Sunday, February 23, 2014

What Technology Can Never Do

Doomsday prophets and sci-fi writers predict the end of the world as we know it. They give us a vision of an age in which the complex web of technology and expertise that keeps our society moving along unravels in a heap. It all seems kind of unlikely.

Since the wheel was invented around 3500BC technology has been marching forward around the world. It moves faster in some places at some times and slower in others. The progression is undeniable. Irrigation, the smelting of iron, paved roads, gunpowder, the printing press, steam power, electric lighting, internal combustion, the radio, the airplane, nuclear fission, antibiotics, computers, the internet, Viagra, Facebook, Snapchat... it just keeps on going.

The rate of new technology is advancing faster than ever, but the rate at which it betters our lives, the human value of new technologies is slowing down. Some would argue that every new technology unleashes new burdens on us that outweigh the good. Even the internet, the most important advancement of the last 50 years has proved a mixed blessing. It connects us to information. It makes communication faster, cheaper, and easier. It opens up a virtual worldwide free market online. But it also brings us human trafficking, pornography, online gambling, and a tendency to substitute genuine relationships with real people in real places for a virtual presence that is anything but genuine.

There is a lot that technology can't do.
It can't bridge the gap between rich and poor. It can't create a brotherhood of men. Technology can't make us love each other. It does not rescue slaves or feed the homeless. It can not keep marriages from falling apart.

It seems that the best new technology is primarily directed at bringing the rich more entertainment options. We have ever faster and more accessible machines on which to play World of Warcraft and look at porn.

I dream of a day when the advances of the human race are no longer measured in inventions and new products to buy. That is not to say there is nothing left to invent. But it is time we focused less on creating new gadgets and more on using these things to do good. Or to put it another way, our collective creative energy could better be used finding new ways to love and serve humanity than in building a better mousetrap.

Perhaps the next age will be the age of humanity. The age when we break down the barriers that divide races and nations and families. Perhaps it will be the age in which we eliminate starvation and easily preventable diseases (since we already have all the technology we need to do so). Hopefully the next age will be one in which the poor are lifted up and class struggle becomes obsolete. Maybe in the next age we will focus on relationships with real people, getting to know them, learning to love them.

As we look ahead, we should not eagerly anticipate the new technology that will make our lives easier. Our lives are easy enough. We should anticipate a new world where we use what we have been given to serve others. We should anticipate sacrifice and giving up ourselves for others as Christ gave up himself for us. Love and sacrifice are not as sexy as the latest iPhone. But as I move toward Jesus, I long for the advance of this love as I long for the Kingdom to come.

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