"Is God in cyberspace?" is a question that was posed to Thomas Friedman which he addresses in his latest book, Thank You For Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations. He recently returned to his home state of Minnesota and spoke at the Westminster Town Hall Forum. I wish I could have heard him in person, but thankfully a recording of the talk is online. I've cued it to the part describing his answer to this question here. After listening to this talk while on a run recently, I bought his book.
The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century was the first book by Thomas Friedman that I read back in 2005. I love his storytelling/news reporting writing style and remember being amazed of the new technologies predicted that he wrote about based on his travels and research. This latest book is similar and provides an update on the rapidly changing world in which we live. Friedman outlines three simultaneous changes that are taking place all at an exponential pace: Moore's law, the market, and climate change.
Regarding technology, our interconnectedness, and the cloud (or as Friedman calls it, the Supernova) he explains that a lot of things in cyberspace like pornography, hate sites, gambling, and now even fake news make it seem like God is absent. However, he also points out that God manifests himself in us. If we want God to be in cyberspace, we have to bring him there by how we behave “with the moral choices and mouse clicks” we make.
"Everything is now in cyberspace... We are all connected, but nobody is in charge... In this age of acceleration, we are standing at a moral intersection... One person can kill all of us and all of us can fix everything... What is naive is if we I think we are going to be just fine if we don’t scale the Golden Rule."
For almost the past decade as I have been speaking around Minnesota to students and parents about using technology appropriately, I have shown the image pictured above of the Golden Rule. As I do, I ask audiences if any of them see an asterisk at the end with any sort of note stating "*except when using technology." Of course there isn't one, and I point out that that we all need to follow the Golden Rule even when we are using technology. As I've written before, I explain to the audience the importance of using technology with empathy, compassion, and integrity. I was pleased to see that Friedman calls for this same thing to happen: as more of us than ever before are connected, the Golden Rule is what will ensure that we interact positively with one another.
Friedman explains that future “leadership is going to require the ability to come to grips with values and ethics. We need to think more seriously and urgently about how we can inspire sustainable values like honesty, humility, integrity, and mutual respect.” His solution is that we do this through strong families and healthy communities. These communities aren’t just our local neighbors living nearby. Now our community is the entire planet. Mother nature treats us as one, says Friedman, and our interconnected technologies and machines all work as one, so we too must start to realize our communities are all one.” We have to work together globally in order to get everyone following the Golden Rule. My short summary here doesn't really do justice to how well he says it, so please read the book!
Two years ago I posted that my Christmas moonshot wish was for a marriage between Apple and Google. Although that hasn't happened yet, when I look back on that wish now it seems so shortsighted. Truly what the world needs is so much more than just a merging of two tech companies. We need a universal agreement for everyone to follow the Golden Rule as we interact with one another. Teach your children, your grandchildren, your students, and your community the Golden Rule. On this Christmas, let this be our hope and prayer for the future.