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Are killer robots in our future?

Robots at the USR Factory, awaiting final programming and processing prior to shipment (Credit: Twentieth Century Fox)Today's headlines are dominated by the escalating violence in Iraq, continued civil war in Syria, a suicide bombing in Nigeria, and the early stages of the Boston Bomber's trial.  Meanwhile, here's a story you may have missed: killer robots may be in our future.

Robots are already working alongside humans in factories and warehouses, where they load boxes, drill and weld car parts, and move food from one conveyer belt to another.  But they are about to become far more ubiquitous, from driverless cars to delivery drones.  Robots have already caused at least 33 workplace deaths and injuries in the U.S., and the next generation will have much more autonomy and freedom as they interact with us.  As a result, manufacturers are developing extra protective measures and software designed to keep robots from contacting humans.

Here's another technology story you may not have seen: personal mini-helicopters are coming.  Six European research institutions are working on small commuter helicopters.  A prototype dubbed MyCopter is already in the testing phase.  A company in the Netherlands is also developing a small car that can turn into a helicopter, with plans to market their invention by 2016.  Begin saving now: their flying car will cost around $300,000.  Of course, if we all begin flying around in our personal aircraft, safety and environmental issues will be monumental.

In Surprised by Hope, theologian N. T. Wright discusses the "myth of progress," which he describes as "the idea that the human project, and indeed the cosmic project, could and would continue to grow and develop, producing unlimited human improvement and marching toward a utopia."  He traces this myth to the Renaissance and European Enlightenment.  Scientific and economic advances, coupled democratic freedoms and wider education, produced "a strong sense that history was accelerating toward a wonderful goal."

This myth motivates much of the social and political activism of our day.  With help from government and society, our hard work can make our lives better in every way, or so we're told.  However, as Wright points out, the myth of progress cannot deal with evil.  Technological advances enabled Hitler to create the Holocaust; the Internet has spawned a global pornography epidemic.  Robots and personal helicopters, like any technology, can be used for evil or for good.

In Isaiah 45 God declares, "Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth!  For I am God and there is no other" (v. 22).  Our salvation is in the Lord and not in ourselves.  Self-sufficiency is spiritual suicide.  God cannot do for us what we try to do for ourselves.  If you're seeking purpose and significance apart from complete submission to Christ as your Lord and King (Galatians 2:20), you're looking in the wrong place.  But if you'll walk through this day yielded to his Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), he will mold you into the character of Christ (Romans 8:29) and use your life for his eternal glory and your greatest good.

To those who seek to hear and obey his voice, "your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, 'This is the way, walk in it'" (Isaiah 30:21).  Are you listening to God today?

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