I believe that 21st century Western culture has conditioned my generation (Generation “z”) to take the path of least resistance. When we’re faced with the choice between asking a “dumb question” or asking “Siri,” the tech seems to win every time. I have observed that this phenomenon is not only the case in high risk scenarios. In my experience, this happens in low-risk and arguably risk-free environments.
Not only do we avoid series that make us look “idiot” or “ignorant” with those we know, but also with complete strangers. Perhaps the high-stakes environments have conditioned us to act the same way in the low-risk environments, and I think this subtle change in behavior deserves our attention.
We have been given an incredible gift with technology and with it we have received virtually endless knowledge. We can learn whatever we put our minds to, whatever knowledge we desire, we can claim for little or no cost, raising the question, “why do we go to college?” But that’s a question for another time. Similar to the engineers who began to erect the Tower of Babel, we have the technology and the opportunity to achieve previously unimaginable results, using the combined power of all people, everywhere, simultaneously.
We have literally exceeded the heights of the Tower of Babel (Nasa). Scientists are investigating the possibilities of digital consciousness and immortality, cloning and cyborg technology (Neuralink). We are moving forward, advancing rapidly in technological achievement with no signs of slowing down until we achieve these feats. I find these research projects fascinating.
However, watching the story makes me think. Cultures that forged ahead in Godless progress and development have fallen, whether it be Babel, Rome, the empire of Alexander the Great, or the British empire.
We live in an experience. Our country was founded on rebellion, colonization and slavery, all in the name of “religious freedom”. Our constitution seems to be written from a place of religious belief. Anyway, this story has led us to this moment, we’ve come a long way, and technology has fundamentally changed the shape of our culture: how we work, how we learn, how we rest, and how we interact. . The invention and development of the Internet and its companion, the smartphone, has taken the world by storm with no turning back. We live in a new reality, the one we have developed.
Why is this important? And why would we engage in conversation and investigation that is almost guaranteed to be embarrassing or make us appear ignorant? Siri is less judgmental, objectively faster, and designed to give us a “scientific” or at least democratically popular response, like the algorithm that promotes news articles on social media. These algorithms (within Google, Youtube and Facebook) are designed to promote posts with the highest level of user engagement (The social dilemma).
However, despite the obvious flaws in this system, which have led to the spread of objectively false news and disinformation such as (and I hope we can agree on the false nature of this) theory of the earth flat. So, as reliable and trustworthy as Siri tends to be, it’s important to remember that even the most advanced technology can’t discern truth from lies without human intervention. People are biased and usually spend a lot of time discussing the truth. However, I think we would find more value in asking a friend about their beliefs about the meaning of life and what they think of us as a friend, then if we typed this question into Google. So, maybe you already know this, but you might still be undecided about how we interact with strangers.
Why ask a local to give you directions in an unfamiliar area when Google Maps is just a click away? There are several benefits we deprive ourselves of when we choose technology over people, even strangers. This person can receive the benefit of sharing their expert knowledge of their home. This experience can be uplifting and encouraging, rather than boring or frustrating as we may assume or claim as an excuse to disengage from another image bearer.
On the other hand, you can benefit from their intimate knowledge of the area, they can suggest a superior hotel or restaurant to the one you previously selected, they can recommend a dish or provide a name to ask. These details are personal and intimate and in fact rather difficult if not impossible to discover online. This is just one example, but it’s not limited to the glowing rectangle in your pocket, or a complete stranger. This applies to cashier versus ATM, or bank clerk versus ATM, asking your server for a recommendation rather than relying solely on online reviews.
All of this carries certain social risks, but I refuse to believe that my generation is defined by fragility, comfort and risk aversion. Take those risks, especially the little ones, and see where it can take you, put down your phone, look up, and if you don’t know what to say, I recommend you start with “Hello.” You may find yourself challenged in unique ways, but you may also find yourself in situations where particular opportunities for encouragement, kindness, and perhaps a chance to share something personal, and perhaps God can even give you a chance to share the gospel. People are better than computers!