Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Chronic Cost of ‘Constant Computing’

It seems that scientists, and now even some average Americans, are beginning to sense that the constant use of today’s variety of hi-tech communication devices are starting to have a negative impact on their ability to mentally function as they once did.

Many today are so submerged in the electronic transfer of various forms of data that they have become addicted to the point that they feel bored when not engaged in some way along these lines. But being 'over wired' can be costly in many ways – sometimes even financially. It seems that Kord Campbell, because of the sheer volume of messages he receives daily, recently overlooked a very crucial e-mail. It had offered him a huge sum of money for his Internet start up. He almost missed the one message that mattered most. Fortunately for him and his wife, he caught the financial on-line offer and was able to salvage a $1.3 million deal after apologizing to his suitor.

But one of the more serious aspects of being constantly wired to one or more of today’s many devices is not about money. It is rather about what this overload seems to be doing to the healthy functioning of the human brain. Scientists say juggling e-mail, phone calls and other incoming information can change how people think and behave. They say the ability to focus is being undermined by ridiculous bursts of non-stop information. In other words, many are beginning to miss the things that are really important because they are drowning in a sea of mostly useless and time-consuming electronic data and communications.

Research is now beginning to show that people involved in heavy duty multi-tasking actually have more trouble focusing and shutting out the vast amounts of irrelevant information that come their way in one form or another. Experts agree that these people also experience more stress. And scientists are also discovering that, even after the multi-tasking ends, fractured thinking and a lack of focus can persist. In other words, too much use of computerized gadgets can impact and help slow down the live computers in the human brain. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse and one of the world’s leading brain scientists said, "Today’s technology is rewiring our brains."

From a biblical and Christian standpoint, much could be said about this issue. The obvious one would the great contrast in the amounts of time some Christians spend in communication with everybody and anybody more than with their Savior and Lord. It is quite difficult to "Pray without ceasing" as 2 Thessalonians 5:17 commands if one’s time is largely taken up by non-ceasing e-mailing, texting, cell-phoning, Twittering and Facebooking activities, just to name a few.

Scripture also points out the extreme value of spending time studying and absorbing God’s Word and will as 2 Timothy 3:16 and the entire 119th Psalm reveal. It would be quite interesting, and likely quite discouraging, to learn the real ratio of time spent by many believers in their Bibles versus time spent involved with their collection of fancy electronic toys and gadgets. The answer may well explain the overall lukewarm condition of the church in America today as well.

Then lastly, Scripture instructs those in God’s family, "Be still, and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:12) That all-important aspect of a healthy and normal Christian life cannot work very well when God’s voice is just one of many and is generally swallowed up in a massive maze of worldly meaningless noise – some of which is seriously anti-god and counterproductive spiritually speaking.

Technology is not evil. It is a tool – and a powerful one! It can be and often is used effectively for the betterment of our daily lives and culture. And for that we should be thankful.

But this same technology should also be used for advancement of the Kingdom of God both through missionary endeavor and for the personal growth of every believer in Christ. But for Christians who are addicted to technology, on a purely secular level, this may not be at all an easy transition. It may take serious soul-searching. It will no doubt require fervent prayer, personal discipline, and a major effort to rearrange their lives and schedules to spend more time communicating with God than everyone under the sun on the latest and greatest devices of the day. Then, and only then, could Romans 12:2 become the blessed result, and fulfill God’s deepest desire for each of His people.

"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."

Bill Breckenridge

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