Billy Graham’s TED Talk on Technology, Faith & Human Shortcomings

In 1998 Billy Graham challenged the tech community to solve three problems.

In February of 1998 the Rev. Billy Graham gave a TED talk titled Technology, Faith and Human Shortcomings in Monterey, California. In the talk he speaks about how he met with leaders in silicon valley and how, for him it was an eye opening experience to hear these leaders talk about the world that is yet to come through technology and science. He said:

“I know that as you have been peering into the future and as we’ve heard some of it here tonight I would like to live in that age and see what is going to be – but I won’t because I am 80 years old – this is my eightieth year – and I know that my time is brief.”

Presenting a vulnerable speech, Graham spoke candidly of his own mortal frailties. He also acknowledged that the TED event wasn’t his typical speaking venue. As a clergyman you can imagine how out of place I feel – I feel like a fish out of water…”

But at the heart of his speech Graham paralleled the tech boom in the late 90’s to the introduction of iron in Israel, during the reign of King David, which changed Israel in single generation. Graham suggested that during that early iron tech boom David recognized three issues that were challenges for humanity. These are three problems that tech hasn’t solved – and they are still with us today.

Graham then asked how do we stop the following three problems:

1.) Human Evil - Graham asks: How do we change humanity so that we don’t lie and cheat and do evil? He even goes so far as to challenge the company Oracle to take up this problem. "The problem is not technology," said Graham. "The problem is the person or persons using it." Quoting Einstein he said: “It is easier to “denature plutonium than to denature the evil spirit of man.”

2.) Human Suffering– Graham asks: How do we use tech to end poverty and provide for basic needs? He acknowledges that progress has been made but he implies that there is still a long way to go.

3.) Death– Graham said, “technology projects the myth of control over our mortality.” Obviously grappling with his own mortality in his progressively failing health Graham states “Death is inevitable” as he then goes on to testify to the love of Jesus Christ. Graham went on to live nearly 20 more years following the TED talk.

Reality Changing Observations:

Q1. Of the three problems that Billy Graham identifies, which do you think is the hardest for technology to solve and why?

Q2. In your opinion, what are some problems that are low-hanging fruit for technology to solve to reduce human suffering?

Q3. If you had the power to immediately fix one of the three problems that Billy Graham identifies in his talk – which would you choose and why?

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