In my last post, I said the church must start thinking deeply about technology. To help move our thinking in that direction, it’s helpful to understand the good and the bad of technology.
Let’s start with the good.
The Benefits of Technology
The benefits of technology are almost too numerous to list. Here are some things that come to mind:
- We can easily share and access the most impressive library of knowledge ever assembled.
- We can reach loved ones via phone call, text messaging, or video calling almost anywhere in the world.
- We can keep up with more people than ever before and have more diverse social networks than ever before.
- We can attend college classes without having to stop our lives and live on campus.
- People like me can work from home and live wherever they want if they have Internet.
- We no longer have to stop for directions of pull over to read a map because of navigation apps like Google or Apple Maps.
- We can edit documents in real-time instead of re-typing entire pages or using whiteout to cover up mistakes made on a typewriter.
- We can take and save unlimited pictures and easily share them with friends and family, or the world, if we wish to.
- Non-verbal children and adults with autism or people who have lost parts of their mouth or face to cancer can now speak through a computer.
- Some deaf children and adults are able to hear through implants made possible by technology.
I think you get the picture.
Examples like these should be no surprise because God intended for us to develop technology to make something of the world he created and gave us dominion over.
God made Adam and Eve and placed them in a garden, then told them to be fruitful and multiply, and to fill the earth and subdue it (see Genesis 1:28).
If you fast-forward to the end of the Bible, you see the New Heavens and the New Earth coming together in its most potent form in the New Jerusalem, which appears to be some sort of technologically sophisticated city of the future.
As many have noted, mankind’s story starts in a garden and ends in a city. But you don’t get from the garden to the city without technology.
Technology has made our lives easier and better in so many ways, but it never does so without tradeoffs.
Technology Comes with Tradeoffs
Rod Dreher sums up the tradeoffs of technology (and in particular, the Internet) well in The Benedict Option,
I work as an online journalist and spend most of my weekdays [dipping in and out of social media and skittering from site to site.]
And guess what? It’s wonderful. It has made my life better in more ways than I can count, including making it possible for me to live where I want because I can work from home. The Internet has given me a great deal and does everyday.
But the Internet, like all new technologies, also takes away. What it takes from us is our sense of agency.
… There’s a scientific explanation for that. At the neurological level, the Internet’s constant distractions alter the physiological structure of our brain. The brain refashions itself to conform to the nonstop randomness of the Internet experience, which conditions us to crave the repetitive jolts that come with novelty.
… The result of this is the gradual inability to pay attention, to focus, and to think deeply. Study after study has confirmed the common experience many have reported in the Internet age: that using the Web makes it infinitely easier to find information but much harder to devote the kind of sustained focus it takes to know things.
You may have never thought about the tradeoffs he mentioned because the further along a society is in the adoption of a technology, the harder it is to see these tradeoffs.
My next post will survey some of the tradeoffs of modern, digital technology.