Thursday, October 7, 2010

Getting It Right, One App at a Time

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 and bargain sites like 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 :).


  1. entropy is the perfect word for the situation you describe. without adding order to a system, the system will fall deeper into chaos. perhaps without understanding this our app makers are attempting to add order to our chaos. unfortunately what they are doing, in my opinion, is turning our eyes away from the impending devastation causing chaos which is sure to ensue as technology grows. technology may be used as the chaos for us. Humans were hunter gatherer types of people, rarely eating grain until aggrarian society made that possible. we ate cows and chickens who ate their natural diet until we realized we could farm them too, and feed them cheap corn as opposed to what makes them healthy animals. their meat doesn't have the balance of nutrients we are supposed to eat and we eat an absurd amount of grains instead of getting 5% or less of our calories from grains. going further it would seem that most technology, it couln't be all since absolute statements certainly have no place in one of my rants, takes us as humans away from our instincts. Couldn't technology be the chaos that needs order? who among us could survive without a cell phone, car, internet access, computer in general, ad infinitum until the problem is rooted out? I am not a proponent of ridding ourselves of technology; very far from that indeed, technology provides us our most important and useful tools. it is with the word useful that i become a zealot. the uses we put technology to are seldom more than pedantic curiosities the masses need satisfied. Youtube can be used to learn a great deal about almost any topic, instead it is used as an idiot box junior, but better than the big box you type what kinds of idiocy you want to watch and voila you have it. Almost every piece of literature has an electronic form, almost every scholarly journal is accessible online. society uses the web to post pictures of themselves on facebook and later when faced with an opportunity to move up the hierarchy of society with a new position, they wish they hadn't posted that picture of them doing a flaming shot on facebook where the information becomes public as opposed to private. society will kill itself with technology; technology will fragment our identities and infantilize our intellect, unless we choose to use technology to become better educated. There is no reason we shouldn't expect high school graduates to know much more than we did at our graduation. All the worlds information is available with a click; expectations should raise as techonology allows us as a society to move faster, to be more efficient, to learn more, to absorb more, to integrate globally.
    forgive any grammatical or spelling errors, i've been doing library research for quite some time now, this has made a wonderful study break.

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