Thursday, December 31, 2009

Information Technology as Blessing?

In chapter 3 of the book, I attack the rise of information technology in financial matters. It's a bit strong to say that I argue that it is a curse, although I do think that ATMs, websites, online banking, and pay-at-the-pump credit card scanners contribute to serious problems in our lives. In general these technologies of finance speed up the world. More specifically, they contribute to three problems: depersonalization, arrogance, and abstraction:

  • De-personalization or disconnection: our human relationships suffer the more we use money. In fact, we begin to use monetary values to measure the value of those relationships. We need to build communities and attach faces to what our money is doing.
  • Arrogance: we begin to think that we're in control, and we can move our money around at will. We need to practice humility with our money.
  • Abstraction: we forget what money really is and what it really is for. Electronic technologies contribute to a loss of tangibility about money, which is already an abstract thing to begin with. When all we see are numbers flitting in and out of electronic accounts, we get detached from the concrete realities in which those numbers are rooted. We need to practice concreteness with our money.
But I had a new thought today, as I went online to process gifts our kids chose to give to our denominational relief relief agency. Here I was, using slick web technology to make donations to specific causes with faces attached. The technology made it extremely easy to give money away--the same technology that erodes the virtues in us. It was slick, but for a good cause.

So if I could add a footnote to chapter 3, it would say something about how the church can also tap these technologies to begin moving its members toward a healthier way of living with money. I hesitate to say that such a faster, flatter world is a blessing, but I wouldn't hesitate to say that we can carefully and prudently use these technologies toward worthy ends from time to time. 

We're not subverting the system from within, but we are witnessing to a different way of handling money, a hopeful way, a loving way. 

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