As a kid, I bought this book called Where’s My Jetpack? by Daniel H. Wilson. Each chapter focuses on some Jetsons-esque technology that the actual future of 2007 had failed to deliver: Ray guns, X-ray vision, robot servants.
Looking back, it’s mind-blowing how many of these chapters have come true. Self-steering vehicles? Already old news. Flying cars? A flying taxi in Dubai is nearly ready for passengers. Space vacations? Virgin Galactic just completed its last test flight before sending customers to space. Not to mention AI tools like ChatGPT and DALL-E.
My kids will inherit a future that looks much more like—well, the future. But once the oohs and ahs fade away, we’re left with a question:
How do we raise kids here?
To help us tackle that question, here are three things to remember for raising kids in the robot apocalypse.
1. Remember the value of the analog.
Virtual reality, ChatGPT, and even video games have their God-glorifying place. But they carry the same temptation: separation from the real.
We see this nowhere as clearly as the “metaverse.” We can work, play, and even worship in virtual reality. Companies like Google and Meta have staked millions on this future. VR pioneers strive to make the experience ever-more real, incorporating touch, smell, and even taste into the digital realm.
But we already see a burgeoning hunger for the non-digital, as chronicled by David Sax in Revenge of the Analog. As Christians, we have a unique ability to provide a haven from unreality. Our faith has ancient roots. It’s an embodied faith. We meet in a physical place and do physical things. We stand, kneel, lay on hands, eat, drink, and sprinkle or dunk depending on denominational preference.
God fills physical creation with spiritual meaning—not only in corporate worship, but in everyday life. We don’t need to waste energy throwing punches at the latest digital threat. Instead, we can model a love of God’s good, tangible creation: the beauty of stars overhead, the smell of well-tended soil, the taste of food grown in the backyard, the magic of music played from instruments.
We don’t need to waste energy throwing punches at the latest digital threat. Instead, we can model a love of God’s good, tangible creation.GWN News Coach
2. Remember the gift of work.
My three-year-old daughter recently underwent an artistic explosion. We started bringing sidewalk chalk to the playground. The first day, she drew only lines. The next day, she drew shapes. The next, she connected those shapes.
Then came the breakthrough. She drew a swirly circle on a straight stick.
“Lollipop,” she said. “I want to eat that.”
My daughter learned something about the world. She broke it down into shapes. She found a new way to communicate.
But what if she could simply type “lollipop” into an app and receive a perfect AI-generated illustration?
We live in a results-focused world. The promises of AI tickle our desire for absolute efficiency. But when we eliminate the process—the learning, laboring process—we lose something.
This goes beyond art. We could outsource routine emails to ChatGPT. But every pesky email affords an opportunity to think about someone else, to consider our words and their effect on others. What growth do we miss—what connection do we miss—if we outsource those little interactions?
In a world obsessed with convenience, we can show our kids that work is a gift. It’s also a calling. We can lead them to the deep satisfaction of hobbies that require effort: playing an instrument, practicing a sport, learning to code.
This isn’t always easy. Teaching our kids to sacrifice convenience means we will have to sacrifice convenience, too. But that’s part of the point.
The promises of AI tickle our desire for absolute efficiency. But when we eliminate the process—the learning, laboring process—we lose something.GWN News Coach
3. Remember what makes us human.
Consider the phrase “liberal arts.”
This term encompasses such pursuits as history, art, and literature. Here, “liberal” doesn’t carry the modern connotation of “progressive.” It comes from the Latin liberales, meaning “free.” These are fields of study undertaken by free people. Consider also the term “humanities,” and the subjects we bundle beneath that heading.
Why do ChatGPT and DALL-E feel so world-changing in a way other advances don’t? Perhaps because they intrude into these very areas we associate with freedom and humanity. We can accept the idea of a robot on an assembly line. But if robots can make music, paint pictures, write poetry—what makes humans unique?
I suggest a twofold response to this dilemma.
First: We can remind our children of the goodness in these pursuits. Computers can produce convincing pastiches. But it takes a human to imbue a pursuit with meaning. These vocations, like all God-given vocations, are a means of loving our neighbors. That’s something a machine can’t replace.
If we crave an oasis from the colorless AI-generated dystopia, we need look no further than the local library. We lead our kids to good books. We can open their eyes to great works of art. We can expose them to the the Great Conversation of the history of ideas.
Second: We can remind our children that these pursuits don’t give us our humanity—they flow from it. Art, music, and philosophy add richness to our being. They help us live our calling as image-bearers. But they don’t make us human.
What makes us human? We are made in the image of God. (Genesis 1:27) When we no longer find a unique identity in our abilities—when everything we can do, ChatGPT can do better—we must rely on this true source of humanity.
If you don’t believe in a Creator, this quickly leads to despair. But if you do believe, it’s a great hope. No matter how far technology advances, we can never be outmoded.
We are made in the image of God. When we no longer find a unique identity in our abilities—when everything we can do, ChatGPT can do better—we must rely on this true source of humanity.GWN News Coach
Thriving in dystopia
For every despair-inducing question raised by shifting technologies—What is real? Where do we find value? What makes us human?—God’s word gives an answer. We can rest in the goodness of God’s creation. We can carry out the work He gave us to do. We can find our value as His image-bearers.
Armed with those truths, we can take the helpful aspects of technology and leave the rest. We can lead our kids down life-giving, soul-nourishing paths.
Even in the robot apocalypse.