The Relativistic Machine
According to the World English Dictionary, society is defined as, “a system of human organizations generating distinctive cultural patterns and institutions and usually providing protection, security, continuity, and a national identity for its members.” As we look at the evolution of western society away from arbitrary feudalism into democracy and the rule of law, it should become very clear that the western world is extremely mechanical in its outlook. From the Scientific Method all the way to welfare regulations, most of the western world is on a quest for the formula that will make everything work harmoniously. Much like building a clock, western society has sought a way to build a system that we can kick off, and let it run. But the question is, why?
We can probably trace most of it to the Industrial Revolution and the Modernist mindset. When the sudden explosion of invention and progress happened, it brought with it a tremendous philosophical change. Where previously people had yearned for “the good old days”, they instead looked to the future with the expectation of great progress. This brand of optimism manifested itself in many ways and forms, including the World’s Fairs of the early 1900’s that brought together the most prolific minds to showcase their inventions. This blend of optimism and progress led many to believe that we were building the most perfect of societies where, given enough time, we could overcome any and all obstacles and challenges.
This explains many of our societal quirks. For example, why are we in such an uproar when the government “fails” to protect us from a food borne illness, lead paint in imported toys, or the corruption of a few bankers? Because these showcase the failures of the system. Why do we so jealously guard the system? For the same reason so many try to destroy it… we want our freedom from responsibility. Draft dodgers, the hippies, anarchists– these people all want to be free from the responsibility of being in a society– those in the society are trying to build it to the point that the system can govern for us. For Americans, specifically, there is this mentality that the government is supposed to bear the burden of most of our lives while we do the “bare essentials” to care for ourselves and kick back relaxing for the rest of the time.
However, simply building a machine isn’t good enough. It is a rare individual who think that the law is to be applied indiscriminately to any given set of circumstances. For example, in the opening scene of Les Miserables (the musical) we see a man who has been imprisoned for 19 years because he stole a loaf of bread to feed his starving child and resisted arrest (according to Inspector Javert, five years for theft and fourteen for fleeing arrest). Now, to even the staunchest supporters of the rule of law, it is obvious that the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. This is where the modernist machine faces a collision with post-modern relativistic morality. It is almost like our never-ending quest to create a true Artificial Intelligence extends into our quest to build the perfect society. At the end of the day, the law cannot take into account every exception, exemption and quirk of circumstance that could possibly be presented to it. The law is insufficient to build a perfect society because it cannot bend without shattering its own moral authority.
This quest for the intelligent machine must ultimately end in failure. What many have not yet fully realized is that the machine is only a reflection of the image of the creator. If we want a human society that will be intelligent and responsive, it requires a leader that will be intelligent and responsive. For christian theology, this is relevant because Western Society’s quest for relativistic mechanics is what will ultimately lead both the fall of Western society and the rise of the antichrist. On the flip side, this is also the logical foundation for the millennial rule of Christ. If society is to be holy, it must be led by holiness. If society is to be godly, it must be led by God. If society is to be just and perfect, it must be led by someone who is just and perfect.