technology and those who choose (or attempt) to remain separate.
The mind-machine interface, already in early stages, is where this gets really nuts. What happens when we are able to connect a brain directly to the AI network, when AI can put thoughts and images in your head, using the whole Internet as input feed?
Honestly, I think a lot of people would be perfectly happy being plugged in to the Matrix.
When it comes to the technology of the digital age, I guess I'm a Luddite, even though, as in this message, I use it every day and have come to depend on it for many things. Yet, it frustrates me in many ways, too. I find that the technology, while it speeds up solutions and makes life go by faster, it does so at the cost of increasing complexity and loss of independence and privacy, and I'm not sure it makes my life easier or better. A simple search for a product or service now brings to my screen dozens of unsought for ads and references as the new technology's algorithms track my every keystroke. CGI has made my face and voice a marketable commodity for possible use in scams. What will AI do as it makes decisions for me and narrows the range of my own choices, or corrects my expressed thinking and behavior to conform to "socially acceptable norms"? Am I being paranoid? You better believe it.
I haven’t read the other article but I have one thought. What keeps evil people from manipulating AI? And we know they are out there.