Technology and Control
Posted on November 13, 2016
When I was a twelve years old, I got a paper route. At first, it was a small route with less than 100 papers to deliver, covering maybe a mile or two. I could have walked it.
But not long after, my newspaper manager brought a group of paperboys together to go "soliciting", essentially door-to-door sales of newspapers (with commission for every subscription we sold). After our group went through my neighborhood, my newspaper route jumped to almost 200 papers, covering 3-4 miles. I supposed I could have walked the route but it would have taken me a long time. After putting a newspaper basket on my bike, I could finish the new larger route in less time than walking the old route.
However, on Sundays and holidays, I had to deliver much larger papers (Thanksgiving was the worst!). I couldn't fit them all in my basket in one trip. So I did what any enterprising young businessman would have done and hired my Dad to drive me. We would bag and load the papers into the back of my Dad's station wagon and I would sit on the tailgate and chuck papers at houses while he drove (and yes it was as fun as it sounds). We would finish in about half the time, even though the papers were often double the size.
So what's my point?
I learned very early on in life that technologies help achieve "maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense". In other words, efficiency. The bike was faster than my legs; the car was faster than my bike; and as newspapers are now finding, the Internet is tremendously faster than paperboys at delivering the news. In fact, they may or may not survive this change in efficiency.
If we're honest, we all want to be more efficient. We want to get more done ("maximum productivity"). We want to make our efforts count ("minimum wasted effort or expense"). We want to make more (impact, meaning, money, etc.) with less (time, cost, effort, etc.). All of these efforts are heralded in capitalistic countries that constantly search for new and innovative ways of thinking and working (think Apple, SpaceX, Google, etc). And there is nothing inherently wrong with these efforts to be efficient.
However, they often mask our real motive:
Our desire for efficiency is often tied to our desire for control.
We want to be in control. We want to in charge. And if we look into the depths of our souls, we will realize that ultimately we want to be God.
Some of you are probably thinking: "Wait, did you just say 'We want to be God'? But I don't want to be God".
But you do (just like I do)! We want our DVR's to record the shows we want. We want our children to go to bed (or at least be quiet so when can watch, listen to, and/or play with our favorite shows or games). We want the delivery person to drop the food off at a point in our show that doesn't disrupt us (somehow they are supposed to magically know when that is). We want the people to text us who we want to text us and the people who we don't want to text us to stop texting us. We want what we want when we want it. Yes, we want to be God. We want the universe to revolve around us.
And this desire is simply and insightfully called "sin": Our desire to be God, to replace Him. We have wanted ever since we fell in Genesis 3.
Now am I saying that technology is just a means to sin? Of course not! (I'm typing this post on my laptop over my home Wi-Fi signal while listening to music on my iPhone). I'm simply saying that technology and the efficiency it is based on can lead us to think that all of this "control" of devices, mediums, and, at times, relationships is all just normal human activity. In other words, it can trick us into believing that it has nothing to do with our sinful nature when in fact it is actually playing right into our desire for control. We must be on guard against the possibility that our technology is making us more selfish and sinful by encouraging us to gain greater levels of control than are healthy for us.
Ultimately, there is difference between stewarding the resources God has entrusted to us and controlling them. In the first scenario, we are servants and God is in charge. In the second, we are attempting to be in charge by replacing God (and we all saw how that turned out last time).
So what does using technology in the service of God look like for you?
I would love to hear your feedback. Leave me a comment and I will respond as soon as I can.