Theological ‘Lock In’ | I Am Not A Gadget | Bad Faith [4]


Lock In [1] ]  [ Lock In [2] ] [ Lock In [3] ]

Our interaction with technologies does have an effect on our personhood. While we may not be gadgets, our tool-use is actually an important part of our personhood. It is one of the things that makes us human.

The danger that Jaron Lanier identifies in his book is actually one of lock-in: because we are tool-users, any tool manufacturer who writes the code that becomes dominant (iTunes / iPod / HTML / MIDI) is going to exert excessive leverage on us as people, and potentially restrict the human part of tool use: being creative. If Apple make a piano that only plays half the octave, that changes the sort of music we produce.

Lanier notes:

The future of religion will be determined by the quirks of the software that gets locked in during the coming decades, just like the futures of musical notes and personhood.

I think this is really interesting, but Lanier doesn’t actually mine the point he’s beginning. Religion – the bindings that we commit to – is an example of lock-in too. It is a codification of life, a set of boundaries, and as such it must, like all technologies, continue to submit to examination: is this increasing our humanity, our potential as created/creative people?

Take preaching as an example. I’ve heard plenty of people preach about preaching, expound theologically on why preaching is the right thing to do. For me, it’s lock in. It’s a set of railway tracks that most churches simply don’t know how to get away from. One of the things that I remember being told repeatedly in classes for my engineering degree was this:

If the people who built the railroads in the US were really interested in transporting people, they’d now own the airlines. But they don’t.

Why not? Because they got locked in. It became about the vehicle, not the journey. The future of the church, and of religion in general, will be dependent on those who are prepared to see the lock ins, and break out of them. Why? Because that’s where humanity lies: beyond the ripped curtain, past the stone door, outside the Temple courts and into the margins.


One response to “Theological ‘Lock In’ | I Am Not A Gadget | Bad Faith [4]”

  1. Excellent examples ! I loved that you even illustrate that the form of software we choose can effect us.

    Aikido is a “gentle” martial art. Classically, two type of beginner students present with problems:
    (1) The Peace Freak: vegetarian, just wants to suppress violence with love.
    (2) The Tough Guy: wants to wrestle and show his power

    Both are locked into their image of themselves and their ways of using their bodies. If they succeed, Aikido will teach them how to choose which technique is most effective and how to have a flexible body and mind. Ironically they will become very skillful at being able to harm people as they become flexibly discerning with the over all effect of a great gentleness.