“Technology will save us.” This is BT’s latest marketing pitch, positioning themselves as a technology company and trying to sell us faster broadband. It’s easy to look at it as yet another ad campaign, but I think it taps into something deeper. In an era of political paranoia and climate change anxiety - people really do want something to save them from it all. In the technical age we live in, technology is often lauded as our saviour.
Technology is one of the gods of our age. It's transcendent - the word "technology" is a vague, all-encompassing mass that goes beyond our individual experience of it. It's powerful - we can do things at the flick of a switch that our ancestors could only dream of. It's relational - technology allows us to connect in more ways than ever, for better or for worse. Technology also very much fits in with the progress narrative that the West is in: an onward march to greater heights of prosperity for all. It's no surprise that the modern world was birthed out of the Industrial Revolution, a time of machine-enabled change. Technology has saved time, money, and lives over the last few centuries.
The issue though is that technology is always driven by people. People make it, people use it, and most importantly people are changed by it. We need to be careful talking about technology as just a tool - the more we use it, the more we are changed by it. Think about how many times you check your smartphone every day - a huge behavioural change that is linked to expectations about communication, fear of missing out, our relationships. We remember not having smartphones, but the generation below us won't. It'll be their default.
Whilst technology has brought about much good (alleviation of poverty, medicine, etc), it has also brought about evil (chemical weapons, climate change, etc). The fact that it shows evil and good points us to the fact that it is made by humans, used by humans, and changes humans. Humans who have the very image of God in them but also a corrupted sinful nature. That is what we need saving from.
BT’s salvation imagery points us to a much deeper need, one that Christians are uniquely positioned to speak to. With that in mind, here are some questions for us to think over as Christian technologists:
- How does seeing that technology changes people shift the way we build?
- How can we build technology knowing people have the image of God in them, but also a sin nature?
- How can we build technology that serves Jesus’ mission to save?