Modernity and Christianity: The Computer

Prof. William Thompson-Uberuaga
Department of Theology
Duquesne University

This lecture discusses the challenges computers pose on society from a Christian perspective. Nearly everything we do in modern times is connected to the computer. This affects our time and our space, and it has its psychological and spiritual reverberations on us. Substantive thinking is not what is important anymore, but fast processing is. This poses a question of human skills and traditions that will be lost. For example, letters take time, care, thought and effort whereas emails do not. People are even humanizing the computer, giving it human qualities, and vocabulary, such as viruses. People are likewise computerizing themselves; speaking of programming or deprogramming him or herself. Thompson-Uberuaga compares this phenomenon to the biblical story of the Tower of Babel, teaching us the dangers of human arrogance and of turning the computer into a new God.

The lecturer speaks of both the potential dangers and negative effects the computer may have on us as well as the positive consequences of the computer. For example, we must remember that we control the computer and not the other way round, and we can certainly use it to our benefit. It can help foster democracy with greater participation, while on the other hand it can give the government mass control over the population and it can access private information that was previously unavailable. While there is a claim that the computer seems to foster connectivity between people and bring them close together, the lecturer questions how deep and authentic are these new connections? The depth of human relationships may in fact suffer from this new type of relationship. The main question Thompson-Uberuaga asks is, how can we keep the computer as a tool to enhance our spiritual potential rather than destroy it?