Jumping off on a topic related to my last post, I've been thinking lately about something a professor in one of my classes in seminary said (if you're not religiously inclined, no worries, just stick with me for a second). She said something like, "We think that if we get our hermeneutic just right, we'll be able to figure it all out." I think that my obsession with technology sites like lifehacker.com and bargain sites like fatwallet.com is like what that quote is getting at. Combined with combing my twitter feed to be in the know about what's going on with what I care about in the world, I think I've really bought the fallacy that quote exposes. If I just get the right app (or combination of apps) I'll finally have my life managed. I'll be an optimized human being! No need of defragging here! "There's an app for that." A lot of us have really bought into that. But is there an app for managing my existential angst? Is there an app that will tell me what I'm supposed to be doing with my life? Is there an app that will improve the quality of my character, make me more compassionate, empathetic, understanding, and truly loving of those around me? In other words, what is the meaning of our use of technology? How can we come to terms with the automatic and automated, second-nature style use of technology? How deeply ingrained in our psyches is it? How does it really help us?
In the comment section of the last post, Duncan's brilliant phrase "so now we're lost and have only 160 characters to get found" really resonated with me. I checked out "Ghost in the Shell" on his recommendation. I only saw the first and original movie, but there's a lot else out there. Here's what I took away from the film: as technology becomes more integrated into the human person, the lostness increases. There is increasing entropy. Yet something new is born in the human-cyborg-hybrid connection - technology literally taking on a life of its own. And of course of interest to a former seminarian, the evolved sentient lifeform breathing and speaking in the interconnectedness of the "web" announces its ghostly presence in the words of 1 Corinthians 13: "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." Why would Kazunori Itō, the film's writer, include such an archaic reference in a futuristic world that seems post-humanity, and thus post-religion? I'm not entirely sure what the thesis of the film is, but I know I was moved by it. With all this technology, we're on the edge of something, the implications of which we don't totally understand. Yet I think I have some idea of what Paul is getting at in the quoted verse: there are some things, weighty things, that apps can't manage or help us with. There are some things we must manage by ourselves. The dehumanizing cyclonic swirl of technology might just be "resounding gongs and clanging cymbals." Since we're never going to have all the information, since life will always surprise us in joyous ways and horrible ways all the same, what can we do about it? I would love your comments, but in the meantime I have to go see what I missed in my rss feed and keep up with my facebook correspondence :).