What are the stories we tell about technology and even, What is technology?
Here’s a few more questions to consider:
5. What is the value-system embedded in particular kinds of technology? Twitter conditions us to consume small bits of information – the quick soundbite reigns. Microwaves – and the inglorious TV dinner – gives us the ability to eat in 4.3 minutes flat. The switch on our heater is sure convenient – no more collecting wood, tossing it in the stove, and heating our homes. But what of the manual laborer who does collect and gather wood – perhaps those nice folks who give us Christmas trees each year. Does having a gas furnace mean we depreciate the one who works with his or her hands (“Ugh, that’s a machine’s job.”)? What are our tools saying to us? Do they communicate values about what is (and isn’t important) without us even knowing it?
4. Do we need to set limits on our technology use? The case has been made that our smart devices need boundaries. But do we cry out to limit our use of lights? (They are, after all, a relatively recent technology. Neither Abraham of Ur nor Abe Lincoln had them.) So what kinds of technology need limits and which are more innocuous?
3. Is technology just a neutral tool, or is it an unstoppable, culture-shaping force? The instrumentalists would say, “Technology isn’t good or bad. It just depends how we use it.” The determinists would say, “Technology is a super human force. Our machines are slowly taking over.” So which is it? Or neither?
2. Have Christians unfairly critiqued technology? Certainly we’re in a fray about the obsessive texting of fourteen year old girls. But didn’t our parents say the same thing to us about hours on the phone? Christians are often accused of being Luddites (In 1779, Ned Ludd was fed up with the “takeover” of machines during the industrial revolution. When somebody found a machine destroyed, people would whisper “Ned Ludd did it.”) Is this true? Have Christians unfairly critiqued technology – or have they unthinkingly not critiqued new technology enough?
1. What is role of technology in God’s plan of redemption? For those working in the “tech sector,” this is the central question. If we are going to participate in God’s mission through our work in technology, then the heart of the matter is this: what kind of technology, then, should we make?
First part of this post appears here: 10 Questions We Should Ask About Technology (Pt. 1).
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This post was published October 1, 2013
Jeff Haanen is a writer and entrepreneur. He founded Denver Institute for Faith & Work, a community of conveners, teachers and learners offering experiences and educational resources on the gospel, work, and community renewal. He is the author of An Uncommon Guide to Retirement: Finding God’s Purpose for the Next Season of Life and an upcoming two-book series on spiritual formation, vocation, and the working class for Intervarsity Press. He lives with his wife and four daughters in Denver and attends Wellspring Church in Englewood, Colorado.