Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Thoughts on Technology

Recently I was handed a copy of a magazine that focuses on technology and how it interacts with our lives. It was filled with articles touting the latest gizmos, exploring the depths of technology's influence in society, and, of course, it had a whole lot of ads from technology-related companies.

I found myself becoming somewhat distraught the further I got into the magazine. By the end, I was troubled, sad, and even a bit confused. If this magazine is a reflection of society and its intentions with technology, then I'm wary of our future. And no, not because of issues like genetic modification or human/robot hybrids.

Mostly because the majority of the technological applications and innovations revolved around entertainment. Computers were touted for their ability to: 1)play movies; 2) organize music; 3)play video games. Portable devices were sold on their ability to: 1)play movies; 2) organize music; 3)play games. There were new "individual movie players" - perhaps you've seen them; they look like eyeglasses but they have tiny video screens inside so you can lock out the world and watch Rambo in isolation. There were new and improved music players, new and improved game players.

And it got me thinking: how does technology help me achieve what I want in life?

Personally, I do enjoy and use technology. I write this blog on my Sony Vaio laptop, posting it to the internet via the church's wireless router. Last week we received our brand now computer at home, and set up a wireless network so I can take my laptop home and we can all share the same system. We own an ipod, and a Playstation (2). Karina and I both have cell phones. I utilize technology for my work, doing sermon research online, keeping in touch with people via email and social networking. I've been able to do some long-distance pastoral counseling by utilizing the internet.

Quick story - On Monday, our ferry was delayed by a tug pulling a barge past the north end of Vashon Island. I took a picture of the barge with my cell phone and sent it to my friend Doug, who drives a tug boat. Just a little moment, just a quick way to say "hey!" Just a way to maintain a friendship during the day.

But, when I think about the things that are important to me, and then I compare it with the lifestyle the technology industry is selling, I find myself more and more at odds with them.

This is what is important to me:
- rich friendships
- deep conversations
- spending time outdoors, enjoying nature
- making music (with real instruments, not fake video game instruments)
- playing with my kids
- reading good books
- being able to bring Christ into the lives of others
- good cheese and root beer

The emphasis of the technological world seems to push against all those ideals. Rich, deep friendships are replaced with instant messages and facebook friends. Music making is changed into music-consuming. "Playing" (by which I mean something tactile, whether running or throwing a ball or playing a board game) is replaced by manipulating a joystick. Good books are replaced by infotainment.

So I have begun to ponder - how does technology affect my life? Is it forcing me to give up the things I love in order to pursue the things I'm 'supposed' to enjoy? How can technology make my life better, when, in reality, most of it is just trying to make my life different (so that I'll buy more of it. . .).

In other words: technology is sold on the backbone of entertainment. I don't want to be entertained. I want technology to make me better at the things I enjoy, not the things it wants me to enjoy. And yet I don't want to become a luddite, shunning technology and ignoring the possibilities it brings.

Perhaps some of you more technologically astute could answer me this: How might technology make our lives richer and better in areas NOT related to 1)watching movies; 2)organizing music; or 3)playing video games? What are some of the advances in technology that might, in fact, give us deeper and richer experiences with people and the world? If we threw out the entertainment emphasis, what's left for me to embrace?

And, perhaps this is the deeper question - for those of us truly seeking life outside of the entertainment mainstream, how do we live in a world where so many in our community do buy into the movie/music/gaming world? If I'm seeking depth, but everybody else is seeking cheap fun. . .how do we connect?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A few of the good things I see technology bring into my life: 1) it gives me a job, 2) it lets me keep in touch with friends all over the world, 3) it educates me when I need to do research (especially health-related issues as friends come down with weird & strange diseases), and 4) it allows me to locate and purchase items I might not have found otherwise, like old obscure tv series or cheeses & coffees.
I do find, however, that many of the things that first fascinated me - games, entertainment sites, etc. - now fail to satisfy and often I'll leave the computer to go find a good book or have coffee with a friend. (Susan)