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David Hegg: Technology tempts us to taking easy road

Posted: September 2, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: September 2, 2012 2:00 a.m.

To quote Martin Heidegger, the German philosopher and Nazi party leader, is often to evoke wide-scale criticism and rightly so. But in an important area he was right. Thought to be among the most original and important thinkers of the modern era, Heidegger had much to say about technology. In a 1954 publication he stated his position clearly.

“Everywhere we remain unfree and chained to technology, whether we passionately affirm or deny it. But we are delivered over to it in the worst possible way when we regard it as something neutral; for this conception of it, to which today we particularly like to do homage, makes us utterly blind to the essence of technology,” he said.

His primary point was that technology does not come without corresponding consequences to humanity that are both numerous and significant. Of course, we are all aware of the benefits of technology. Just think about the fact that 25 years ago the Internet and cellphones were not part of everyday life. Now we shudder to think of life without them.

And yet technological advancement has come with a cost. I’d like to mention just two of the many attitudinal and ethical consequences I see as detrimental.

First, it is increasingly the case that those most captivated with technology believe that important and monumental tasks ought to be easy to accomplish. What once took hours of planning and work can now be accomplished with the touch of a few buttons. For example, research that used to take hours in the library can now be done in a few minutes on the Internet. More and more when something needs to be done, from organizing material and producing results to having the latest information at our fingertips, our first hope is always that “there’s an app for that.” I fear that technology has seduced us into thinking that anything worth doing had better be easy to do.

Now don’t get me wrong. I have an iPad, Mac laptop and smartphone. I use them all, and don’t know where I’d be without them. But as I watch my grandchildren begin their journey through life, I wonder how they will ever gain the value of knowing that many times, excellence will demand hard work. There just isn’t an app for most of life’s truly necessary things.

The cultivation of character as well as the essential elements of relationships, critical thinking, conflict resolution, and other acts demanding relational courage can never be accomplished through technological devices simply because they demand consistent, focused, value-driven effort. The best things in life are not easy. The best successes in life take sweat, discipline, and perseverance.

Second, I believe technology is seductively addictive. Like the sailor who drinks salt water only to find his thirst more aggravated, our dependence on technology creates an insatiable desire for something still greater, still faster, still more innovative. Buy the best phone today and in a year you’ll probably be scheming to buy the newest one. And you’ll be telling yourself that the old one just won’t do any longer. Never mind that you’ve hardly scratched the surface of its capabilities, the new one just became available and your technological addiction must be satisfied.

With all of his faults — and they are legion — Heidegger was right about one thing. Technology is not neutral, and those who purposefully blind their eyes to its negative consequences do so to their peril. The simplest solution is to see technology as a tool to be used, but never as a master to be served, or a necessary component for satisfied living. Remember, the best things in life aren’t things, and they certainly aren’t electronic.

David W. Hegg is senior pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Santa Clarita.


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