Reality check

John Hanke, the CEO of gaming company Niantic, recently tweeted that the idea of the “metaverse” is a “dystopian nightmare.” Niantic, the company behind Pokemon GO is mapping the world, making a database to help future developers of augmented reality (AR) technology. Hanke has an unease about the project, knowing that “bad actors” could abuse such information, but he is still convinced that the metaverse will be a unifying technology for humanity.

We have heard this sort of thing before— Mark Zuckerberg was convinced that Facebook would help bring people together but it’s debatable whether that is the case. Some AR enthusiasts are sounding the alarm— people dependent on layers of technology live “mediated lives.” This kind of mediation soon makes opting out of a virtual world impossible. Hanke is a fan of Augmented Reality, seeing it as an enhancement to real life. However, he sees a distinction between that and Virtual Reality, which he believes pulls people away from others and the physical world. 

Seoul, Korea has announced it is aiming to “enter the metaverse” in the next couple of years, enabling citizens to meet with government officials virtually using VR headsets. Cultural events would also take place “virtually,” and could be joined by anyone on the globe. Disney’s CEO thinks it is “the future” to have our kids blending embodied life with a digital existence. Meanwhile, Microsoft is partnering with Facebook to integrate their online workspaces, making one writer’s summation sound very accurate: the metaverse is Big Tech, only bigger.

Author James Poulsen sees a ray of hope. He is convinced the “cyborg vivarium we’re being herded into” is not inescapable. He writes that we are under the sway of digital technology, but not under its control . We are living beings in a real creation, which puts parameters on our existence that a computer-code reality can never replace. There is a certain irony that Facebook wants to build physical stores to demonstrate its Oculus headsets. So, to be clear, a digital company is building physical stores to display physical items to engage with a digital world. Curiouser…

While digital technology enthusiasts see in it tools for rebuilding the world (literally and figuratively) into a kind of Utopia, it will only be a veneer over the real thing. Manmade reality can never bury the homesickness that fallen mankind tries to suppress. The misplaced hope that a virtual world could bring peace and rest to mankind is answered by The Preacher of Ecclesiastes: while men’s hearts are full of madness, God had placed eternity in their hearts. Mad Christians can boldly proclaim – we are immortal now. Though our outward man is perishing, as St Paul said, our inward man is being renewed until that great Day, when all things are made new. That is a reality worth waiting for!

Here is Iceland’s awesome take on the metaverse: visiting their country gives you an “immersive experience” without silly headsets.

The verdict

judgement scale and gavel in judge office

Kyle Rittenhouse has been acquitted of all charges after a Kenosha jury deliberated for almost four days. The killing of two men and wounding of a third during riots in Wisconsin last year was ruled an act of self-defense. There were celebrations outside the courthouse, with motorists honking their approval of the verdict. However, violence broke out in Portland and other cities with a lot of people taking to Twitter to tweet their outrage. Many doubled down on the unsubstantiated claim that Rittenhouse is a racist, and proposing the only way to fix things is to burn everything down.

Some of these reactions would be understandable if the trial had not been broadcast and the evidence laid bare for anyone who cared to watch. From the beginning, mainstream media “downplayed the mayhem and ramped up the hysteria” surrounding the violence in Kenosha. Reports about Rittenhouse were wrong that he was the aggressor. They were wrong about him illegally owning a gun. They have been wrong about many things.

While humans are always subject to their presuppositions, Mad Christians will know, that news reporting needs to be carefully digested. In many cases, there is no appetite part to report objectively or to get to the truth. It is clear that some of the biggest media corporations wish to promote some specific political agendas, while making it hard for the truth to be discovered in other cases.

In the end, those who will not consider that the facts might go against what they believe will continue to grasp at straws. The coordinated effort by social media, politicians, and journalists to push their radical worldview as acceptable and normal will not fly while we consumers of media are using discernment. They may never be held accountable so long as this fallen world remains, but we do not have to conform to the mindset promoted by the white noise. If anyone feels he lacks wisdom, as James wrote, let him ask God for it, knowing our Father loves to give good gifts to his children.

