A Religious Perspective on the Promise and Peril of Technology | Sandy Kress

Feb 9, 2018 by

Sandy Kress—who, as senior advisor to President George W. Bush, was one of the key architects of NCLB

(These are introductory remarks at a program of the Austin Jewish Men’s Group, featuring major technological advances in our city and nation.)

Good evening, everybody. I’m delighted to be here with you at what promises to be one of the most exciting JAMen programs of the year.

We’re going to consider tonight many aspects of the technology age in which we live. We’ll do it in one of the most techno-sophisticated cities in the world. And we’ll do it, guided by some of the most accomplished and visionary technology leaders anywhere.

I want to use my 4 minutes to set the table – Jewishly – for our discussion. For, as active as we are in the business of things, we also like to think about the ethics and the right and wrong of things. We’ll do both tonight.

Let’s begin by reflecting briefly on how far and fast technology has developed just in our time. Heck – when I was born we didn’t even have black and white TV!

It’s been a long and dramatic road to here. And, as amazing as the change has been, it just keeps accelerating, so much so that it now touches all parts of life, often profoundly.

For our discussion tonight, here’s the main question I want to pose: is this increasingly rapid grounding of our lives in technology necessarily and fully good for us?

Our speakers will mainly paint a picture of technology’s yield of social good. And I believe we’ll like that picture. Indeed, as for me, I rely heavily on, and marvel at, technology.

But do we pay a price? Is there bad along with the good? Do we fail at essential things, while we have this success?

On the positive side: do we have greater and faster access to information than ever before? No doubt.

Do we have entertainment options the likes of which no one in history has had? No doubt.

Does technology provide incredibly valuable assistance to doctors and other professionals in making life better in many important ways? No doubt.

So, why am I worried, and why do I want you to be worried?

Let’s take a quick look at Proverbs.

Here we’re taught what real success in life involves. It comes down to how we develop and use key personal attributes.

For example, garnering knowledge, cleverness, and strategies to navigate one’s way in the world are taught to be important. As to these, a smart, steady use of technology can surely help.

BUT, wait. Here’s what’s prized most:

1. Proverbs teaches that our key aim in life is to create a world of justice, righteousness, and equity. Does technology help, hurt, or make any difference in that endeavor?

2. The essential tool we need to that end is wisdom. And wisdom, unlike simply knowing information, comes from understanding what is right and good and having the capacity to do it. Does technology help or hurt in garnering wisdom?

3. Crucial to applying wisdom is the knowledge and use of discipline. Does technology help or hurt in the acquisition of discipline?

4. Finally, doing all this requires that we can discern from information the understanding needed for wisdom. Does technology help or hurt in the acquisition of that discernment?

You may believe technology is neutral in all this; it’s simply up to us to decide how to use it.

You may believe technology is uniformly positive.

Or you may believe that the dazzle of technology, as well as the distractions and the places it takes us on its “magic carpet ride,” could actually diminish our will to be wise, disciplined, and discerning. We may be able to see more and be everywhere with everyone all the time but, fundamentally, understand less and be more alone.

I don’t know how you come out on these questions. I’m not sure how I do. But, happily our sponsors have only hired me to ask the questions.

So – with my job done – I’ll just take my seat, join you, and enjoy the show!

 

Source: A Religious Perspective on the Promise and Peril of Technology | Sandy Kress

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