Habits of the High-Tech Heart: Living Virtuously in the Information Age


Quentin Schultze, professor of Communication arts and science at Calvin College

Central Theme
For technology to contribute to and not detract from our pursuit of the good life, it must be placed in the context of the virtues drawn from our religious traditions.

After the first blush of hyperbole and broken promises of cyberspace, we are now able to take a more measured look at what technology can and can’t do. While cyberspace allows us to work more efficiently and quickly, it has built into it elements that are at odds with what it means to be truly human and with the traditional human endeavor to live the good and virtuous life. Schultze raises the right and often uncomfortable questions about the distinctions between information, knowledge and wisdom; about the lack of authenticity and faux community that cyberspace has fostered; about new moral and ethical dilemmas posed by an impersonal, utilitarian technology. To force questions about the good life onto the euphoric enthusiasm about the hi-tech life is necessary and painful, and without such integration we are threatened with an ever-widening chasm between our human virtues and our technical expertise. The ultimate questions are about who we are and what happens to us when we are harnessed by technology instead of harnessing it. A must read.

Beliefs num
–We face an argument between technology and the soul.
–Doing things quickly and effectively is not more important than doing them carefully, thoughtfully and ethically.
–Informationism focuses on the “is” over the “ought” and makes us impersonal observers.
–We are in an age of increasing information and decreasing knowledge and wisdom.
–Unmoderated messaging actually hinders communication and intimacy.
–Wisdom requires roots in “first things” and a recovery of then “maps of reality” provided by a faith tradition.
–Given the success of hackers, the burst of the web bubble and the sinking of the Titanic, we ought to possess humility about new technologies.
–Cyberspace lacks authenticity when people can fabricate new identities and symbol brokers can create “realities that don’t exist.”
–Cyberspace needs to encourage a new “cosmic diversity” that shares moral concerns as well as technical expertise.
–Organic community life cannot be fostered in cyberspace because it requires face-to-face in neighborhood and orality.
–Those who seek the virtuous life need to admit the lightness of our digital being, distrust techno-magic, De-technologize religious traditions, serve God and neighbors, invite friendship with others and sojourn with heart.

Questions Worth Discussing num
–Is there an ongoing argument between technology and the soul?
–Has cyberspace created a moral confusion and a threat to the virtuous life?
–Can cyberspace create real community?
–Are we accumulating more information but less knowledge and wisdom?

Provocative Quotes byline
–I am trying to reclaim a sense of moral proportion amidst informational overindulgence.
–Our concept of virtuous character must be tied to a coherent notion of the ¢â‚¬Ëœgood life’ rather than merely the efficient, effective or successful life.
–We assume doing things quickly and effectively is more important than doing then carefully, thoughtfully and ethically.
–We are replacing humane morally informed words such as wisdom, persona and justice with mechanical terms like information, user, and access.
–In spite of all the rhetoric about cyberspace creating new and better communities, online communities are typically little more than interest groups, demographic colonies, or what historian Daniel Boorstin calls consumption communities.’
–We are living in a time of verbal explosion. We are deluged by words, in bulletins, in data collecting, in advertisements, in books, in the promises and slogans of politics, in the mishmash of news¢â‚¬¦talk but not deeds, information but not insight, promises but not fulfillment, words not events.
==James Houston.
–The encyclopedist and philosopher Denis Diderot predicted in the eighteenth century that a ¢â‚¬Ëœtimer will come when it will be almost as difficult to learn anything from books as from the direct study of the whole of the universe.’ The printing press, he continued, ¢â‚¬Ëœnever rests’ and will soon fill ¢â‚¬Ëœhuge buildings with books,’ he concluded.
–We live in a society that suffers from historical amnesia, and we find it very difficult to preserve the memory of those who have resisted and struggled over time for the ideals of freedom and democracy and equality,
==Cornell West
–We are still under the sway of the destructive and thoroughly vain belief that man is the pinnacle of creation and not just part of it, and that therefore everything is permitted to him¢â‚¬¦We still don’t know how to put morality ahead of politics, science and economics. We are still incapable of understanding that the only genuine core of all actions if they are to be moral is responsibility.
==Vaclav Havel
–Although we have more ¢â‚¬Ëœtechnologically aided’ communication than ever, the individual in society is feeling increasingly isolated and is searching for new ways to understand and experience meaningful togetherness.
==Michelle Willson (community in the Abstract).

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