Choices at the Heart of Technology: A Christian Perspective
This Review by Chris Lawson was first printed in Christian Community (the NACCAN magazine). Spring 2000 No 86.
by Ruth Conway
Trinity Press International 1999 ISBN: 1-56338-287-3 pbk 144
Distributed by SC'M Press, 9-17 St. Albans Place, London NI ONX at £8.95 listed by www.amazon.co.uk at £7.22
This is a well-documented and concisely written analysis of some of the key questions of our times : who decides how technology will develop and what factors do they take into account in so doing? The author is a founding member of a network concerned with values in technology and design education; she and her husband, Martin, were formerly in the Selly Oak Colleges and have many ecumenical contacts world-wide.
I read this book the day before I went to The Dome and so viewed the exhibits with a sharpened attitude. I found many examples of what Ruth speaks of, such as technologies in love with improving themselves (faster cars and brilliant computer programmes for instance) but leaving others to ask the questions about who benefits, what impact do they have on the environment and do they help the poor world (a region that the Dome didn't seem to want to bother about)? The book draws on a wide range of sources, for many people are interested in how we control technology rather than being controlled by it. It is written as a Christian perspective and keeps its theology in surprisingly relevant Biblical passages. There are good sections, with positive examples, about technology education in schools, stressing the breadth of questions which can he raised through the subject. The author also regularly has thoughts on what is and what could be if we take concepts of community seriously. She outlines well the values that do, could, should guide decision makers.
I had questions left to ask, however, about what structures are needed if the efforts of the technologists are to he controlled? Ruth is keen on local solutions wherever possible, but global environmental problems need global solutions and the world lacks any institutions with real power, compared for instance to the power of the World Trade Organisation in relation to trading agreements. The current sharp questioning of the role of the WTO is perhaps part of the growing movement of questioning where technology is taking us as well as global capitalism. Even amidst the growing love of Emails and Webpages, many of the values of those involved in communities and networks are part of this critical movement. 'I'his book can help us be sharper on our approach and broaden our understanding of Christian discipleship into new areas. As Ruth says, we need to make "the web of technological decision-making become part of the movement toward the shalom of Christ's kingdom."
Web sites of interest:
Christian Ecology Link