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“You are not a gadget”

2010/03/22 by Danie Mouton 1 Comment »

Terwyl digitale media, soos Facebook, Twitter en blogging (!) hand oor hand toeneem, moet ons vra hoe dit ons siening van mens-wees beïnvloed.  Die volgende resensie van ‘n belangrike boek het my aandag getrek…

This contribution was written by Rob Merola, and first published on the JesusCreed blog of Scot McKnight.

It is my belief that Jaron Lanier’s book You are Not a Gadget is one of the most important books a serious minded person in the early 21st century can possibly read.  It is so because the basic question it addresses is, “What does it meant to be human?”  Perhaps even more to the point, it raises the question of “How do we appropriately recognize and honor one another as unique persons of depth and substance?”

The digital world and it its representations of persons threatens to diminish, reduce, and flatten us.   And because we increasingly interact with each other through digital mediums instead of face to face, our relationship also are diminished, reduced, and impoverished.  The individual is replaced with the hive. A unique point of view is obscured in a mash up.  A distinct voice is lost in the computational cloud.

As an example of Lanier’s concerns, consider the following paragraph:  “I know quite a few people, mostly young adults but not all, who are proud to say that they have accumulated thousands of friends on Facebook.  Obviously, this statement can only be true if the idea of friendship is reduced.   A real friendship ought to introduce each person to unexpected weirdness in the other.   Each acquaintance is an alien, a well of unexplored  difference in the experience of life that cannot be imagined or accessed in any way but through genuine interaction.  The idea of friendship in database-filtered social networks is certainly reduced from that.”

Could it be that if we are ever going to be fully present in a given moment or to a given person, we are going to have to limit our connectivity?

A couple of Lanier’s suggestions:

  • Write a blog post that took weeks of reflection before you heard the inner voice that need to come out.”
  • If you are twittering, innovate in order to find a way to describe your internal state (my note:  but that would take time and work and reflection!) instead of trivial external events, to avoid the creeping danger of believing that objectively described events define you, as they would a machine.”

There are other questions Lanier asks that I expect aren’t even on most of our radars–but they should be.  Otherwise the answers are going to be decided for us in ways that we may find profoundly disturbing, and it will be too late for us to be able to do much about it.  For instance, there is the whole question of authorship.  Lanier warns of those who consider it their “‘moral imperative’ that all the world’s books would soon effectively become ‘one book’ once they are scanned, searchable, and remixable in the universal computation cloud.”

This is just a tiny snippet of the kinds of substantive issues this book addresses.    Coming from the “father of virtual reality”, a person at the top of his field in the very heart of technological prowess and progress, we ignore this book and the questions it asks at our own peril.

[This is an shortened version, read the complete review here.]


Atonement : A Comprehensive Framework

2010/03/12 by Danie Mouton No Comments »

One sometimes start to read a book and immediately knows that it is going to profoundly influence you.  This is the case with Scot McKnight‘s brilliant A Community called Atonement (2007, Abingdon Press).

In these paragraphs I summarize the first part of this book.

McKnight uses the metaphor of playing golf with a whole bunch of clubs, not only one favorite.  This is the way atonement functions in the Bible – there are many facets, metaphors and contours to keep in mind to do justice to the biblical message of atonement.  Too often atonement theories are like a golfer with only one favorite club, let’s say a putter, using that for all his shots.  One-club-atonement theories waters the biblical message down. read more…