In a realm of bio–technology that already exists, we could all be equipped with sensors within our bodies that could communicate with a central database as to the details of the state of our health, even if we had not visited a doctor for years. We know that the days of driving ourselves are probably limited. A self–driving vehicle – which with sophisticated satellite navigation can recognise exactly what is going on around it – might be a great deal safer than any other mode of transport. Certainly it will not get tired at the wheel, drive at absurd speeds, drive under the influence of drink or drugs, or suffer from road rage. We could give many other examples of what is now becoming possible and will soon become commonplace. All of which means that, as time goes on, we humans will be become of less “use” for what happens around us every day. It is estimated that, in the developed world, at least one–third of current employment options will probably have gone within a very short time, perhaps a decade or little longer. In the longer term, even those functions we might regard as needing the human touch or human ingenuity will be done for the most part by clever machines, connected to extremely clever self–learning computers.
This, of course, raises many questions – economic, social and political – but not least of these, for all of us, is the most existential question of all: “What is it to be a human being?” Most of us find much of our identity – our value – in what we do, or even perhaps what we used to do. If more and more people become – in economic or even societal terms – use–less (without any obvious usefulness in any utilitarian sense), what and where is their identity? What is it to be a human person, if we are of no definable use to society? Interestingly, even those without religious faith see this as a crucial question for humankind. The Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari, who has written extensively on what the future may hold for us, spends a number of weeks each year on what you and I might think of as “a retreat” – pondering and thinking about what it is to be human, although he is entirely secular in outlook and belief.
As Christian disciples, we too have to set ourselves – anew – to think through constantly about what we really are as human persons, why we are set on Earth. The question of the psalmist in Psalm 8, who asks: “What is it to be a human person, that God might be mindful of us?” This is now a question that has to be reduced to its bare bones.
God does not evaluate us in terms of our usefulness. Through grace, we each have an infinite and unique value in the eyes of God, and the call of God in Christ to us is to convey that truth to those who do not see this, or who have never had the opportunity to see it. But it is a truth we can only convey in how we love and in how we live, and in what we believe to be crucial to human living on this Earth – how we care for others (including those who are, in human terms, no “use” to us), and how we care for the creation that God has given to us to protect. We are reminded of this within the Anglican Five Marks of Mission where we are called to respond to human need by loving service and called to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and to sustain and renew the life of the Earth. For the mission of the Church is the mission of Christ.
Read it all(emphasis mine).