Trials and errors

The trial of Kyle Rittenhouse was held this week, with his lawyers bringing evidence that the teenager was acting in self-defense when he killed two men and shot another. A key witness for the prosecution admitted, under oath, that he had pulled his gun first, before being shot in the arm by Rittenhouse. The witness, Gaige Grosskreutz, later contradicted his testimony during an interview with CNN, and that version of the story Mainstream Media was happy to amplify.

Rittenhouse took the stand in his own defense, but broke down before he could complete his testimony. The Babylon Bee‘s sarcasm was apt— Rittenhouse had been tried and found guilty by a “bunch of lunatics with blue checks.” LeBron James tweeted that the teen was faking and Merriam-Webster felt it needed to explain what “crocodile tears” are. Yet, despite the efforts of news outlets and social media to obscure or block reports about the trial, interest in it has highlighted the way a hastily constructed narrative is often a skewed one. With the race riots of last summer clearly in view, many assumed the victims were black. It was also assumed that Rittenhouse was the aggressor, but evidence is mounting that that is not the case.

The easy explanation given by large media outlets through last year, is a familiar one— Rittenhouse is a trigger-happy white male who went to a protest to shoot people, because he is a racist vigilante. Journalist Elijah Schaffer was in Kenosha during the events and shares a very different perspective. He watched the riots go unchecked by police and authorities for two days before the citizens of the city took it upon themselves to protect businesses and buildings. He saw residents prevent rioters from setting fire to a gas station, provoking them to chase Rittenhouse.

The court of public opinion will not rest any time soon, but the truth under the presuppositions of media reports is evident if you are willing to dig for it. For many, this trial is about guns and race and rioting. But at its heart is the life and reputation of a young man, who had a desire to do something to defend what he cares about. Whether the tragic shootings could have been avoided, whether Rittenhouse was ill-advised or brave, this case will cause sober-minded folks to reflect on what is worth defending in this decaying age. Pray for wisdom for the judge and jury as they hear more evidence and decide the case. Pray for peace in our nation. 

Spirits in a material world

person holding silver chain link bracelet
Worshippers of the Singularity gathered in Spain recently to discuss the religion of transhumanism. Attendees at the TransVision 21 conference listened to presentations about the promise of immortality as a cyborg, in a Matrix-style future. While that all sounds outlandish and far away, the basic tenets of transhumanism are quietly being accepted at a granular level. Eleanor Cummins has written a piece at Wiredwhich reveals a lot about the strange times we are in. Though she may not have intended to, Cummins draws together a number of threads which show how pervasive the transhuman worldview is becoming.

She notes how conducting our lives online for a year or more has reduced us to a “brain in a jar” mentality. But far from seeing this as  detrimental, Cummins suggests this as a potential cure for society’s ills. She writes that lockdowns and isolation gave “non-binary” people a chance to acknowledge the “dysphoria they feel out in the world.” In other words, mediating our shared existence through digital apparatus has deluded some people into thinking of themselves apart from their physical bodies. She reports this as a helpful revelation.

Cummins then applies this logic to the hot topic of social media’s toxicity to teen girls. Going beyond body positivity (where everyone feels good about how they look), or even body neutrality (which appreciates bodies for what they can do), Cummins suggests we should stop thinking about our bodies altogether. A psychologist quoted throughout the piece hopes the future will mean a complete absence of images of people. Problem solved.

Cummins raises some interesting points about how “self-objectification” and “self-surveillance” are features and bugs of the digital white noise. But the proposed solution is way too simplistic. Reducing inputs is a good thing. Thinking about yourself less is a good thing. But if you are ignorant of the corruption in fallen human nature, digital technology will just curve you further in on yourself. From youths who gazed at themselves in pools, to the trillions of selfies taken today, unhealthy comparison, discontent and alienation from others are often magnified by digital technology.

St James reminded his readers that what causes conflict and discontent is the idolatry in human hearts. “You lust and do not have, so you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with the wrong motives, so that you may spend what you request on your pleasures.” This problem is not one that will be fixed by discarding or ignoring our bodies but by being killed and made alive. Our Savior is the firstfruit, a picture of what we will be. His work begun in the waters of our baptism will be completed, not in a super machine, but in the Kingdom of our risen King. 

