Checks and Balances

“The marvelous development of science and technics has been counterbalanced on the other side by an appalling lack of wisdom and introspection.”
– Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion, 1937
Technology rocks. Flying machines and all that good stuff. Seriously, if we didn’t live in a web 2.0 (3.0, 4.0 ff.) world, I wouldn’t be writing this. And if I were writing this in an analog world it wouldn’t be called “user generated content.” It would be… I don’t know… a quaint diary entry or something like that. 
We live in an age of texting championshipsrobotics competitions, digital remixing, and a million +1.0 other technologically driven phenomena of which most people of a certain age have 0.0 experience and awareness. By the time I click “publish post” this post will be obsolete. It’s dizzying, awesome, fun, and foundational. Technology is driving the spaceship. 
When Jung, writing in 1937, wrote of an appalling lack of wisdom and introspection, one suspects he knew that, unfortunately, his observation would be eternally relevant. At present, the gap between technological innovation and moral/spiritual life is about as “Grand Canyon” as it ever has been. It seems like technology and morality might even have an inverse relationship:
Technology= fast
Morality/Spirituality= slow
Technology= innovation
Morality/Spirituality= old fashioned
Technology= cool
Morality/Spirituality= rabbi, philosopher, mom
Technology= computer
Morality/Spirituality= mind, heart, soul
Technology, and web 2.0 in particular, are at best, morally and spiritually neutral. Start following #God in Twitter and it’s like stepping into a river of theologically themed currents. Start following #JustinBeiber and… well… it’s sort of the same thing. The point is that technology is a platform/ media. It cares less about the substance and more about the process of communication. It cares less about what you say and more about how you say.0 it. 
As an educator I’m all for technology. I’ve seen, firsthand, how bells and whistles help get kids excited about learning. I’ve typed up rubrics for multimedia assessments and seen the pride and sense of accomplishment that kids have in knowing that they’ve not only demonstrated learning, but created something. 
What resonates for me in Jung’s observation is the need for balance. As technology becomes increasingly savvy, nuanced, responsive, dynamic, and powerful, it seems like “wisdom and introspection” should, at minimum, keep pace. I’d go so far as to say that wisdom and introspection, morality and spirituality, should be driving the ship, rather than computer code. Unfortunately, the “how” of technology– quick, shiny, flashing, highly edited, impersonal– is in direct opposition to the “why” of wisdom and introspection. The latter are slow, reasoned, steady, and in many cases, unchanging (and therefore not dynamic). With the world at my fingertips, it’s hard to justify working through a a difficult problem when all I’ve got to do is Google it. The challenge is compounded by the current political/media world, which daily erodes what little space remains in the public square for thoughtfulness and sincerity. 
As educators we play a vital role in advocating for greater balance between the two extremes that Jung identifies. As educators we are both ambassadors for technology as well as ambassadors for wisdom, introspection, morality, and spirituality. As educators we can embrace the “how” of technology and the “why” of wisdom and introspection with equal enthusiasm. We can challenge our students to advance wise and meaningful causes in new and exciting ways. 
Judaism has long affirmed the need for balance: The six days of work are balanced by a day of rest; our particularly Jewish concerns are balanced by a commitment to universalism; our sense of blessing is balanced by our recognition that the world is unredeemed. Our sense of balance, of dialectical creativity, can serve as a guide in our efforts to make sure that the tension between technological innovation and the commitment to wisdom and everything it implies, remains a vital one in the public square. At present we teeter on the precipice of a complete subjugation of our unique human capacities for reasoned thought and ethical conduct to the “flying machines” of tomorrow. The “new bottles” of technology are only useful if they are filled with the wine, old and new, of wisdom, introspection, and a commitment to the life of the soul. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *