Jonathan Edwards on Twitter’s Purpose

Here’s a glimpse into Jonathan Edwards’s expectation for technological advance. Technology will offer us more contemplative margin in our lives. It will also empower communion among the global church as one large fellowship.

This is from miscellany 262, published in Edwards’s works, 13:369:

‘Tis probable that this world shall be more like heaven in the millennium [JE was postmil] in this respect, that contemplative and spiritual employments, and those things that more directly concern the mind and religion, will be more the saints’ ordinary business than now.

There will be so many contrivances and inventions to facilitate and expedite their necessary secular business, that they shall have more time for more noble exercises, and that they will have better contrivances for assisting one another through the whole earth, by a more expedite and easy and safe communication between distant regions than now.

The invention of the mariner’s compass is one thing by God discovered to the world for that end; and how exceedingly has that one thing enlarged and facilitated communication! And who can tell but that God will yet make it more perfect; so that there need not be such a tedious voyage in order to hear from the other hemisphere, and so the countries about the poles need no longer to lie hid to us, but the whole earth may be as one community, one body in Christ.

I love the idea of technology as things “by God discovered to the world.”

So what would Edwards say about Twitter? What would Edwards say about our technology and how it disburdens us for a life more consistent with the “undistracted life” of 1 Corinthians 7? How is his vision for global fellowship beginning to get realized through digital media? And what would Edwards say about the invasiveness and permutation of entertainment into every spare moment of our lives, which then squanders all the margin made techno-possible in the first place?

Do I Need My iPhone?

phone

Smartphones and data plans are expensive, so do I really need them? Or can I get by without?

Since learning that I’ve paddled my way out into an oceanic book project about the smartphone, several people have asked me variations of these questions over the last few months.

Truth be told, I’m not yet working on implications, but I have started a list of questions to ask.

So do I really need a smartphone?

  1. What does my smartphone cost me per year in the price of the device, insurance protection, covers and cases, and of course the monthly service? Is it worth it?
  2. Do I need mobile web access to fulfill my calling in vocation or ministry? Do I need mobile web access to legitimately serve others?
  3. Do you travel a lot? I think people who do travel extensively will ever need a smartphone for work and for navigating. Are there other ways to navigate?
  4. If you use your smartphone to hold your shopping e-coupons, how much money would you save without a smartphone data plan?
  5. Can my web access wait? Is my need for smartphone functionality replaceable with structured time at a laptop or desktop computer?
  6. Can I get along with a dumbphone with calling and texting features?
  7. Can I get along with wifi and an iPod or tablet? What would I lose?
  8. Can I just as easily listen to audio and podcasts in other ways? Through an iPod for example.
  9. Am I simply addicted to my phone? If so, can the problem be solved with moderation, or do I need to just cut it off?
  10. Do I want my kids to see me gazing at a handheld screen so much as they grow up?

If you answer yes, and the smartphone is a necessity in your life, then think about certain ways that you limit your time. Have you considered:

  1. Turning off all non-essential push notifications.
  2. Getting accountability from others.
  3. Telling your kids and spouse and friends to watch how your phone prohibits life and interactions.
  4. Asking for feedback based on what they see you posting online.
  5. And consider deleting your most time wasting apps (social media, games, etc).

But the surface has only been scratched. We all use our phones in different ways and I presume there are many more questions to be asked. Here’s where I need your help (and everyone asking these questions needs your help).

Tell us in the comments:

(A) What questions you would add to this list about whether or not to ditch the smartphone?

(B) What other scenarios in life would make a smartphone and data plan essential?

(C) For those who do legitimately need a smartphone, what other safeguards would you suggest or have found to be helpful?

Thanks for your input!

Tony

Technological Wonderers and Wanderers

As time passes, the phrase “technological wonder” becomes a stale cliché. Eventually, our technological wonders no longer win over our admiration. So wrote G. K. Chesterton in his essay, “About the Telephone.” Thus, he asks, what really is the aim of our technological advances, if we lose our awe?

Man is born for trouble as the electric sparks fly upward, or wherever the electric sparks may fly; it is even hinted, though perhaps mystically and indirectly, that a life of peace, perfect peace, would be one in which the telephone ceased from troubling and the subscribers were at rest. But the truth goes deeper than any incidental irritations that might arise from the mismanagement of the instrument; it implies some degree of indifference even in the management of it.

We are incessantly told, indeed, that the modern scientific appliances, even those like the telephone, which are now universally applied, are the miracles of man, and the marvels of science, and the wonders of the new world. But though the inventions are talked of in this way, they are not treated in this way.

Or, rather, if they are so talked of in theory, they are not so talked of in practice.

There has certainly been a rush of discovery, a rapid series of inventions; and, in one sense, the activity is marvelous and the rapidity might well look like magic. But it has been a rapidity in things going stale; a rush downhill to the flat and dreary world of the prosaic; a haste of marvelous things to lose their marvelous character; a deluge of wonders to destroy wonder. This may be the improvement of machinery, but it cannot possibly be the improvement of man.

And since it is not the improvement of man, it cannot possibly be progress. Man is the creature that progress professes to improve; it is not a race of wheels against wheels, or a wrestling match of engines against engines. Improvement implies all that is commonly called education; and education implies enlargement; and especially enlargement of the imagination. It implies exactly that imaginative intensity of appreciation which does not permit anything that might be vivid or significant to become trivial or vulgar. If we have vulgarized electricity on the earth, it is no answer to boast that, in a few years more, we can vulgarize the stars in the sky.

Tell me that the bustling business man is struck rigid in prayer at the mere sound of the telephone-bell, like the peasants of Millet at the Angelus; tell me that he bows in reverence as he approaches the shrine of the telephone-box; tell me even that he hails it with Pagan rather than with Christian ritual, that he gives his ear to the receiver as to an Oracle of Delphi, or thinks of the young lady on an office-stool at the Exchange [the operator] as of a priestess seated upon a tripod in a distant temple; tell me even that he has an ordinary poetical appreciation of the idea of that human voice coming across hills and valleys — as much appreciation as men had about the horn of Roland or the shout of Achilles — tell me that these scenes of adoration or agitation are common in the commercial office on the receipt of a telephone call, and then (upon the preliminary presumption that I believe a word you say), then indeed I will follow your bustling business man and your bold, scientific inventor to the conquest of new worlds and to the scaling of the stars.

For then I shall know that they really do find what they want and understand what they find; I shall know that they do add new experiences to our life and new powers and passions to our souls; that they are like men finding new languages, or new arts, or new schools of architecture. But all they can say, in the sort of passage I quoted, is that they can invent things which are generally commonplace conveniences, but very often commonplace inconveniences. And all that they can boast, in answer to any intelligent criticism, is that they may yet learn how to make the sun and moon and the everlasting heavens equally commonplace, and probably equally inconvenient.

Let it be noted that this is not, as is always loosely imagined, a reaction against material science; or a regret for mechanical invention; or a depreciation of telephones or telescopes or anything else. It is exactly the other way. I am not depreciating telephones; I am complaining that they are not appreciated. I am not attacking inventions; I am attacking indifference to inventions. I only remark that it is the same people who brag about them who are really indifferent to them. I am not objecting to the statement that the science of the modern world is wonderful; I am only objecting to the modern world because it does not wonder at it.