Friday, September 5, 2014

Technology is not neutral: I (almost) don't care!

Essentially, anyone who knows about technology will tell you technology is not neutral. From which technologies get developed, which make it to market, which succeed and why - there are always bigger issues at stake. Technologies are affected by and in turn affect the socio-economic ecologies they exist within. Although some downplay this tech non-neutrality it is such a truism that anybody who thinks tech is a neutral tool for either good or bad uses is simply mistaken. Defining the good and bad is problem enough let alone saying the way I use it is only good. But from there it gets way more complicated.

For Christians who wish to use technology uncritically I want to shake them up but for those that use the concept of non-neutrality as some kind of talisman I want to scream 'stop it!'. Search the internet and you will find plenty of examples.

The non-neutrality comes to us largely from the philosophical schools and history of technology writings nothing wrong with that - good academic analysis. But what annoys me is that Christians often take this and keep repeating it, just to support an argument usually that in some way some technology is bad. My problem is we as Christians should understand that NOTHING, I repeat NOTHING is neutral. Sex, technology, food, building temples, not building temples, giving money not giving money, burning offerings not burning offerings, it is all non-neutral in our relationship with God.

Technology is not some special case. If you want to say technology is not neutral then go on and make a decent point. Can I say it anymore clearly.

Besides the point that what we put in our mouths has consequences for our health so we can use this example...

Paul in 1 Corinthians 8 New International Version (NIV) []
Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God.[aSo then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” For even if there are so-called gods,whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”),yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do. Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge.
or another example
God ordered Solomon to build a temple and even gave him essentially all the plans and when it wasn't rebuilt after the sojourn in Babylon we get Haggai 1.
In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jozadak,[a] the high priest: This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored, says the Lord. 
and yet, and yet as Oz Guinness points out...
 it is sobering to realize the lengths of God's iconoclasm. As the Scriptures show, God is not only against the idolizing of alien gods, God is against His own gifts when idolized. The fate of the tabernacle and the temple are both a warning ... from here 
Technology is not neutral - of course it isn't, but nothing is. It is working out what that means is where the real heavy lifting starts. It is no easy task and over what time frame do you want to consider the impacts. Take the example of the plough, adopted in Mesopotamia in the 5th Century BC. Aside from the fact that the plough was adopted in climates and bio-regions where grains were available and possible to farm (which have improved our health), researchers have found that ...
Women descended from plough-users are less likely to work outside the home, to be elected to parliament or to run businesses than their counterparts in countries at similar levels of development who happen to be descended from hoe-users. The research reinforces the ideas of Ester Boserup, an economist who argued in the 1970s that cultural norms about the economic roles of the sexes can be traced back to traditional farming practices. ... Despite a host of changes over the subsequent centuries—such as industrialisation and higher overall rates of female participation in the workforce—the economists find that variations between countries in the fraction of adult women who work outside the home can be explained rather well by the farming practices of their ancestors. This variation is huge. From the Economist in 2011.
Now that is one heck of a long lived non-neutral decision.... Do you have gender stereotypes - where do they come from?

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