Trustless

To the demons, I imagine the internet is like a magical wormhole of happiness. No longer bound to one proximity or another, their images can hop about as they like and even be in many places simultaneously.

The God of many faces is a trickster by definition. Jesus is not a trickster God.Judgment day will be good. 

Till angel cry and trumpet sound,
The Mad Christian

Life imitating art?

Not the Bee brought attention to an interview from 1976, with sci-fi author Arthur C. Clarke. Clarke proposes that the future would see people using a screen and keyboard for news and shopping . He also looked forward to radio wrist watches and phones that are “mobile.” The writer said he likes the idea that future media consumers would be blessed to only read the news they wanted, saving a lot of paper. Ah, Mr. Clarke, if only you knew…

In other tech news, Facebook is attempting to limit political content on its platform. It remains to be seen what Facebook thinks is “political.”

An interesting article from Vice follows the story of a hacker who spied for Apple. Andrey Shumeyko gathered information about stolen prototypes, leaked apps, and “anything he thought the company would find interesting and worth investigating.” Shumeyko says he decided to blow the whistle on Apple’s sketchy dealings when they wouldn’t pay for his service. In other Apple news, the tech giant is backing down on plan to scan photos on devices for child porn.

If airborne surveillance is ever a concern for you, here’s a pro tip— train your eagle to take down drones. Or better still, keep a pet alligator.

The whole wired world

It would seem that many Americans are cutting the cord. At least a little. News outlets recently reported that Netflix is “bleeding” subscribers in the USA.

In the continued tension between privacy and security, tech companies are inventing new ways of verifying who you are. Amazon is offering customers ten bucks (store credit) to store their palm print. And in another “pick one” moment, Apple has said it is building software for its devices that would help in the fight against child porn and exploitation. Sounds good, except this would involve scanning phones and even encrypted messages for explicit images, which has privacy advocates worried.

In some heartwarming tech news, a Japanese robotics company has opened a cafe with a twist. The cafe is tended by robots, which are controlled by remote workers. The robots are avatars for bed ridden or paralyzed people. The cafe gives the workers a chance to engage with people, and combats the loneliness of isolation.

This is no time to panic

The latest hysteria out of COVIDland is that there is a new strain in town. The “delta variant” as it is designated, has produced a lot of headlines, prompting fresh lock downs and mask mandates around the globe. But The Blaze has labeled all the hair-on-fire reporting as “panic porn” masquerading as science. Writer Daniel Horowitz lays out the reasons why the virus strain, which is the predominant one in India, is not as bad as the media makes out. This is consistent with what experts were saying late last year— as viruses mutate they often become more contagious but less deadly. (H/T to kudsid for the story)

A new study has confirmed the very low risk of transmission of the Sars-CoV-2 virus on surfaces. So can we quit with the hand sanitizer already?

ZeroHedge has reported that a few male soldiers sought help for acute chest pain within days of receiving mRNA vaccination.

The American Humanist Society has named Dr. Fauci as its Humanist of the Year for his empathy, compassion, and “steadfast commitment to science.” We’ll just leave that there.

Two can play this game

Vladimir Putin has been trolling as only a super-villain can.  Mr Putin allowed a carefully orchestrated interview with NBC News comparing protests by supporters of his jailed rival, Alexei Navalny to Black Lives Matter rioting last year. Disregarding any facts, Putin said his government is keeping the peace by suppressing his political rivals, in order to avoid an event like the Capitol riot on January 6th. Maybe even President Bush doubts whether Putin has a soul..


Mr Putin also met with President Biden, discussing cyber-security amongst other things. Mr Biden gave Russia three to six months to end hacking of key infrastructure, warning the the US would respond in kind, if pushed.  Given that Russia has been at the cyber-hacking game for a while now, this is probably more political theater with Putin “flipping the script” suggesting that America is the biggest source of cyber-hacking.

You just can’t make this stuff up…