WeeklyTech #73

Launching a book in a pandemic

Just over nine month ago right before the pandemic hit the United States, I launched my first book with Zondervan called The Age of AI: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity. I will never forget the release on the morning of March 3 and then finding out later that day that our area had its very first case of COVID-19. Because of my wife’s chemotherapy treatment making her high risk for the virus, I decided to work from home for a week or two until things leveled out a bit. Little did I know that I would still be working from home all these months later as the virus continues to spread in our communities and my wife starts another round of chemotherapy as the cancer has come back. Needless to say, it has been a rough year in our household.

But looking back on these last nine months of the book, I am greatly encouraged to hear stories of how the book has helped people navigate some of the tough challenges and questions of technology, namely AI, with the hope of the gospel. Some of my favorites stories have been hearing how young people have had their eyes opened to the influence of technology in our lives, how a teacher used the book in her class to teach about AI and ethics, how pastors are being equipped to navigate these challenges in their churches, and how families are using the book to start conversations about how they want to challenge each other to use technology wisely.

When I began the journey of writing this book, I never thought that we would try to launch it in a pandemic. Honestly, it has been quite a challenge at times. I have been blessed to be interviewed by a number of outlets about the book and have been able to do a bit of online engagements, including talks with local churches as they moved to an online format. It has been really encouraging to see people engage with the book and begin to think more deeply about the role of AI in their lives. I have really enjoyed the feedback and reviews online as well.

Right at the end of March, some retailers stopped shipping books as they rightly prioritized essential items because many were beginning to quarantine at home. Books sales across the industry plummeted. Obviously a number of speaking engagements were canceled or postponed indefinitely due to the virus. We also weren’t able to have a launch party with friends and family like we hoped. I was able to sign some copies on launch night at our local Barnes and Noble but haven’t been able to visit other retailers in person due to our need to quarantine because of my wife’s health. But through it all, God was faithful and good to us. And thankfully he is still using the book to build his church.

In the book, I hope to equip the local church to let God’s word drive how we develop, utilize, and interact with artificial intelligence in our families, work, and society. We do not have the luxury of waiting to see how this technology will affect us. We must proactively engage these technologies instead of waiting to see how they will impact our communities.

As questions abound on how to think about and use AI, Christians are called by God to engage the pressing issues of our day with wisdom driven by love of God and love of neighbor.

If you haven’t checked it out yet, I would be honored if you would consider purchasing a copy and letting me know what you think. You can use the link below to pick up a copy or check out your favorite local bookstore, many of which are doing curbside service now. If you would like to plan an event for your church, ministry, or group, please email us and let us know how we can serve you. You can also buy in bulk and save up to 50% through a special program with Zondervan. Find out more about bulk purchases here.

The Rundown

We’re working longer days during the pandemicAxios

Americans have been working an average of 32 more minutes a day since the beginning of the pandemic, according to research from software maker Atlassian. While 32 minutes may not seem like a lot, that extra time working is adding up and contributing to a rapidly escalating crisis of burnout among American workers.

Announcing the Oversight Board’s first cases and appointment of trusteesOversight Board

More than 20,000 cases were referred to the Oversight Board following the opening of user appeals in October 2020. As the Board cannot hear every appeal, we are prioritizing cases that have the potential to affect lots of users around the world, are of critical importance to public discourse or raise important questions about Facebook’s policies.

Net neutrality fight is about to come roaring backCNET

An old battle over who governs the internet will likely reignite as Democrats take control of the Federal Communications Commission following the inauguration of Joe Biden. Reinstating Obama-era net neutrality rules thrown out under the Trump administration will likely be a top priority for the agency, experts say. 

Massachusetts on the verge of becoming first state to ban police use of facial recognitionThe Verge

Massachusetts lawmakers this week voted to ban the use of facial recognition by law enforcement and public agencies in a sweeping police reform bill that received significant bipartisan support. If signed into law, Massachusetts would become the first state to fully ban the technology.

The Children of PornhubNew York Times

That supposedly “wholesome Pornhub” attracts 3.5 billion visits a month, more than Netflix, Yahoo or Amazon. Its site is infested with rape videos. It monetizes child rapes, revenge pornography, spy cam videos of women showering, racist and misogynist content, and footage of women being asphyxiated in plastic bags.

Parler’s got a porn problem: Adult businesses target pro-Trump social networkThe Washington Post

The site’s lax moderation policies, in keeping with its claims to being a bastion of free speech, could make it a magnet for pornographers, escort services and online sex merchants using hashtags targeting conservatives.