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Symposium 2023


Bytes and Beliefs

This year’s Symposium theme, Bytes and Beliefs: Shaping Our Digital World, grapples with all these questions, considering how our use of technology might actually be a way of loving God, our neighbors, ourselves, and all creation.

Smartphones and ChatGPT. Online classes, lockdown browsers. Self-driving cars and soldier drones. Virtual Communion. New technologies are rapidly shaping the way we live, interact, work, play, and even worship. These technologies are not neutral—but neither is there an exclusively “Christian” form of technology. Recognizing technology’s power to shape and reshape creation, and even our very selves, how do we find the wisdom we need to envision, design, and use it well? Are there biblical themes that relate to technology? What are the ethics and norms that relate to technological innovation and the use of new technologies? How should Christians navigate a digital world?

  • Is technology ever “neutral” in the sense that it makes no claim? Why or why not?

  • Is a stance on technology that rejects or accepts it wholly possible to maintain in 2023?

  • Is technology a tool first, or a set of claims first? e.g. Facebook is both a tool that offers the ability to connect with distant family members, but also a monolith app that subtly tells the public that being on the app is a good use of their time (despite the known issues with social media content).

  • Which is more important to consider in computer technology cultivation: the potential good it can do to society, or the potential bad? e.g. ChatGPT, which offers many good things to users for free but has been given the criticism that it could lead to people’s weakened ability to solve problems using critical thinking.

  • In what ways should technology be used for evangelism? How does this relate to social media, which tries deliberately to serve content to users based on what they alreadylike/approve?

  • How can we be a light in the world using technologies such as social media and AI: Instagram, Tik Tok, ChatGPT, Bard…

  • What does it mean to be a Christian software developer? How does this scale with the role? As a code pack rat, as a project manager, and esp. in a position where your own input helps shape the product.

  • What does digital ministry look like? Do Christians have an obligation/inspiration to adapt their ministry methods to the times, or is this letting the world control and define us?

  • What dangers are involved in the inherent loss of information about the world in the process of storing it into digital computers? We still lack good ways to capture things like human emotions and feelings.

  • Is VR inherently bad? It poses a meaningful escape from the reality that exists around us, a threat to the significance of religion entirely. Why be a Christian when I can be a level 400 mage? Why follow Christ when I’m happy with the tokens and gear I have right now?

  • What is the Christian response toward algorithms that divide? Search indexing, social media, and basically all content that is dynamically loaded after being tailored to your perceived interests has little chance of showing you new ideas except to mock or condemn them, which puts us into factions and bubbles; one person’s experience of the Internet may be radically different from another’s. What can we do about that?

  • Do the solutions to tech issues exist in technology? e.g. What if the solution to division from bad algorithms is solved by intentionally meeting our neighbors, getting outside to know our town and church, etc. Are we getting tunnel vision by thinking of problems and the solutions in terms of technology?

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