Lesson 3: Unrestrained Technology

tech stressTraditional culture provided all sorts of guidelines for relating to our neighbors. Some of you have questioned if there was ever such a thing. You argue I should recognize the US has never had a common story. In the past, our democratic government has simply been able to prevent our present cultural wars.

Perhaps then I should start by speaking of traditional cultures or a democratic culture providing guidelines for respecting our neighbors. You still end up asking what happened.

Suddenly, we find ourselves in an electronic age, which presents new kinds of relationships. People keep in contact with cell phones they consult multiple times every hour. Social media and search engines gather information on our usage that they sell to businesses. Electronic devices in our homes can gather information to track where we are, what we are doing, or what we say without our awareness. Groups spread conspiracy theories by constantly repeating them on social media. Facial recognition and complex algorithms allow unprecedented surveillance.

It is difficult to address these challenges because technology is almost granted an exemption from cultural values and rules. People believe we must use any new advance without question, considered essential for economic growth. Applying any discipline on how this happens is seldom, if ever, discussed.

An article from the Atlantic brings up a new problem developing from this situation, one we are sure to hear often in the future. It warns that the leaders in Silicon Valley are unrestrained in using technology for their own profit and desires. They resist government regulation as an infringement on their freedom but also as an obstacle to economic growth and profit.

The author acknowledges placing the power in the hands of politicians is also scary. Autocrats across the globe are already utilizing modern technology to eliminate opposition as they grasp and maintain power. There is no indication our officials can resist the temptation to advance their own interests.

In the face of these dangers, the article calls for universities to supply information and guidance. It assumes scholarship can provide the new cultural values we need.

Many question if academia is up to the task. It presently faces economic needs and is vulnerable to giving technology a pass on social responsibility.

Bill Vanderburg, a major figure in the Science, Technology, and Society field also believes we have to start with the universities. However, he thinks it will take a major reorganization. Dividing the pursuit of knowledge into independent, isolated departments might seem to be the most efficient way to get a specific job done. However, this reductionism does not address the needs of the real everyday world in which everything is related. Interdisciplinary study is needed if academics are to provide cultural guidance.

After reading the Atlantic article, Myron asked the big question: “Now we KNOW about it, but what can we DO about it?” A good start would be to admit technology, like any other power, must be disciplined if it is to be used wisely and compassionately. Obviously, there will be new understandings in areas such as privacy. Nevertheless, care must be taken that this new power is not used to abuse people.

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  1. paul wildman says:

    Thank you Pastor a most stimulating short tome.

    For mere Moi the US common story has always been twofold – Disney land and your Military = fun and death to the disbelievers (particularly ordinary people like us). Clearly somehow the US needs to attenuate being the most awesome killing machine (of yourselves and others) in history right next to the Xtian church.

    Pastor you make a good point about Silicon valley doing its own thing with us even having AI add to, and changing, our search terms on Google: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=711633611141153 13mts.

    The political class is cravenly corrupt and incompetent in our respective so called democracies. Australian politics is completely craven and subservient to the US just look at the horror of Afghanistan and Julian Assange.

    Sadly also Universities are part of the problem not the solution these days. They are an integral part of the NeoCon Woke State especially in the Anglo world.

    You are right to call for AI not to abuse people however i give this a very low chance of happening as with AI driven Social Credit horror in China.

    All these areas you outline are key areas/battlegrounds/contentious arenas for the Christian church to take a stand and make a difference.

    ciao paul


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