What's the Problem?
Technology has dragged on too long with its eyes closed.
The development of science and technology, this splendid testimony of the human capacity for understanding and for perseverance, does not free humanity from the obligation to ask the ultimate religious questions. Rather, it spurs us on to face the most painful and decisive of struggles, those of the heart and of the moral conscience.
(Veritatis Splendor 1, John Paul II)
There is no more defining aspect of modern life than technology’s prevalence in it, yet little is written about how to seriously develop it considering God and his created order. In lieu of a guiding light, technological progress moves at an unprecedented rate, displacing traditional ways of life unknowningly and unquestioningly. It encroaches on all fronts, often rending our eyes from holy things and towards the secular for salvation. There are so many obvious examples:
Social media which offers a false sense of relationship
Equipment which cannot be user-repaired, leading to vicious rent-seeking cycles
Hyper-specialization of jobs where people cannot understand how they are improving (or hurting) the world
Modes of food production that provide calories and flavor but not nutrition
Medical paradigms whose aim is dependence on healthcare systems rather than owned health
Cities and communities which depend upon people owning (or worse, renting) expensive modes of transportation
Contraceptives which cloud the truth of our relationships
Proliferation of pornography with exceedingly easy access
Senseless destruction of life: abortion, euthanasia, eugenics
However, these are only the tip of the iceberg. As we will explore, our relationship towards the world has become subtly and subconsciously affected by our technologies; The Medium is the Massage.
Technology hurts the order of Christendom anytime it deteriorates the institutions that foster it (the family, the parish, the church herself):
When it inclines people to sin
When it clouds the truth of reality
When it encourages renting over ownership
When it becomes a necessity, not a nicety
When it supplants the relationships we have, becoming idol rather than icon
When its development is driven by want and fear, rather than love and charity
But, I am no luddite. Technology is capable of having its right place as an aid to man in his journey towards virtue. Yokes, swords, shovels, plows - scripture is struck through with these humanly created things as allegory and analogy that we may better understand our creator. The Logos was made flesh and dwelt among us with a fully human nature. But, this is not a one time event: rosaries, prayer ropes, icons, and all manner of liturgical things open windows into the divine, inviting and entreating us to grow closer to God and in virtue.
The order of created things affects how we interact with the divine, and this is important as we are called to pray ceaselessly; not just on Sunday and holy days. And so just as the man who buys tools to furnish a shop dictates what that shop can produce, so too do the builders of technologies determine what modes of being (and thusly, relationship) can manifest. C.S. Lewis put this more succinctly, speaking to western notions of freedom:
What we call Man’s power over Nature turns out to be a power exercised by some men over other men with Nature as its instrument.
(The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis, 1943)
Despite this, I do not despair. Already, our world aches to take upon this task, but groans at the prospect that we will be servants of God if we do so, or worse, admit we've actively rejected Him. We are enamored with sci-fi because we wonder how technological development can make us or ruin us - but then we turn a blind eye when it comes to the technologies we have already adopted. What I seek is to be proactive, and to fill in the past gaps. I don't want to simply point out that the metaverse is a Matrix-esque dystopia (but there is room for that): I want to build something beautiful and pleasing to God.