Navigating rapid technological change

We affirm that technology is an expression of our human creativity and our task of benevolently ruling creation as God’s image bearers.

However, technology is powerful both for good and evil. Further, technologies are not neutral, but reshape the world according to values and biases embedded in them. The speed of technological innovations far outpaces our ability to anticipate and evaluate their impact.

Therefore, we call on technological innovators and users to think beyond novelty and efficiency, and to shape and choose our future based on the human, social, relational and spiritual impact of the technology we create.


Thesis Background
Our world is being remade by the digital revolution, faster than our social norms can keep up, let alone ethical or spiritual reflection. Between the utopian technocracy dreamed of by Silicon Valley and a reactionary rejection of the digital world, we must find a way to navigate an uncertain future of our making or unmaking.

6 comments

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  • Agreed. It would be nice if someone was thinking about apps that, for example, improve family cohesion rather than individual gratification. 
  • This is great! I especially like your call to 'think beyond novelty and efficiency'. Our culture is obsessed with those two things to the point of forgetting why technology exists in the first place! I find the idea of 'efficiency' particularly ironic... it seems that efficient technology should enable me to use that technology LESS, but it often seems to have the opposite effect. Given the focus of the technology industry on profitable products, how do you think we can/should help them move away from the lucrative selling points of 'novelty and efficiency'? Can technology be a sustainable enterprise for non-profit groups??
    • author
      Good question! Profitability and prioritising the human goals of technology needn't be opposed - improving quality of life is a great selling point. Also, many digital innovations have been invented with little regard for profitability, such as Twitter, which is a platform in search of a business model.I don't want to be too down on efficiency. It can be a great thing! Positively, efficiency can free up human beings from the drudgery of repetitive tasks to do truly creative and strategic work. But the danger is that we use efficiencies not to free us up for meaningful work and increased leisure, but for stuffing in more and more busywork into our schedules.We need to ask, is a new technology technically more efficient but actually in net harms human flourishing, or does it in its total effects genuinely improve human flourishing?A good example is email - its speed and convenience is a blessing and a curse. It means we can be overloaded with messages and expected to respond immediately 24/7 (as the thesis on work/life balance touches on: http://reformation2017.org/2017/02/14/balance-of-work-life/). The speed of communication introduces a bias towards instant reaction rather than thoughtful reflection.We need to think about "strategic inefficiency" - for example, checking and replying to emails once a day While this introduces a delay, ironically it's likely to be more efficient in the long-term, as well as freeing us up from the tyranny of constant notifications. This example won't necessarily be right for everyone - some people may genuinely need to be able to respond to emails in real-time - but we need to push back against the unreflective adoption of 24/7 connectivity as the default norm, just because that's how our smartphones and other devices have been designed.
      • Great response! I'm going to be reflecting on the idea of "strategic inefficiency"! I also agree that there is no "one-size-fits-all". That's vital. Personally, my wife and I do not have any internet at home, but that's obviously not feasible for many people... With reference to the thesis on work/life balance, how to you see the Sabbath principle fitting into an "always on" culture?