The constant barrage of information and communiques from blogs, texts, and emails along with the seemingly limitless possible distractions of websites, apps, and games constantly work to both keep me moving from one task to another and distract me from what I should be doing at any given moment. This reality prompted me to pick up Quentin Schultze‘s book, Habits of the High-Tech Heart: Living Virtuously in the Information Age. I do not know why this book was on my bookshelf. It is not the type of book I would normally buy, so it must have been for a class I took at some point. My complete lack of recollection of the book makes me wonder if I read it as I am sure I was supposed to have done. Nonetheless, in God’s providence I own the book and currently need help thinking through the issues which it purports to discuss. Therefore, I will read it now and, with full acknowledgment of the existing potential irony, put together a short series of blog posts responding to one chapter per week as I read the book (This is mostly for the accountability benefits; even though, having read the introduction I am sure that my creating a faux accountability partner by promising blog posts to an audience which may or may not exist is not one of Schultze’s “Habits of a High-Tech Heart”).
The introduction makes two things clear. First, although he is sure he will be pegged as one, Schultze claims that he is, in fact, not a Luddite. Second, Schultze is convinced that in our journey to ends of the techno-galaxy we are often proceeding with a grand naivete and without the necessary moral forethought. He writes,
The idea that we are witnessing the emergence of a beneficient information society is triumphalistic propaganda… This book addresses some of the deepest reservations that we should have about the impact of information technologies on the moral fabric of our lives… There is much worth celebrating, from the joys of emailing friends to the Web sites that publish up-to-date information about medical treatments. Nevertheless, our tendency to adopt every new information technology uncritically – with out discerning the options, setting appropriate limits, and establishing humane practices – is simply irresponsible. North Americans are largely unreflective, voracious consumers of cyber-novelty and informational trivia… Unless we focus as much on the quality of our character as we do no technological innovation, potentially good informational techniques will ultimately reduce our capacity to love one another. We ought to face the fact that our cyber-innovations today are running far ahead of our moral sensibilities… To be virtuous people in a high-tech world is to be neither moralists nor pragmatists but rather sojourners who humbly seek goodness in an eternal adventure that began before we were born and will continue after we die (pp16-24).
I am looking forward to reading (or perhaps re-reading) this book for a few reasons: Schultze (at least in the introduction) is punchy, and punchy writers are fun to read; he is trying to address an issue that we are all working through to one degree of success or another; and he is apparently not afraid to question the status quo that says all technological advancement is necessarily to be desired.