Friday, March 23, 2012

The Moral Minefield of Technology

Whenever someone knowingly walks through a minefield, they usually do so with care and concern for their well-being. Yet, someone who walks through a minefield, without knowing it is a threat, might have no concern at all.

This is a good analogy for how many people use technology today. The threats are numerous when we use technology, yet so many people are not even aware there is any threat present. As Catholics we need to be wary of using any technology and understand that while most tech is morally neutral it can be used for good or bad.
For instance:

The Good of the Internet - the internet is a valuable tool, which has brought unprecedented access to our fingertips at the press of a button. It is easy to find information, communicate with others rapidly, and has transformed the world in bringing many different peoples closer together. It also gives the Church new opportunities to evangelize the world.

The Bad of the Internet - Too many to name, but here are a few examples of the mines in the internet field:
Other moral issues that have risen because of Technology include public safety issues (e.g., texting while driving) and social interaction / communication issues (e.g. nearly 50% of women say they are "Facebook addicts".)

These many issues clearly show that we are not only strolling through the minefield of technology, but as a culture, we are happily skipping through it, setting off mines continually - smiling as we do so.

We need to have a better understanding of the dangers, educate ourselves, and act with more prudence and care.

Technology is made for us - we are not made for technology. So, we must ask some questions:
  • How can I use this particular technological advance for the good of others and myself?
  • In what ways can this technology be abused?
  • Am I respecting the dignity of the people behind the technology?
  • Am I acting in a moral manner in all things?
  • How are others abusing and misusing this technology and how can I avoid doing the same?
These kinds of questions, and others, have already been asked by some leaders in the Catholic Church.
The US Bishops have issued Guidelines for Social Media use and the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Social Communications is trying to keep up (and in some ways failing to do so) with the cultural changes happening so rapidly due to technology.

Pope Benedict XVI said this in Caritas in Veritate (emphasis in original):
Technology is highly attractive because it draws us out of our physical limitations and broadens our horizon. But human freedom is authentic only when it responds to the fascination of technology with decisions that are the fruit of moral responsibility. Hence the pressing need for formation in an ethically responsible use of technology. Moving beyond the fascination that technology exerts, we must reappropriate the true meaning of freedom, which is not an intoxication with total autonomy, but a response to the call of being, beginning with our own personal being.
As Catholics we must lead the charge in helping the world assess the morality of how technology is to be used for good. In doing so, we can help others know about the mines which are present in the field of technology, and then disarm them.


Carson Weber said...

Marcel, your blog is ├╝ber-valuable. Great job, as always

Mr. Aitchison said...

This was OUTSTANDING. Do you ever think you would do a post on other cultural "mines", such as: relativism, narcissism, consumerism, avoiding the "big questions" (Why am I here? What's the meaning of life? What happens after death?), "tolerance", cafeteria Christianity, etc. I would LOVE to hear your thoughts on the culture as a whole. I think it'd be like a booster shot to counter Screwtape, who we all know has been active behind the scenes for quite some time now...

Please give it a thought (and a prayer!) and thanks, as always(!), for your great posts!