Wired/"Why I (Still) Love Tech: In Defense of a Difficult Industry

PFD

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https://www.wired.com/story/why-we-love-tech-defense-difficult-industry/

An interesting article by software engineer and tech CEO Paul Ford about how far technology has progressed in the past century and, more existentially, what "progress" means and actually looks like.

When I was a boy, if you’d come up behind me (in a nonthreatening way) and whispered that I could have a few thousand Cray supercomputers in my pocket, that everyone would have them, that we would carry the sum of human ingenuity next to our skin, jangling in concert with our coins, wallets, and keys? And that this Lilliputian mainframe would have eyes to see, a sense of touch, a voice to speak, a keen sense of direction, and an urgent desire to count my actual footsteps and everything I read and said as I traipsed through the noosphere? Well, I would have just burst, burst. I would have stood up and given the technobarbaric yawp of a child whose voice has yet to change. Who wants jet packs when you can have 256 friggabytes (because in 2019 we measure things in friggin’ gigabytes) resting upon your mind and body at all times? Billions of transistors, attached to green plastic, soldered by robots into a microscopic Kowloon Walled City of absolute technology that we call a phone, even though it is to the rotary phone as humans are to amoebas. It falls out of my hand at night as I drift to sleep, and when I wake up it is nestled into my back, alarm vibrating, small and warm like a twitching baby possum.

...

No one loves tech for tech’s sake. All of this was about power—power over the way stories were told, the ability to say things on my own terms. The aesthetic of technology is an aesthetic of power—CPU speed, sure, but what do you think we’re talking about when we talk about “design”? That’s just a proxy for power; design is about control, about presenting the menu to others and saying, “These are the options you wanted. I’m sorry if you wanted a roast beef sandwich, but sir, this is not an Arby’s.” That is Apple’s secret: It commoditizes the power of a computer and sells it to you as design.

...

People—smart, kind, thoughtful people—thought that comment boards and open discussion would heal us, would make sexism and racism negligible and tear down walls of class. We were certain that more communication would make everything better. Arrogantly, we ignored history and learned a lesson that has been in the curriculum since the Tower of Babel, or rather, we made everyone else learn it. We thought we were amplifying individuals in all their wonder and forgot about the cruelty, or at least assumed that good product design could wash that away. We were so hopeful, and we shaved the sides of our heads, and we never expected to take over the world.

I’m watching the ideologies of our industry collapse. Our celebration of disruption of every other industry, our belief that digital platforms must always uphold free speech no matter how vile. Our transhumanist tendencies, that sci-fi faith in the singularity. Our general belief that software will eat the world and that the world is better for being eaten.

It’s been hard to accept, at least for me, that each of our techy ideologies, while containing various merits, don’t really add up to a worldview, because technology is not the world. It’s just another layer in the Big Crappy Human System along with religion, energy, government, sex, and, more than anything else, money.

...

I’ve made a mistake, a lifelong one, correlating advancements in technology with progress. Progress is the opening of doors and the leveling of opportunity, the augmentation of the whole human species and the protection of other species besides. Progress is cheerfully facing the truth, whether flooding coastlines or falling teen pregnancy rates, and thinking of ways to preserve the processes that work and mitigate the risks. Progress is seeing calmly, accepting, and thinking of others.

It’s not that technology doesn’t matter here. It does. We can enable humans to achieve progress. We make tools that humans use. But it might not be our place to lead.

...

I have no desire to retreat to the woods and hear the bark of the fox. I like selling, hustling, and making new digital things. I like ordering hard drives in the mail. But I also increasingly enjoy the regular old networks: school, PTA, the neighbors who gave us their kids’ old bikes. The bikes represent a global supply chain; when I touch them, I can feel the hum of enterprise resource planning software, millions of lines of logistics code executed on a global scale, bringing the handlebars together with the brakes and the saddle onto its post. Then two kids ride in circles in the supermarket parking lot, yawping in delight. I have no desire to disrupt these platforms. I owe my neighbors a nice bottle of wine for the bikes. My children don’t seem to love computers as I do, and I doubt they will in the same way, because computers are everywhere, and nearly free. They will ride on different waves. Software has eaten the world, and yet the world remains.
 

PFD

Member Who Talks (A Lot!)
Oct 29, 2008
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Dallas
And here is Jim Denison's daily blog entry analyzing Ford's article through a Christian lens:

https://www.denisonforum.org/columns/daily-article/wearable-phone-bags-and-foldable-pcs-responding-to-a-brilliant-article-with-news-everyone-needs/

Why tech progress is good news for the gospel
In other words, technological progress is not necessarily true progress. Science that harvests nuclear energy can also produce nuclear weapons. Computers that spread the word of God can also spread pornography.

Here’s why I think the technological progress of our day is such good news for the gospel: it shows how desperately we need the gospel.

You and I live in a culture with greater scientific, medical, and technological advances than ever before in human history. Yet we still face the same problems our ancestors faced: We still sin. Our families struggle. We go to war with other nations. Our bodies wear out. We lose hope.

Even a tech professional like Paul Ford needs more than tech: “I have no desire to retreat to the woods and hear the bark of the fox. I like selling, hustling, and making new digital things. I like ordering hard drives in the mail. But I also increasingly enjoy the regular old networks: school, PTA, the neighbors who gave us their kids’ old bikes.”

The “God-shaped emptiness” in us all

Ford may not know it, but he is experiencing what Blaise Pascal called the “God-shaped emptiness” that is in every human heart.

The next time you wonder if your first-century faith is relevant to a twenty-first-century technological world, remember that the most important things in life are not things: “The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17).

Remember that a saving personal relationship with Jesus is the only way to eternal life (John 17:3). Remember that you are “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). Then “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (v. 16).

Every person you know needs the Jesus you know.
 
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