Tim Challies

Jim's #16: The Next Story by Tim Challies

I like technology.  I think it's fun, it's interesting, it's dynamic, and, admittedly, I also find it can be quite addicting.  I don't know that I'm quite as savvy as most in our digital age when it comes to having the latest and greatest (and if you charted me against other Computer Science majors, I'm sure I'd be at the low end of that totem pole of nerdery), but I do find myself becoming increasingly reliant on the many screens that seem to encroach on my life.  A few others have posted on this book already so I'm probably not going to add too much new stuff.  None-the-less, I'll give it the good ole college try.

For the first chunk of this book I thought I was back at college learning the history of technology (surprisingly, I think I learned more from this chapter than I did in my semester at school--probably attributed to me actually staying awake this time).  It's always amazing to see where we've come from and where we're going.  As a matter of perspective, the top 10 in-demand jobs today didn't even exist in 2004.  Moore's law, which states that technology (though he specifically was referring to circuit board capabilities) doubles, or gets twice as fast, every 18 months.  Sometimes it's even faster.  NTT Japan has successfully tested a fiber cable that successfully pushes 14 trillion bits per second down a single strand.  That's the amount of data on 438 full iPhone 4s every second... and that amount is tripling every 6 months!

Here's a pretty interesting video that complements the book quite well I think:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mmz5qYbKsvM

I won't discuss everything Challies talks about but I do want to mention one issue that he brought up and I fear immensely.  I think we all see the evidence of technology severely crippling our ability to relate on a personal level with others.  We prefer digital, private, discussion where we can multi-task and do other things at the same time, rather than having to focus on one singular thing or person in the flesh for an extended period of time. I'm sure Ron's witnessed plenty of this in the classroom.  As an extension of this, Challies discussed briefly the effect it is having on the church and the digital age approach to fellowship and community (or lack thereof).

I very rarely get visually and verbally upset; it takes something pretty intense to make me yell.  But I think the topic I have yelled the most about in life is professing Christians' general apathy or even disdain for the church.  It drives me crazy to see people that claim to love Jesus talk bad about his bride, the church (especially when non-christians are present).  Clearly there are issues within the church, but it's a group of sinners.  There will always be issues.  But that's a different topic.  What I've noticed is that there seems to be a shift from the actual community of believers to a build-your-own, have-it-your-way church.  You can now go online and choose your worship songs, messages, and whatever else you might want to do for your self-sized worship service, all from your home.  Basically, it allows people to check the box of attending church without having to submit to authority or take part in real community.  It eliminates accountability and I can see this becoming a major in the church at large.

Challies talks about plenty of other interesting things as well.  I particularly enjoyed his discussion on the transitions from Data to Information to Knowledge to Wisdom and the growing realty that we are stuck in the Information phase, filling ourselves with information that taxes our mind but offers no substance and is hurting our ability to do any sort of memorization.  His analysis on the shift of truth is interesting as well, citing Wikipedia as our willingness to accept as gospel that which the majority agrees is right.  Stephen Colbert's phrase "Wiki-ality" drives his point home quite well.

All in all, I think this book is a great insight on what technology is doing (some positives, but mostly negatives) to our society and the shift in our thinking because of it.  It has certainly forced me to analyze how I'm allowing technology to manage my world.  Just this week I noticed myself at one point watching my home TV while watching the Brewer game on my SlingBox while playing words with friends on my iPhone while shopping for homes (even though we don't know where we're going yet) on my iPad.  Pretty impressive now that I think about it, but it showed me that even while I don't consider myself to be technology dependent, I still have plenty of room to grow.


Mark's #22 - The Next Story by Tim Challies

In 1985 the late Neil Postman wrote the book, Amusing Ourselves to Death where he famously critiqued our modern culture and the way the technology of television had eroded our societies ability to think and discourse deeply on the serious issues we face.  He argued that television had turned even the most serious of news into a form of mind-numbing entertainment. But that was 1985, before the modern advances of the internet, email, twitter, facebook, the iPhone, etc.  Did we heed Postman's warnings as we embraced these new advances in technology? Hardly.

In The Next Story, Christian author and blogger Tim Challies seeks to help God's people to develop a God honoring theory, theology, and experience of technological engagement.   To be clear, Challies is not a Luddite, as mentioned, he is a blogger, he uses facebook, twitter, an iPad, and an iPhone.   He argues that technological advancements are part of God's command to humanity to have dominion over the earth.  He says that technology is not inherently evil or good, the issue lies in our own, often sinful,  hearts.

If you've ever felt like the pace of the modern world and the demand for your constant attention is either draining your energy or causing you to obsess over the facebook world, then this would be a great book for you.

As God's people we're called to think deeply and live out our faith in a meaningful context of community.  While email, twitter, your smartphone, and facebook  offer a type of community, it isn't typically meaningful or soul satisfying community. Yet as more and more of our time is sucked away by these things, our ability to engage in the one-on-one, slow, thoughtful, and meandering conversations begins to disappear.  If you've ever been out with your friends and have each simultaneously been checking email, or surfing the internet, instead of talking amongst yourselves, you've fallen prey to this (confession: I certainly have).

So how now do we live?  That's a good question, and a good starting point for figuring out how to live in the sweet spot where theory, theology, and practice of technology overlap.  To begin to break the bondage of our cultural captivity to technology, a good place to start would be by reading and applying this book.