Technology is wonderful. It helps me steer my car on icy roads. It lets me see instant pictures of my grandchildren. It assists me in googling every possible topic. There is no question that technology has provided handy gadgets and easy access to information. But often the unexpected results of technology are negative enough to offset the advantages. We live in an age of science. But scientific discovery without apparent wisdom has taken us to places we might regret. Just look around.
Can you think of a technological advancement that has not led to serious, unexpected negative results? The gas engine was a stroke of genius. But has anything polluted our environment more? The cell phone was a marvel of engineering. Yet texting now causes more car crashes than any other cause. Medical science has made great strides. But its costs now threaten to bankrupt our economy. Atomic energy is a wonderful new resource. But its lethal potential has made the world a dangerous place.
How many time-saving devices have been invented for the home and work-place? Yet we seem to have less free time to spend with family and friends? How many gadgets make our life easier? Yet stress is the silent killer of our generation. Has there ever been better educational facilities than exist today? Yet literacy today is worse than it was before the Civil War when nearly every child in America could read and write, though taught in one-room school houses with simple slate boards and chalk.
In his book, Schumacher championed what he called, “appropriate technology”. He thought we should take a closer look at how technology affects people. After all, science is made for people, not people for science. In past decades we tended to think “bigger was better”. But bigger resulted in urban gridlock. Today, we cram massive memory into tiny chips. We desire immediate access to weather, markets, news and entertainment. But, it seems to me, access to information hasn’t equipped us to make better choices. People seem mentally less nimble and intellectually less robust.
Knowledge without wisdom is a dangerous thing.
What do we conclude from this? In my opinion, we should take Schumacher’s advice. Put people first. Develop and use technology that puts us in touch with each other and that is inspired by wisdom inherited from our past. Having immediate access to vast stores of information may not be as vital as acquiring a clear understanding of human nature. And I’m not talking about human psychology or sociology. We need to get back in touch with who we are as creatures created in God’s image and endowed with amazing potential for good and evil. Without a solid spiritual understanding of our selves, we have no capacity to use technology for good. The most basic computer science axiom is true: garbage in, garbage out.
Science and technology without wisdom are doomed to produce unintended consequences that are beyond our capacity to fix. Yes, we live in a material world and life requires our constant perseverance in areas of science. Yes, we need to call on our genius to make things that improve our lives. But if we do not keep in mind our true origins and value our maker’s purposes, the things we create will not be beautiful. In this sense, religion does have a very real role in scientific exploration. My goodness, how can we employ technology to better the life of mankind, if we don’t know what a man is? Think about it.