Modern Technology and the Human Future: A Christian Appraisal

Ever since the discovery of fire, technology has had some impact upon our society. Sometime it can be good, like the wheel, or bad, like the nuclear bomb. Technology has been made to make incredible advancements in our world, like life saving treatments for disease, while also being produced to end even more lives than it saves. The first book for this month is called Modern Technology and the Human Future: A Christian Appraisal by Craig M Gay, published by InterVarsity Press in December of 2018. In this book, Gay looks at the current environment of mondern technology and asks, “Is this good for us?” By looking at the worldview that comes with modern technology, Gay argues that it is incompatiable with orthodox Christian theology.

“it has been observed that for every additional hour of television beyond the recommended limit a child watches at age twenty-nine months, the odds increase the the child will be more detached and unengaged as a fourth-grade student”

Like other critics of technology, Gay is concerned that the modern advancement of technology is actually diminishing humanity as persons. One of the most significant places he points to is our ability to “outsource” our thinking to machines. Machines are not trained to look at every nuance like the human mind does, they are simply meant to find the most logical and efficient solution. Because of this, humanity checks itself out of the process of thinking altogether. Our modern workplaces have even changed to show this happening. When at first computers were used to help us at our jobs, there are now entire workforces who’s job it is to input data into a computer so it can work with the data. This leads towards having a more unskilled workforce, as most people are merely inputting data or relying on machines to do the work for them. Referenceing Nicholas Carr’s book The Glass Cage, Gay points to it being “determined that human pilots, having become so used to computer control, [have] basically forgotten how to fly their aircraft.”

“We’re going to need to begin to imagine what the implications of biblical religion are for the development and use of modern technology and then to begin to live out of these implications.”

The crux of the argument, for Gay, is that technology is asking us to live more and more outside of ourselves. We no longer think for ourselves and we no longer have face-to-face interactions with our social circles. Our lives are being transformed to be lived in “cyberspace.” Gay says that this does not work for orthodox Christian theology. He argues that we must recognize that God made us to be material beings, living in a material plane of existence, and interacting with other material beings. He says that God makes this point obvious in that He became human flesh, but even beyond that, Jesus’ physical body was resurrected. Our material being has importance in the plan of God.

“Apparently people can live quite happily on bread alone, so it has turned out, as long as they are comfortable, healthy, suitably entertained, and distracted from asking troublesome religious questions.”

As someone who works in a technological field professionally, and adds to the over abundance of content by writing a blog, I am honestly unsure how I feel about Gay’s commentary. He makes a strong argument that, at the very leasts, Christians ought to be careful about what technology they choose to employ. We must continue to recognize that people are created human beings and not representations of data. We can track statistics, web traffic, and behavior patterns as much as we like, but this never tells us a thing about our neighbor down the street. God created us to be people in community, not connected over social media. Personally, there are aspects of modern technology that I still really love. I am able to maintain a 22 year old relationship with a friend that has lived across the country for 10 years. I am employable based on my skills, that would not exist if it were not for modern technology. But there needs to be some level of discipline involved in our use of technology. We are not made to “feed the server,” but are made to be in communion with people and with God.

I recommend this book for no other reason than that it makes you think. It exposes potential idolatry in our lives by asking if modern technology is good for us. I enjoyed the read and have already passed it on to others. Pick yourself up a copy today and join the conversation about our use of technology.