The Economic and Social Impact Of AI On The Church

It is hard to go a day without hearing or reading a story on how AI or robotics might impact the human race over the next twenty years.

Forrester are reporting that 6% of jobs will go to AI/Robotics by 2021 (thats 9 million US jobs) and that currently 47% of all jobs today are at risk as technology develops.

Is it time to panic?

No, and Yes.

Firstly, history tells us that every technological shift so far has ended up creating more jobs than were destroyed; particularly when tasks are automated as you need more human workers to do the other tasks in the process that haven’t been automated.

However, AI is fundamentally different than those previous technology shifts, both in its economics and in the distributed nature of how many roles could be impacted.

Is it time to panic… only time will tell…

What’s the impact?

If we consider that nearly half of current jobs could be replaced, it means that with less people working, there is going to be a considerable shift not just in the economy but also in the social construct as a whole.

People may have more time on their hands, but less money in their pocket.

There may be a huge increase in those that need access to support services like food banks and even a significant reduction in those that want or can afford to travel (especially as we move towards a pay as you go approach to transportation with the likes of Uber).

Are we ready?

Giving will undoubtedly reduce, as will tithing, leaving us with gaping holes in church and charity finances, as people tighten their belts.

The changes in our culture, I believe, will be profound and it is just around the corner (9m jobs gone by 2021 remember…that’s just 4 years away!).

The current model of Church with its focus on events, lights and glitz is already on the decline as we struggle to create true community and connect with people in a meaningful and direct way.

This will accelerate as cultures shift and communities become more important than ever, but as I look at the churches I know, I see most of them thoroughly unprepared for this shift, doing the same things and expecting the same results (results which are often tiny compared to what we saw in Acts — which was community driven rather than events focused).

Peoples needs are going to change, technology will become even more ingrained/embedded and I am concerned that the Church will not be equipped to deal with it.

Time for change

For far too long the Church have been laggards with technology and culture, adapting too slow and being far too cautious.

It’s time for us to set the pace, spot these changes and adapt now and avoid playing catchup to a society that has already moved on before we even noticed.

We need to pool resources and get together and become thought leaders in this if we ever want to have a relevant voice in tomorrows world.

Come on Church, let’s innovate now for the good of the people and the spread of the Gospel.