I’ve written about my concerns about technological advances in the past. Though sometimes technological advances result in saving people’s lives (medical technology has saved lives of those who are very dear to me), when they become a matter of convenience alone, I’m at something of a loss.
I was intrigued when my friend Michael who is writing a comic book with my other friend Luke did an entertaining Facebook poll where he asked the masses whether or not they might get a microchip, which in his hypothetical didn’t cause physical harm and had no side effects, that would aid them in day-to-day activity. I admitted I’d be suspicious, at least. One person said wondered if we might hold the same prejudice toward pacemakers (I decided I wouldn’t, see above). But another saintly friend of mine noted:
“An implant chip that could monitor/report/address health status issues, enhance intelligence, provide new entertainment/gaming usages, hold/utilize finances, post social network status updates, and call your mother for you, etc., etc., I apwould definitely be taking over for what your brain and friends ought to be doing. I see the beginnings of a new way to control people’s productivity and suck finances from them to get rich. The simpler-living-spidey-sense in me is reeling.”
I appreciate the wariness. I think we need some caution when we get attached to technology. But the truth is most technological advances aren’t so stark and it seems like over time our resistance toward those changes becomes duller, especially if they are more gradual.
I hope we can exercise some discernment before we end up to a place we swore we’d never be. The “gradual” evolution of the Internet over the last decade in example, is still slow enough to manipulate us, but long enough that we can feel being manipulated. We have super computers in our pockets that identify to the government and corporations exactly where we are. I’m sure if presented with that idea 25 years ago, we’d all be in vehement opposition. The government, moreover, monitors our actions, is polluting our air space with drones, and is technologically advancing police and military forces (while also privatizing them) right before our eyes. What kind of world will our children live in?
Google’s infinite presence in our lives is a cause for concern as well. Our staff in Circle of Hope often has trouble with our Google Drive file-sharing system (of which I am often a great advocate), but we wouldn’t likely lose our commonly shared and collaborated-on Google Documents. Google makes forwarding Emails from our circleofhope.net addresses slower than another service might, but I still use it. And the little panic attack that Google caused the Internet last week when Gmail went down for about twenty minutes was so noteworthy, that The Onion reposted its hilarious videocast “Google Shuts Down Gmail For Two Hours To Show Its Immense Power”.
I felt a little inconvenienced. Later in the week when an Emailing snafu disabled an Email forwarding filter I set up, I missed nearly twenty Emails (and insisted once that someone didn’t send me a message!). I felt a little owned then too (the sad part too, the I received the Emails just a few days late and there’s no real crisis, but I panicked anyway). And it’s not just with Google, people have frustration when LTE isn’t available on their phones, or when they get kicked off of the coffee shop’s wireless Internet. I think our need for immediate gratification hurts us by affecting the way that we relate to each other. I had to use my more-than-two-texts-means-I-make-a-phone-call rule the other day because I simply don’t’ want SMS to take over the importance of hearing someone’s voice. I have some friends that tell me that they can’t even do the phone and need to meet in person—I’m down with that too.
Affecting our friendships is one thing, but if Spoke Jonze’s newest movie, Her (which won the Golden Globe for best
screenplay) is any indication of the future, it seems like operating systems might replace our intimate relationships too. (We also might not have any more bound books.) It’s amazing to me because the height of intimacy in Joaquin Phoenix’s with his OS (played by Scarlett Johansson) seems be a sexual relationship. His friend gasps (because she’s also fallen in love with her OS) when he tells her that he has sex with her. Of course, the character was shown having phone sex earlier in the movie and so having sex with an OS really isn’t that much of a stretch.
My roommate told me that this wasn’t too far along from happening. I exclaimed it was way far off. That was more of a prayer against such artificiality and superficiality. Against a future where sexual pleasure, no matter how it’s derived, is the same as an intimate relationship. Of course, panic attacks about Gmail being down isn’t too different (Phoenix actually has a real panic attack when his OS is unavailable).
With all of this said, there might not be many merits to being a neo-luddite. Why would a church planter not be on Facebook or Twitter? Why wouldn’t we try to sell our album online, too? Why wouldn’t we record our PMs and have them available for download? Why wouldn’t I post to Instagram about the great things that are happening in our network? Why wouldn’t I have a blog that I try to maintain?
Paul tells us to be all things to all people in Corinthians. We should have some connection to contemporary technology that we can actually convert its victims. Moreover, we are free to do anything—in the next chapter, Paul tells us we have the freedom to do anything.
But through every circumstance, through every technology, through every single freedom that the world offers us, we need to discern what God wants for us. We are discerning, as Paul tells the Romans, God’s “good, pleasing, and perfect will.” It won’t always feel good, or cool, or even “right” (by the world’s standards) to avoid conforming to its patterns. Our minds being renewed might be a painful process, it might feel unjust, but testing everything is the only way we’ll make sure we aren’t neutral on the moving train, the only way we won’t wake up with a tracking device in our pockets or in love with a computer.