Christian Virtue and Technology

  Quentin Schultze’s Habits of the High-Tech Heart (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002) was a great summer read for me.  To summarize, Schultze argues that though all technology isn’t bad per se, we have to use it with care so it doesn’t end up using us.  Most of us in countries with all kinds of electronic technology pouring into stores and living rooms don’t give a second thought to new technology.  But Schultze calls the reader to be wise, moderate, discerning, and careful when using technology.  Does a certain technology emphasize the trivial things in life or the profound and meaningful?  What are the long-term effects of using this technology?  Will it help or hurt face to face personal interaction and community?  What virtues does it cultivate or impede? 

For example (and this is worth pondering), Schultze wonders why we want a laptop for every classroom child, or why we want to bring the internet to “less fortunate” countries, as if laptops and the internet are the answers to so many problems.  Here are a few other words from Schultze that I liked.

“The benefits of information technologies depend on how responsibly we understand, develop, and employ them in the service of venerable notions of the meaning and purpose of life” (17).

“We ought to face the fact that our cyber-innovations today are running far ahead of our moral sensibilities.  As masters of technique, we imagine quick, efficient solutions to all individual and social problems.  We assume that all we need is more technology, such as access to larger databases and greater messaging capacity.  But if we examine the degree of immorality and incivility online, we cannot help but see the folly of cyber-hopes” (19).

“Newer communication technologies paradoxically are making it more difficult for us to know each other well and to know anything for certain.  We are especially losing any sense of moral purpose in our messaging.  An overdependence on messaging reduces human communication to instrumental means of satisfying our own immediate desires” (49).

There are a lot of other great parts to this book as well.  I do agree that we’ve got to work harder on utilizing technology for the good, contemplating the whole “means/ends” side of it.  To summarize it in theological terms, we should take serious care only to utilize technologies that contribute to our growth in godliness (sanctification), not ones that stifle it.

shane lems

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