Technology: Fight the Power

I’ve been musing while away. Wondering: what is technology? It struck me as we tanked along in a car about to seize up that it was nssothing more than raw creation re-worked by human hands. Forged to help us. Rock, sand and timber reined in wild like horses and bridled under our control. In other words, technology and power are intimately connected.

Technology, this taming of raw creation, created power imbalances. I looked from the car today, and saw a man breaking into a trot as he crossed a road, an SUV tanking deliberately for him. And I thought – stripped bare of tools, of technologies, what harm could we do to each other or our environment? So little. A man approaches, wants my wallet. Soldiers march. Criminals raid. Without the technologies they carry, we would be equals: knifeless, gunless, weaponless… Our slaps and fists able to scrap, but, as Lorenz has pointed out, probably unlikely to do much more.

When the first tools were made, the first weapons forged, the branch lifted and used to strike, the sharp stone bonded to make a knife or spear, a choice lay before all humanity: crush that weapon, or take up the same and fight on an equal footing. And so the arms race began. And so the finish-line for our species approached more quickly than we could ever imagine.

Technology has always been about amplifying our power, blowing ourselves up so that with the squeeze of a hot finger on cold metal we could snuff out a life 100 yards away, with the pressing of a foot on a pedal we could accelerate ourselves and two tonnes of internal combustion to 100mph in a city side-street.

So what to do? Go back? Impossible? Seek some Luddite golden age? Foolish. We took raw creation, thought we had tamed it, and realize that it has bridled us. Technology has been used, like religion, to draw power to ourselves. We must now, like religion, channel it to benefit ‘the other’. Turn it round. Turn it upside down. Get out of the ‘command centre’ surrounded by screens and power and switches, and get to the node: facilitating, passing on, feeding, sharing.

We’re getting there. As our technology becomes more ‘complex’, so the centres of power can only begin to distribute, dissolve and work better for the ‘others.’ We’re on a ‘stages of faith’ cycle with it: starting with innocent dreams and wildly optimistic predictions about its power to save, working through our self-centred enjoyment, our struggles and doubts, and hopefully coming to a conjunctive place where we can see the good, even while we appreciate the potential for great harm. That’s what freedom is about. We were given a garden to play in, and inherited creative urges. Perhaps now we’re coming home to daddy and will realize how best to empty ourselves of power for the good of all creation.


4 responses to “Technology: Fight the Power”

  1. otherendup

    Hi Kester,
    i live in Perth, Western Australia and have been following along your blog for a few months now.
    My wife and I were watching the ABC on the box last night and saw a program entitled “Guns, Germs and Steel”, based on the Pulitzer Prize winning book of the same name by professor of physiology at the UCLA School of Medicine – Jared Diamond.
    reflecting on these musings of yours, if not already, you might find the research and finished work something of interest to you. here is a link to a review…
    peace, matt

  2. Dana Ames

    You comments in the first part remind me of what little I understood of “2001: A Space Odyssey” 🙂 I think Clarke was inviting us to think about the same thing.
    I think God made humans tremendously powerful- part of being created in God’s image. The problem comes with what we do with that power- as grabbing unto ourselves, using and manipulating to turn all into _me_ (or else obliterating), overstepping others’ boundaries and colonizing them, singly or by nation- or else as gift, as node, ‘working better for the others’… This is different than emptying ourselves, which I’m not sure we are able to do anyway. It’s more like Transformation, or the EO concept of Deification. One of my favorite quotes is from Dallas Willard in ‘Divine Conspiracy’: God wants to be able to set us free in the universe to do good.
    BTW Kester, I finished the book last week. It was rather wonderful reading it during Advent and Christmastide… Did not disappoint. Lots to think about, esp how to live it in my local context. Hard to put words on it. I’ll be going back to it for sure. Makes me want to fall down on my face and worship, and jump up and down at the same time- my qualifications for a Good Book!
    Only part I think you missed was the ‘Matrix’ thing- ultimate resolution did not come with fighting/violence, but when Neo was integrated/joined into the ‘machine’- which actually speaks to me for conjunctivity rather than against it. (My best friend says Neo was a program rather than a person, but I can’t wrap my brain around that concept…)
    I read the part about punk giving permission then blazing out to my children ages 19, 18 and 16 one evening around the dinner table, and 18yo daughter was in fairly complete agreement.
    Thanks, and warmest wishes for a blessed new year.


    Like any sane person, I have always feared technology. And being the very height of technological marvelousness, I have naturally loathed and despised computers.
    Computers are expensive, time-consuming and will only ever do what they are told!
    But, computers represent some very powerful themes: knowledge, communication, education, leisure, control. It is these factors that allow us to develop relationships with people from all over the world; develop our own skills and knowledge; allow us to question more deeply and independently; enjoy more vividly and broadly; control more confidently and securely.
    I am a better, more rounded person for the skills I learn through computing; for the friends and contacts I have; for the contribution I am able to make. My on-line world is varied, challenging and valuable. But it only remains so because I have such a varied off-line world.
    I could walk away from my on-line world forever and not be the worse for it. If I neglect the off-line (real) world, I suffer.
    And this is the great tension. To enjoy and learn without becoming obsessive and reclusive.

  4. I’d recommend Albert Borgmann’s book, Power Failure, which offers an interesting critique of the ‘culture of technology.’