Dear CRI Partner:
While what we don’t know can get us into trouble, Mark Twain was on the money in one of his immortal quotes:
“What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know. It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.”
Although some truths hold only for a season, I’m convinced that Twain’s second point is true perennially. And painfully.
In fact, a great many of the maladies in the West generally, and in the U.S. specifically, are often due to people stubbornly believing what just ain’t so.
And few people filet the rampant nonsense with more dexterity than Jay Richards in his new book The Human Advantage: The Future of American Work in an Age of Smart Machines.
But before I let you know why this book is a great read, don’t let the title mislead you. Because it’s about a lot more than work and machines.
For Christians genuinely concerned about thinking and living Christianly — and who care deeply about the future of humanity — Richards tackles pernicious myths and delusions that remain invincibly fashionable among millions of Americans who “know for sure what ain’t so.”
Thus, while not a book on apologetics in a conventional sense, Richards shares insights into vital issues where our ways of knowing will profoundly shape our ways of being. And he shows that how we act now will indelibly influence generations to come.
As evidence that “As the twig is bent, so grows the tree,” Richards cites social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who argues that we are raising our children to be fragile:
Pampered by indulgent parents and then steeped in an academic “victimhood culture,” millions think they really are victims. Some people are harmed by others, of course. But for everyone else, victimhood has become a fragility myth. The grit of Americans who survived the Great Depression and World War II has been replaced with hypersensitive twenty-somethings who need counseling and cry for “safe spaces” if they feel dissed by the librarian. If you spend time nursing grievances, real or imagined, you’ll be crippled by rather than learn from the school of hard knocks.
In his indictment of our educational system that was “built by and for a previous age” and is now sluggish and outdated, Richards writes:
What’s more, college has become the key recruiting ground for every bad idea, especially in the humanities. One literature professor at the University of Chicago describes a discipline that has descended into what she calls the “thrill of destruction.” Students, incited by their professors, spend their time protesting ever more elusive grievances about sex, race, class, privilege, and cultural “appropriation.”
The results are hyper-fragile students. “A 22-year-old can go from raising children to being a child by crossing the street onto a college campus”…Unfortunately, victimhood now starts in many high schools and is then weaponized in college. Every day brings a new story of delicate snowflakes who mark off “safe spaces,” denounce ever tinier “microaggressions,” announce trigger warnings, and issue surreal demands for faculty to submit themselves to seminars that resemble the Maoist “struggle sessions” in the Red China of old.
Richards goes on to note that while “the children of elites can afford such cotton-candy poison,” “the students who suffer the most are those who aren’t backed by family wealth. They desperately need to learn that they can succeed, and then learn something useful to do.”
“Send us students who can write a coherent sentence.”
Where has this taken us? At the business school where Richards teaches, they ask executives what skill they look for most among recent graduates. “They tell us, over and over: Send us students who can write a coherent sentence.”
Although I’ve enclosed an insert with excerpts from The Human Advantage, I’ll briefly mention some of the myths (the “what we know for sure that just ain’t so” poison pills) that could fatally wound our future unless revealed for what they are — myths:
- The follow-your-passion myth: the exhortation to simply and always follow your passion sounds wise, but it’s better suited to valedictorian speeches than a competitive job market. As Richards notes, “Just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you won’t suck at it.”
- The lump of labor myth: that there is a fixed amount of work or labor or jobs (there isn’t).
- The fatalist myth: that somehow the future is predetermined, and the best we can do is accept our fate (patent nonsense, but now passionately believed by multitudes).
- The inequality myth: that structural inequality dooms people to a rung on the socioeconomic ladder from which there is no escape (like other myths, a self-fulfilling prophecy with little correlation to objective reality).
- The fragility myth: that our fragility as “victims” sentences us to be shattered by every setback. (Contrarily, Richards shows how “antifragility” can cause us to improve with each shock to our systems).
- Greed: that greed, often in the form of unbridled egoism, is somehow healthy. (Richards underscores the critical difference between the benefits of enlightened self-interest and the perils of selfishness.)
- Rugged individualism: that the future belongs to those isolated, rugged individuals who can make it on their own. (Richards notes, for example, that Steve Jobs on a desert island would surely have starved to death. Jobs, like others, prospered because they collaborate.)
Let me encourage you to take a few moments to review the enclosed insert. Like Last Call for Liberty, the resource we offered last month, The Human Advantage, seeks to awaken and equip Christians so they don’t fall victim to the dangerous myths that are peddled so incessantly and embraced so uncritically and so perilously by millions of Americans.
There’s no doubt that a younger generation of Christians in particular needs to understand that more and more jobs will be done by smart machines. And they need to plan and prepare accordingly.
But Christians of all ages should read The Human Advantage to understand the increasing threat posed by strong artificial intelligence (AI) and the dangerous growth of transhumanism.
In an age that has mindlessly chugged the toxic Kool-Aid
of materialism, Christians need to be able to defend a growing wave
of attacks on human exceptionalism.
Not only will the marvelous creation and stunning complexity of the human body never be matched by any machine, but our embodiment was such a great idea that God took on embodied human nature Himself in the Incarnation! What’s more, God’s power will insure that through our resurrection, our bodies aren’t just a temporal convenience but an eternal gift!
Because contrast is the mother of clarity, compare that truth to the rants of mechanistic alarmists who contend that “the future will in many ways resemble a sci-fi dystopia ruled by a tiny cabal of capital-hoarding trillionaires in charge of armies of robots and automated factories, trucks, cars, and drones, along with billions of unemployed people with nothing to do.”
Whether for yourself or as a gift for a family member, friend, or loved one, The Human Advantage provides not only penetrating analyses of the nonsense that is engulfing much of our country but also offers prescriptions for antidotes that can resist the madness.
As we continue to strive to “fight the good fight,” please know that not a day passes that I’m unaware of the vital difference your partnership makes here at CRI and in the lives of hundreds of thousands around the globe.
May God bless and encourage you each and every day with the knowledge that you’re making a lasting difference. Not only in individual lives but also in the battles we fight each day for life and truth.
Because Life and Truth matter…
Host, Bible Answer Man Broadcast
P.S. Just one of many nuggets from The Human Advantage: did you know that if you have a smartphone, you have access to tools that would have cost $900,000 in 1980? Or that because of advances in technology, you can now get the knowledge equivalent of an advanced degree from an Ivy League college at little or no cost online?
As you’ll discover in this timely book, smart machines are remaking our world and our future, but they will never be a substitute for “the human advantage.”