What Their Own Fingers Have Made

They bow down to idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their own fingers have made.

–Isaiah 2:8

Since January, I’ve been using a reading plan to get through the whole Bible (actually, the OT once and the NT and Psalms twice) in one year. I started Isaiah yesterday, and came across this verse today. As I read it, hazelnut-infused coffee in one hand, and  my Sharpie pen in the other, I scribbled it onto a post it note, to add to the verses that make me think of a theology of technology.

I’ve spent most of this week frantically doing homework, busily preparing my talk for this evening, keeping up with the blog, and doing a million other things. The common denominator of these tasks is the computer screen I’m staring at right now. Someone told me with concern yesterday that my eyes were bloodshot and red–I realized that it was probably because I’d spent about five to six hours staring at the screen.

So then comes this verse: “they bow down to the works of their hands.” I’m fascinated by my honest need to stare at this screen all day (I do have things to do) with such intensity and such focus. Rarely do I have such concentration elsewhere. I’ve had this netbook for two years now, and the keys are worn, familiar to my fingers.

I can’t say that I use this thing which was made by man’s fingers with lust and idolatry in my heart. I can’t say that I ever bow down into my heart. Yet, as Postman points out, we often end up being used by our technologies more than we use them.

What do you think? Are we the users or the used? If someone with no technological background observed us and our devices, would they use Isaiah’s words to describe us?

On “The Shallows”

Yesterday, I bought The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr, in preparation for an upcoming project (TBA). It’s fascinating, and he’s saying things I’ve been thinking for some time, especially in regard to social media.

My initial review, after forty or so pages, is this: thoughtful, provoking, and well-written. I’m excited to keep going. I’ll be occasionally posting good quotes as I go, so enjoy this:

“We’re too busy being dazzled or disturbed by the programming to notice what’s going on inside our heads. In the end, we come to pretend that the technology itself doesn’t matter. It’s how we use it that matters, we tell ourselves. The implication, comforting in its hubris, is that we’re in control. The technology is just a tool, inert until we pick it up and inert again once we set it aside.”

–Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, 3