It’s popular for people to say that spread of technology into every aspect of our lives is inevitable.
To quote robot collective The Borg, from the Star Trek – Next Generation TV series: “Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.”.
This idea of inevitability is especially heard during discussions of data collection and privacy. People who refrain from using a “free” app or social media platform because of privacy concerns can sometimes be met with the inevitability argument:
“What difference does it make if you join/use [fill in name of popular web service/app]? If your information isn’t all ready out there, it will be. There’s nothing you can do about. That’s the way things are.”
For those who hold this mindset, the game is over. The die is already cast. Someone somewhere decided that the devices we use will work a certain way – requiring that we use their services at a price they determine. That price, be it our personal data, our location, or the full content of our correspondence, is set in stone, and to believe otherwise is folly. To participate in the modern world (where everyone else is), this is the cover charge.
While we love technology here at bytesandbelief.com, I have to say that I’m frustrated with this point of view. First off, it suggests that the only options that are available are the ones that are presented to you. Most of us choose the technology solutions we have because they are either the easiest option, they are ones that our friends are using, or they are the only alternatives we’re aware of.
Secondly, the idea of inevitability is typically brought out to act as a lubricant – something that eases people into doing something they don’t fully understand or don’t want to do. As soon as something is framed with the argument of inevitability, most of us tend to throw up our hands, and fall in line with the rest of the crowd.
Don’t confuse what I’m saying in this post. There is great potential for good in technology – especially when it comes to the growth of God’s Kingdom (Ed Stetzer wrote a nice post last year on how tech can be used to expand God’s Kingdom. Read it here). The problem is that believers must understand that our priorities (Christ spells them out in the Sermon on the Mount) are different the rest of the world. Therefore we must make sure that our use of tools, including technology, is conformed to those priorities. The digital tools that are now part of everyday life can be used to help us address God-given priorities. That’s great. But these tools aren’t built exclusively for that purpose. In fact, they are typically designed to appeal to the largest audience possible. They are designed to appeal to those on the broad road, not those going through “the narrow gate”. They can be used for Christian purposes, but these tools often appeal to worldly priorities such as self-centeredness, approval-seeking, control, and lust. If appealing of these priorities brings more users to technology, then rest assured that the design of future devices will move further in that direction.
Therefore, accepting technology unquestioningly because it is “inevitable” just isn’t a tenable viewpoint for followers of Christ. We should be willing to embrace technology on every level, but only after understanding how it helps us pursue the cause of Christ.
This will require more work and thought from us. It also may make us stand out from everyone else. But as the “salt of the earth”, isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?