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New inventions can harm or heal. Here’s what makes the difference, says author Douglas Estes.

Our world is on the verge of what some call a Fourth Industrial Revolution, driven by technologies that break down distinctions between the physical and digital. Previous generations could only imagine innovations like artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and biological enhancements, which extend the human experience far beyond our natural ability. Today, however, many of these developments are well within reach.

Even among technological elites, there is no agreement on the complex ethical questions raised by these innovations or the outcomes they might lead us to. Optimists such as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman predict a future in which all diseases will be cured and social challenges addressed. By contrast, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk believes that humanity could be setting itself up for self-annihilation by creating technologies that we cannot fully control.

Douglas Estes, assistant professor of New Testament and practical theology at South University—Columbia and author of Braving the Future: Christian Faith in a World of Limitless Tech, calls himself a tech optimist. He sees great possibilities for the coming future, so long as Christians play an active role in shaping it. Braving the Future is both a guidebook to help Christians understand the coming innovations and a call for people of faith to speak relevant, grounding, hope-filled truth in a rapidly changing society.

Estes spoke with CT recently about his views on emerging innovations, his response to skeptics, and how Christians can participate in the technology conversation.

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