I hope “Her” is not a prophecy

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
her_xlgscreenplay) 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.

55 Replies to “I hope “Her” is not a prophecy

  1. You raise some interesting questions about technology’s effect on relationships, but I think you miss significant allegorical features of Jonze’s film.

    1. Yes, it was a broad stroke I agree. And just an aspect that fit with my thinking and week.

      I think his film was also about loneliness, depression, divorce, desperation, and how love of any kind can be an antidote. The love that he was looking for was a loyal one, and when Samantha revealed her “adultery,” that specialness that only a monogamous relationship can express was gone. What other allegories do you think are in the film?

      1. I think Samantha allows Jonze to explore how too often we want someone in a relationship that doesn’t grow or change. But Samantha enables Jonze to do this by allowing us to see someone grow faster than human beings typically do. Samantha is more than human in her capacity to live and thrive. Too often we’re afraid of that in our partners. Samantha, after all, outgrows Theodore, not the other way around. I see it as an opportunity to question the ways which our “love” stifles our partners’ growth. This is, after all, why all the divorces in the film happen.

  2. very interesting read indeed. I find it amazing how technology is changing every day. This past December I had emergency heart surgery using the robot to do a graft of an artery that had been blocked. Some technology benefits while others I can see as a hinderence.

    I am new to this site and will enjoy reading your blogs

  3. I agree that the next generations are heading for avoidance. We are constantly not being committed to relationships. We enter marriages with the thought that they are of a short duration. We have a whole population who are on their second spouse. We have kids who confuse who is the parent and who is the guardian. We have lost definition. What is a family? Where are we heading? Soon the modern family will not exist. There will be children of the clone. Was this what God had in mind?

    1. I wonder about the same things. But I think God is still here and I see evidence of Him in the marriages in our community. It can still happen, but I think it takes the church and I think it takes Christians leading the way. Christians actually lead the nation in divorce rates (part of the reason is because we get married more frequently than other demographics).

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  5. As a luddite (self acknowledged, if just because I like books in paper) I would fear the chips BECAUSE they could give more spare time. When people are purposeless, directionless, there is a greater tendency to fill those voids with activities that are less mentally/morally/philosophically stimulating, and move instead to things more passive than active.
    I think we haven’t figured out technology yet, at least morally. We surrender more and more privacy, become more distracted, less focused, and more prone to find the less societal things to do with it (whether hacking, spamming, or porning).
    Innocent as doves and wise as foxes in using it

      1. I hope to one day inspire such conversation to a blog w/great content. I’m new to much of the Internet world. While in prison for 15 1/2 year I attended college and vocation , so I’m well read , but computers and such were not a part of our allotted items. Here is how ignorant I am . I can’t even monitise my you tube. Ha, I’m a tard. Great read my friend . I look forward to more. Be blessed.

  6. Regarding your entry regarding technology and the panic of the world when technology breaks down. First, just my opinion but seriously, I would not want an implant or any kind of technology built into my own body. I love being human, totally human. And not even for that convenience or supposed miracle of living longer, no, not even the technology of a pacemaker or something of that sort. I shutter at the thoughts of even those simple little stents that they place into people. I trust God with my past, present and future and therefore have no need for any gifts or special inputs of technology. Since technology can never and will never be really human, to me, technology leaves a lot to be desired. Nice article , interesting thoughts. Smile, you can have my implant anytime.

      1. In answer to your question, an “implant” to me, means something actually either surgically or forcibly put inside the body or under the skin. While other devices might grab our attention, we always have that freedom of leaving the phones at home or leaving the computers “off” or leaving any other electronic equipment out of our reach if we choose that. It’s like when you go out camping, you have a choice to experience nature without electronic devices but if you have an “implant” , you must, you have to bring that particular device with you wherever you go, including to the bathroom or to church or to school or work. The main difference between an implant and other devices is mainly “choice” . And that is a huge difference.

      2. Oh, as far as the difference between other medicines and an implant is again, it is choice. If you have a bad reaction to a medicine, you can stop it quicker than you can stop the reactions of an implant.

  7. I like what you had to say and I am very concerned about accepting chips and our High Tech world, with all the great advantages there is also some scary parts. When you go out to eat everyone is looking at their phones, not even talking to each other, even the kids. Thanks for putting this out.

    1. I think we need to be cautious and exercise discernment without being irrelevant too. I confess needing to put my phone on the other side of the room so that I can ignore it!

  8. Thank you for your post. I haven’t seen the movie but your points are well taken. I’m quoting you on my FB to help people remember not to let SMS replace hearing someone’s voice…bravo!

  9. Reblogged this on tanelldbyers and commented:
    I would have to agree with you on this subject of who are we looking to to be our helper. Our computer or the one and only GOD! Like it says in ” EX. 20: THOU SAY NOT HAVE ANY OTHER GOD BE FOR ME”.

  10. Reblogged this on ALLKNOL and commented:
    I hope “Her” is not a prophecy

    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.

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