A better way forward for technology
[1 Corinthians 16:14]

By T.C. Howitt

Nov 09, 2017

In response to an article from Axios: Sean Parker unloads on Facebook "exploiting" human psychology

The founding president of Facebook, Sean Parker, says that they consciously built a system that exploits human vulnerability.

One tech investor has said, “The people who run Facebook and Google are good people, whose well-intentioned strategies have led to horrific unintended consequences.”

Pay attention to the wording there about good people and good intentions. From a technological perspective, what is a well-intentioned strategy? It is a strategy that best achieves measurable technical goals, which could be to improve operating efficiency, increase market share, boost advertising revenue or any number of things. Something is missing from these technological demands that seems to always result in “horrific unintended consequences.”

What is missing from the technological impulse? Love, by which I mean a particular kind of love described in the Bible. I’m not talking about erotic love, which can be good (in marriage) or bad (in porn), nor am I talking about brotherly love, which is limited to familial and community relationships of friends and partners. I’m talking about godly love, which can only come from above: the caring love for all people, even our enemies, that results from knowing that God loved us even when we were His enemies.

Paul said, “Let all your things be done with charity” (1Co 16:14). The word charity here does not mean only giving stuff away to the needy (1Co 13:3 makes this clear), as we use the word today, but as its Latin etymology from caritas describes, it means a costly, merciful compassion for everyone as dearly valuable creatures of God.

Paul restated this instruction about how we should do all things, which helps us understand what kind of love he’s talking about.

“And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Col 3:17).

“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1Co 10:31).

That captures the reason why we exist in the first place: to glorify God for all that He gives us.

The psychological casino of Facebook does not glorify God. Would a Christian attitude toward technology help curb destructive results such as these? Absolutely.

The biblical worldview is unique in that it asserts the natural wickedness of men and our inability to do what is good on our own. The saving work of Jesus Christ is also an empowering work of the Holy Spirit to shape the human will and defend against the forces that attack us from within ourselves and outside in the world.

Did the makers of Facebook know they were doing something mean, something wrong, something that would take advantage of people? Yes, they did. Whether you believe in Jesus Christ or not, the moral law of God is written on your heart (Rom 2:14-15). But knowing right from wrong isn’t enough to stop people from doing the wrong thing, and the technological exigencies of our society actively push us in the direction of wrong behaviors.

Soon after physicists like Leo Szilard and Albert Einstein theorized that a chain reaction of atomic fission could create a weapon of mass destruction, the works were put into motion to build such a device, and then to use it for the very worst results humanly imaginable. Former president and CEO of Intel Andy Grove has stated, “A fundamental rule in technology says that whatever can be done will be done.” That’s a practical rule borne out of experience, but it’s not a causal rule; that is, it is a “will be done” of probability given our powerless relationship to the technological drive, and not a “must be done” of absolute necessity.

We’re unruly kids with big dangerous toys, and we’re operating as if our Father hasn’t given us instruction in righteousness. We build towers of Babel all over the place, but we very rarely seek the blueprints for making a tabernacle for God in our hearts. Only with the Holy Spirit indwelling us will we have the proper motivation behind the things we make and set into motion in the world: doing everything for the glory of God – by loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength – and for serving the purpose that flows from that love: to love our neighbors as ourselves.

We are currently serving as technological captives, slaves to the sociopathic demands of technology, and we’re suffering greatly because of it. What I’m suggesting is christological oversight of technology, a freewill choice to put Christ’s desires ahead of our technical desires. I’m not advocating for a Christian theocratic society, which is unbiblical and wouldn’t work anyway, but rather a deliberate effort by Christians to give Christ headship over the technologies we create and use.

Jesus Christ is a very real and practical answer to the worst problems we face today, from industrial defilement of our habitat to manipulation of our kids through social media. If we can only recognize Christ as the one Lord and master over our lives, He will direct our paths and keep us from harming ourselves.