Digital Testament

Can the church be a source of collectice agency to fight against the dangers of the digital economy?

By Asya Shine

In God we Trust.....or so we once did.

What is trust? Trust is the glue to society. It’s the renewable resource of people, and its something we collectively are losing, fast.

Institutions have long governed our society, shaping our morals and values. But studies show our ability to trust intuitions is deteriorating

Why you ask? It’s simple. It’s gotten much harder to discern what is and isn’t true—what are the boundaries between fact, opinion, and misinformation? And technology is only blurring those lines.

Today cities are looking to make sense of the future with technology and their institutions. Developments in artificial intelligence are introducing new moments of confusion and tension for cities and their residents.

Let’s look at Project Green Light, for example. The Detroit‐based policing initiative, partners with institutions and businesses to place surveillance cameras on their premises.

The initiative promises increased public safety for Detroiters and are projected to add hundreds of additional partnerships over the next decade.

What does that mean for the future of public privacy? This diagram illustrates what streets of Detroit currently look like...and their potential in 2030.

But what does diminishing public privacy feel like? On one hand it feels like [insert utopia]. On the other hand, it can feel like [insert dystopia]

The dangers of artificial intelligence lie in algorithms, and how they are trained. Often racially biased and discriminatory towards black bodies, the intersection of public safety, institutional trust, and capitalism can lead to new versions of discrimination.

In response to the growing civil‐rights concerns around facial recognition software, this thesis speculates the repositioning of a long‐standing institution in Black America: the church.

If we look at the Great Migration, the church was black America’s unquestioned guide. At a time where church was the only place of refuge for black Americans, trust was the generative energy that sustained the institution as the mecca of black mobilization.

Today, we are asked to trust a lot more entities: schools, government, financial and medical institutions. The rise of mass media and technology only muddles our ability to discern who is credible and who is not.

And churches have only complicated people’s ability to trust them. Their moral failings and performative nature have led many to find ties to a church to be an unnecessary part of their religious experience.

So what will be church’s saving grace?