The iPhone and ‘Technolust’

ThinkChristian has started an interesting discussion about whether the Apple iPhone is the latest example of gadgets that encourage a destructive, self-centered focus on ourselves. I think this is a valid concern and the lure of becoming self-absorbed in our personal technologies at the expense of closer human interaction is something that ought to be taken seriously. The the problem isn’t cut-and-dried. There are some very good and thoughtful responses to this item that I encourage you to read. Of course, as someone who has been a professional computer software developer for longer than I care to remember and an admiring user of Apple computers an other products, I had to give my own response which is edited and reproduced here:

Nothing can be said about iPhone that couldn’t be said about iPods, the internet, Walkmans, telephones, or even books. People still only have 24 hours in a day; just more choices of ways to isolate themselves if they want.

MrPages has a very good point about technolust. Having to be among the first to spend the most on a gadget that tempts one to waste large amounts of precious time is a problem. I don’t have an iPhone, but I might someday when the price comes way down. I can wait. I don’t even have my own cell phone yet. The iPhone is the first phone with enough features in one gadget to make it worth carrying around (but not for that price). Patience always pays off with these gadgets. The price will come down and/or the capabilities will increase and become more reliable and useful. I think my money is going to go into a MacBook Pro. I’ve been waiting since they were introduced for Apple to start making the one I want and they’re getting pretty close.

The thing about the iPhone, iPod and other Apple products is that they really do stand out in the world of gadgets. The attention to design and detail that Apple puts into its products makes it more than just another technology company trying to make big money fast. It’s obvious that they put a lot more time into designing products and software that people can easily use in ways that are natural to them. This helps keep technology in its place, as the servant of humans, rather than making people the servants of their technology; having them use it the way the product was easiest or cheapest to make. As an engineer, I respect the emphasis on excellence and quality in design that so many of Apple’s competitors can only cheaply imitate.

I’m not saying that Apple is a godsend. It doesn’t do what it does from consciously God honoring motives. Some of their business practices have given me pause. But on the whole their success has been based on the outstanding quality of their products, not deceptive or heavy handed business practices. Creativity is an attribute that we humans share with God as his creatures. I see excellence in creativity as honoring to God and reflective of is image in us. If only Steve Jobs knew it.

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One Response to The iPhone and ‘Technolust’

  1. Neal Locke says:

    Hi Paul,
    Just dropping a note to say hello, and thanks for your comment on my recent presbymergent post. It’s always exciting to run into another presbyterian with similar interests (although your geek-cred probably puts mine to shame). I’ll be starting my seminary journey in about one year (Princeton Theological Seminary), so I think I’ll keep an eye on your blog for a preview of what’s to come!
    On the subject of this particular post, I’ve never been too much into Mac (more of a Linux-type), but I can certainly appreciate from a distance the care and “intelligent design” they put into their products. Like you, though, I’m content to wait until prices come down. My Treo 650, though surpassed by the 700, still does just about everything I need it to, and hopefully will last through the next three years of seminary when I won’t be able to afford anything new.
    Are you planning on pursuing ordination of any sort when you’re done with seminary?

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