The question each of us has to ask is simple (but difficult): What can I become quite good at that’s really difficult for a computer to do one day soon? – Seth Godin
There are a lot of jobs, well, just about every job has been affected by technology. There are things that people used to do that machines can do better. Seth Godin goes through his list of jobs taken over by tech here, and in all the cases he states we are better off, but being a Youth Pastor can never be replaced by a computer, AI or any technology.
Here’s my short list of why this is true
Tech doesn’t exert faith
Computers may be able to show the greatest preachers on YouTube, play the best worship music on Spotify, etc. but computers are good at spitting out fact based on algorithms, but it can’t have actual faith.
It’s called artificial intelligence, but God doesn’t recognize artificial faith.
Faith requires that a person doesn’t know the answer or have the courage to act. Tech doesn’t recognize it’s own needs, weaknesses, or shortcomings.
Google can offer answers to people with scriptures to questions based on SEO, but that’s not the same as sitting with a students and exploring the scriptures in real time. Some say there’s a ghost in the shell or the machine, but its not the Holy Ghost.
Tech has all code and no Christ.
Tech cannot love us back
Students are sick of artificial everything. They don’t like the fake or the phony and never have. The artificial only becomes acceptable when the real cannot be found. This happens too often as we grow up. We settle and get into rhythms where tech is “the next best thing” to a real friend.
Youth Workers, listen and love in real time. We can love students authentically. Kids can look in our eyes and see that someone is home, someone who loves them back.
Tech can’t empathize
People can have memories of getting their first phone, their first game console, or their first tv, but the real memories are who they communicated with on the phone, who they played with online with, and who they binge watched Stranger Things with.
No one thinks fondly of a tech memory, like “Hey Tech, remember that selfie we took at the beach?” Could that change? Yes, devices are getting smarter but they’re not becoming more empathetic. Devices can do face recognition and maybe determine what it means to be sad and have some platitudes to share with us, but it can never be human.
In the movie I Robot (one of my favs) Will Smith I talking with Sonny, the AI
Detective Del Spooner: I thought you were dead.
Sonny: Technically I was never alive, but I appreciate your concern.
Things that were never alive cannot empathize with something that is alive.
Tech can’t play dodgeball
Pure and simple, no piece of tech can sling a rubber ball at a middle school student with equal amount of joy and glee. A machine cannot rejoice at catching the speeding ball of a High School student who though they had you dead to rights.
Tech can offer fun, but it doesn’t have fun. Kids need fun and not just entertainment. Students need play, but real play is interactive and is filled with shared moments that are one day relived with smiles and coffee. Tech can spit out what we did a year ago on a calendar but it doesn’t know why we did it or why it was important other than I said it was important.
No, tech and computers will never take my job. I use technology in ministry, a vehicle to get personal, not more technological. The kids I Snap, Instagram, and FaceTime know me, know I care, know I seek their best, know I love them. Teens cannot say the same of the technology they hold in their hands, no matter how much smarter is gets.
The old adage stands, “People don’t are how much you know, until they know how much you care”. Tech will never care for my students as much as I do.