The Times They are A-Changin’

The times they are a-changin’ and technology is developing faster than…

            …the speed of light?

Sometimes it feels like it.

            …our ability to comfortably keep up?

                        Probably, at least for most of us over the age of 50.

            …our ability to evaluate it from moral and ethical perspectives?

                        Definitely.

timeTechnological developments can be as innocuous as the recent announcement that VCRs are no longer being manufactured. The last new VCR left a manufacturing plant in Japan a few weeks ago. This is not a huge deal compared to other events in our world. Still, it’s the end of yet another era…and a reminder that technology marches on.

Remember when VCRs hit the market back in the 70s? The ability to record programs for later viewing initiated a new level of freedom of entertainment. Although, in retrospect, the purpose of the VCR was a bit ironic. As Frank Navasky said in You’ve Got Mail,

“The whole idea of a VCR is that it makes it possible for you to tape what’s on television while you’re out of the house. But the whole point of being out of the house is so you can miss what’s on television.”

While the benefits—or drawbacks—of some technology are obvious, other technological breakthroughs carry us into the quicksand of moral relativism. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should do it. Whether dropping a nuclear bomb or cloning individual human cells, the consequences have outpaced our ability to evaluate the ethical fallout…which leads us to yet another problem.

Even if we could keep up with the moral and ethical considerations of every technological achievement, what standard would we use? Our culture has rejected our Judeo-Christian heritage. Absolute standards of right and wrong have become antiquated labels left over from a less “enlightened” age.

One might say I’m overreaching in a successful imitation of Chicken Little. Watching an outdated piece of technology slip from its technological pinnacle isn’t enough justification to shout, “the sky is falling!” After all, an obsolete VCR is a far cry from the massive death toll of a single atom bomb or the technological advance of genetic testing.

Still it’s a reminder that the times they are a-changin’. As technology changes with them, we need to ensure our moral standards aren’t left behind in the dust.

For example, according to ABC news:

“An estimated 92 percent of all women who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome choose to terminate their pregnancies, according to research reviewed by Dr. Brian Skotko, a pediatric geneticist at Children’s Hospital Boston.”

Let that sink in. 92% percent of women. Which means 92% of babies. Babies. When we lose our moral compass, our own convenience becomes an idol—elevated to the status of a god. And that is dangerous.

Technology may not be inherently moral or immoral. But how we use technological advances can indeed be moral or immoral. The choice is ours…mine and yours.

Just because we can doesn’t mean we should.


A Better Life

There’s a new fad circulating on a few social media sites. It’s a guessing game “Age Test” that offers photos of items that have fallen out of use and into obscurity. Photos of a roller-skate key, a sardine can key, an eight-track player, even drive-in movie theater car speakers have popped up on Facebook, Pinterest, and other sites.

While these objects – only forty or fifty years old – have passed into history, I’m reminded of predictions made fifty years ago regarding the twenty-first century. Remember the promise of a paperless workspace? Computers that fit in the palm of your hand? I remember watching Star Trek episodes in the 1960s in which the show’s characters carried on conversations with computers and wondered how that could ever be possible in my lifetime.

But some of these predictions have already been fulfilled. We not only speak on smartphones, we speak to them…and they speak back! Computer chips the size of a fingernail contain information that would fill an entire library. The paperless workspace? Not so much…yet. But it’s coming.

An innovation you may not have heard of yet is the flexible robot. Remember playing with Gumby? This robot is shaped like Gumby, with a white, soft body. Harvard scientists studied animals that did not have hard skeletons in order to create a five-inch long robot made of rubber.

The flexible robot is able to crawl, slide, and squeeze through tight spaces, controlled by air pumped into, or released from, its four legs.

Science has always promised us a better life through pioneering inventions. But no matter how innovative the products, they are limited to slight improvements for a life that is temporary, no matter how hard we try to make it otherwise.

God has also made promises to us – promises that will not disappoint because they are related to a life that will last forever. Promises that help us cope with this temporary life while keeping an eternal perspective. Promises based on His unchanging nature and His glorious ways.

It’s fun to remember old items that recall simpler times. It’s exciting to consider new inventions that promise comfort and ease. But we should never get so comfortable that we begin to believe this is all there is to life. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (I Corinthians 2:9).

There’s an even better life coming!

What invention do you wish for that would make life better?