In his excellent and thought-provoking book From the Garden to the City: The Redeeming and Corrupting Power of Technology, John Dyer explores how technology impacts culture using studies of history and the Bible and modern life. His helpful perspective, that while technology is not absolutely bad or good, but it’s also not neutral, is helpful, and his arguments about how to navigate new technologies is thoughtful and balanced.
Dyer does an excellent job of pointing out that all technologies, from the Garden of Eden on down through history, created a “tendency of usage from which a set of values emerge.” In other words, to borrow Dyer’s example, if you use a shovel, it’s going to change you. If you have a smartphone, you can choose to use it as a paperweight, but chances are you’re going to use it to change the way you navigate, find information, and connect with people.
These aren’t necessarily good or bad changes, but they are changes, and deserve some thought. One insight that particularly stuck out to me was Dyer’s observation that because we interact with ideas in a predominantly image-based format now (versus previously people came to ideas through the medium of books, and before that through the medium of talking face-to-face) people tend to respond to ideas with how they feel about it, rather than thinking about whether the idea is logically or morally right.
Dyer’s discussion of how technology is used in Scripture informs his prescriptions for how to handle technology. Since he’s a seminary trained IT person, he comes at the issue with strong background. I particularly liked his framework for thinking about technology as potentially rebellious or redemptive. He looks at how God views technology, and how the ultimate redemptive plan for the new Jerusalem involves redeeming the technological work we do. Without stretching or cherry-picking texts, Dyer gives great insight into these ideas.
Overall I found From the Garden to the City a worthwhile read. If you’re interested in how to think about and use technology in a balanced and thoughtful way, I’d recommend it.
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