It's Friday night and I'm having a chilled night at home. I turn on my laptop, open up YouTube and scroll through an endless list of suggested videos. It's pretty smart how YouTube works actually. Behind the scenes of this video platform is an ocean of digital intelligence. It learns our interests based on the videos we've watched before. Then just like that. We've got so many options. So many relevant options. No wonder we're capable of binging through countless videos. With every video we click, there's another new list of suggestions relevant to our personal interests.
Then there's my Facebook and Instagram feed. With just a few scrolls, I'm bound to be faced by adverts. Not random ones, but 100% tailored to me. Because just like YouTube, Facebook and Instagram are also driven by digital intelligence. From the pages and content we "like" to the brands and celebrities we "follow", Facebook and Instagram are learning and adapting. And with this information, they allow us to be targeted by businesses who advertise on their platforms.
"Okay, okay" we think. "I'll just quit social media".
A few clicks later, we're innocently browsing the net for that item we've been thinking of buying.
"I might get it, but just not now".
So we close the tab and go over to a different site. Wait...what's that in the banner at the top? It's that item again! But wait, how?! Is this a sign that I should buy it now? Not necessarily. It's just another example of the digital intelligence that tracks us as we're browsing the internet.
Businesses make use of this digital intelligence in order to track and advertise to potential customers. After all, why advertise to a random audience when you can now target the people most interested in what you're offering? It's 2019 and marketing has changed. Better still, the world has changed. And you know what's really crazy? Most of us don't even know it. So we scroll, click and buy, not realising the bigger picture. Long before we decided to buy, there was a digital path put in place to help us make the buying decision.
Don't get spooked!
Now if this is the first you've heard about digital intelligence and modern marketing, it's easy to become paranoid. Take it easy, that's definitely not the aim of this post. Some of these purchases are beneficial for us, and the suggested videos and content can really be useful too. Honestly, it's not all doom and gloom.
Digital intelligence and modern marketing aren't inherently evil. Just like a knife, they can be used for good or evil. A knife can be used to chop an onion (good), but it can also be used to harm someone (evil). Digital intelligence can be used to market useful content, products and services to the people who need them most (good). But it can also be used to market things that are harmful and damaging (evil).
Looking at the bigger picture
Digital intelligence gets me thinking about the realities of Christian living. Look at the following verses:
"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy" - 1 Peter 2:9-10
As we read through these verses, what comes to mind? For me, it's the emphasis on our identity. We're called "a holy nation" - meaning a nation that is distinctly different from others because we're now God's people. We're His children (1 John 3:1-2) - part of His Family. The Sovereign Creator and King of the Universe adopted us into His family. This literally changes everything.
Reading this can fill us with excitement. But it doesn't always feel true. When we're mocked, lied about, mistreated or disrespected, it doesn't exactly make us feel like His children. It can really challenge our thinking at times. Knowing we're His children with a place in His Royal Family, but dealing with the realities of living in a fallen world. A world that doesn't play fair or respect our Royal identity. I know - it really does suck!
But there's an important point to remember in all of this - the reality of where we live. We live in this world, but we're foreigners. The Bible describes us with words like "sojourners" to affirm this reality (see 1 Peter 2:1). We're those who live here temporarily, but have a home elsewhere. We're citizens of God's Kingdom (see Philippians 3:20) but we live in a world that is currently under the rule of Satan (1 John 5:19). Not because Satan's is stronger than God - far, far, far from it. But because the world has been blinded by Satan's cunning ways, just as we once were (see 2 Corinthians 4:3-4). Don't worry - God's going to deal with Satan for his wickedness. But for now, His focus is salvation. Snatching as many as possible from Satan's hands and grafting them into His family (see 2 Peter 3:9-10).
How does this link to digital intelligence?
If the world we live in is under Satan's rule, then it shouldn't surprise us that the world operates under Satanic design. Social norms and morals are being relaxed as evil is treated as good (for example, the acceptance of same-sex marriage in the western parts of the world). And what about the institutions that we tend to rely on the most? Well "experts" are teaching children in schools that "it's normal to explore your own body in a private space if that's something that you want to do, and it can feel nice" (link included at the end of this post). That's right - children as young as 8-11 are being taught in their schools that masturbation is okay...
Just like digital intelligence, there's a satanic intelligence that we can't ignore. Our enemy is cunning and crafty. He'll use anything to persuade us to think like him and yield to his wicked way of thinking. He'll use "experts" and social institutions (like those teaching children that masturbation is good and normal). He'll use crowds to make you feel like you're wrong (like when countless people around you, even those who say they follow Jesus, agree with things that you know are offensive to God). And he'll even use the internet and digital intelligence (through things like sexualised pop-ups and unhelpful content that you weren't even searching for).
Even offline, he's constantly seeking our destruction elsewhere. Take for example,the subject of food and diet (which has been a huge revelation for me lately). In the western world, we're surrounded by fast-food, bakeries and all sorts of sugary treats. But what many of us don't realise is that they're often designed to be addictive, using things like sugar which are said to be more addictive than crack cocaine. Why? So that we keep on buying more and more. The business benefits with more sales and ultimately profit, while the end-users body may be led to early decay.
Don't get me wrong, this isn't to demonise fast-food and sugary treats. In moderation, these things can be enjoyed. And I'm not suggesting that all of these businesses have board-meetings with Satan to scheme and fulfill his will. But the point is that there's a bigger picture we can't afford to miss.
Many of these businesses aren't driven to serve our best interests. They're driven by the desire to make more and more profit. And if they're under Satan's rule and his corrupted way of thinking, then it's no surprise that their motives are purely based on "self" - self-interest, self-satisfaction and selfish ambition. Sound familiar? That's because God warned us that "in the last days...people will be lovers of self..." (2 Timothy 3:1-2). He also taught us a much better way to live (and even do business):
"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others" - Philippians 2:3-4.
Live in this world, but remember we're foreigners...
Please don't let any of what you've read here lead you to fear. As God's children, we have the victory, and our Father will keep, guide and protect us. But on this journey of life here on Earth, we mustn't forget who we are or where we're from. We're from another world - another Kingdom. One that's built on love, righteousness and truth. A world that prefers others in all of its pursuits. But we don't see this fully in the fallen world we live in now. That's because Satan and sin dominate the majority of this present world.
Knowing this, we're not to be afraid, but wise and aware. We can't be ignorant of Satan's tactics in this world (2 Corinthians 2:11). He's cunning and looks for every opportunity, system and strategy to destroy us. But knowing this helps us to be wise in how we live here. We don't just go with the flow of the domain that Satan currently rules (this world). Instead, we remember that we're a "holy nation", living distinctly different from the citizens of this world.
1 Peter 2:11-12
"Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation".
1 Peter 5:8-11
"Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen."