Is technology good for us?
AS I STARTED to think about the word technology, I remembered a conversation with my father. This conversation took place in the late 1980s.
My dad was a retired Lt. Col. of the Honduran Army, and during the ’80s it was very common to hear people say, “All military people are corrupt!”
I asked my father about their comments, to which he responded, “Military people are as corrupt as people from any other profession.”
Every profession reflects the amount of corruption that is present in that society, he explained.
What does this have to do with technology? Before we go there, let’s talk about what this means.
The dictionary defines technology as: “A manner of accomplishing a task especially using technical processes, methods, or knowledge.”
Technology is not neutral, and it can affect us in more ways than we acknowledge.
Given this definition, we can easily recognize that a computer represents a technological device. But what about fire? Is it also a form of technology? Or language? People might not consider running water a technology, just like fire or language, but this is because we are accustomed to it.
That’s why computer scientist Alan Kay said, “Technology is anything that wasn’t around when you were born.”
This definition fits the common perception that technology applies to the new things but not to the things we take for granted.
Technology is all around us, even when taken for granted. It is the fruit of the gift of intelligence we received by the breath of the Spirit when we were created (Genesis 2:7). We were even encouraged to create technology: “The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it” (Genesis 2:15).
We were created intelligent. We were meant to use our intelligence to take care of the garden. We were asked to name the animals, to use language. So there is no point claiming that technology is intrinsically evil.
Technology is as good or as bad as the society where it is created and where it is used. Its use is going to be a reflection of the society that uses it, and technology reflects the amount of corruption that is present in any given society.
The problem with technology lies in our own broken nature. We were created pure, but since the Fall, our sinful nature leads us to use technology for evil — weapons, genetically created diseases, etc.
While some technology is not intrinsically evil, it can harm us by how we use it or by how it affects us — the internet, mobile phones, etc. In fact, any device or use of a device that affects our freedom hurts us in some way. If someone is really anxious when they don’t have access to the internet or their cell phone, are they free or are they enslaved to these technologies?
God wants us to be free, not slaves of sin; not slaves of devices; not slaves of vices. Sometimes, without our own awareness, we chain ourselves to the available technology. Technology is not neutral, and it can affect us in more ways than we acknowledge.
It is critical that we ask ourselves: Am I able to be free of this device? Is the use of this technology hurting me or others? Is the technology helping me or others? Is this making the world a better place? The honest answers to those questions may help us figure out how technology is affecting our lives.
Carlos Arias is an assistant professor of computer science at Seattle Pacific University, where he teaches courses such as “Problem Solving and Programming” and “Concepts in Programming Languages.”