Technology Idols

This week Samsung CEO Mr JK Shin presented what some consider the most impressive technology launch event of all time, introducing Samsung’s S4 phone.

Significant in this launch were interesting claims made by Mr Shin early in his speech. His words, albeit muddied by his Korean accent, bring to mind parallel ideas presented in the Bible. And through his comments we are presented with the idea of Technology as an Idol in today’s world.

The worship of technology is not a new theme. The late Apple guru Steve Jobs, himself a master of marketing hype, gave today’s generation a sense for the mystique and fervor created by technology. But in generations past technology had earlier showmen and its showcase moments where eager consumers salivated over the promise of new qualities of life made possible by new technology, or “applied science” as they knew it then.

The great Fairs and Expo events of past centuries put on display amazing technological tools that were to transform day to day life. Car shows, computer shows, electrical appliance shows and all manner of other such events are and have always been energized by display of the latest and greatest.

And with each new technology comes the embedded promise of a better life, more efficient processes, more free time, greater productivity and so on.

Through that cavalcade of promise upon promise, breakthrough upon breakthrough, technology upon technology, innovation upon innovation, technology itself has been paraded before us as an Idol.

Technology has become to the secular culture the tool of man’s salvation. Technology is the key to longer, happier life. Technology is the answer to man’s problems.

Early last century Aldus Huxley even extolled technology as the deliverer of the Brave New World where moral constraint, unhappiness, unwanted impositions and human limitation would be thrown aside by ‘applied science’, aka technology.

So we should not be surprised to hear technology described in the most glowing terms and attributed with qualities previously reserved for the divine. And that’s what we do hear in Mr Chin’s ululations.

When Mr Chin took to the stage at New York’s Radio City Music Hall before an adoring crowd of smartphone devotees he prefaced the introduction of the S4 with words of significant tenor.

He explained that Samsung has brought together innovation with the wishes of the public to create something that was now at a new level as applied technology.

“We have taken technology and innovation to help us get closer to what matters in life. To help us live a richer, simpler and more full life.”

“It is the innovation that improves the way people truly live every day and helps them live in the way they aspire to.”

“A device that enables us to do more. A companion that helps us to experience life to the fullest. A life companion for a richer, simpler life.”

These are heady claims, but they may actually prove true within the limits of what inanimate technology can provide. That will be judged by users over time.

But these claims resonate with meaning attributed thousands of years ago to divine experience.

Jesus Christ made the claim, “I am come to give life and life that is more abundant”.

Jesus also claimed that He would send to His followers the divine person of the Holy Spirit who would reside inside their lives and be to each of them a personal support agent, called a parakletos in the Greek language of the day.

Jesus also promised that He would give His followers divine peace that would not be given on the same terms as the world gives things.

So Mr Chin’s glowing accolades showered upon his company’s machine echoes the more profound spiritual promises made by the Son of God.

Is technology therefore not an idol? Is it not a substitute for the more powerful and more valuable experience available through spiritual technology?

Has the world lost sight of that which is real and replaced it with that which is an illusion of substance?

Can a smartphone provide for us lifestyle support that in any way matches the life-changing impact of Jesus Christ as Saviour, Almighty God as Heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit as resident comforter?

Is the world being sold a bogus bill of goods by fawning over mere devices, while failing to seek the far more powerful and truly life-changing impact of eternal life?

What does it say about us that we exult in a new technology, while abandoning the power and presence of Almighty God in our lives and culture?

Is it that we have erected new temples and that we fall down before new idols, invoking their powers to alleviate our ills and confer blessings in ways that only God can truly do?

Have we made technology an idol?

And if so, how do we get God back on the throne in each of our hearts?