The Religion of Tech

This is an article that takes us briefly outside the matrix of modern technology. As cool, useful and exciting as today’s tech can be, the ideology behind it is, in this author’s view, founded on a body of beliefs that users readily accept, but that serve creators and purveyors far more than the consumers who pay for products they don’t truly own, and give away personal information over which they no longer have control.

The greatest of the United States’ homegrown religions – greater than Jehovah’s Witnesses, greater than the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, greater even than Scientology – is the religion of technology … By spreading a utopian view of technology, a view that defines progress as essentially technological, they’ve encouraged people to switch off their critical faculties and give Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and financiers free rein in remaking culture to fit their commercial interests.

For many, especially younger consumers, notions of privacy and surveillance are not of concern at all. For others, this is the dawn of the ‘Big Brother’ society, which gives unprecedented power to elites in government and commerce. If the latter is the case, how then can a society founded on principles of individual freedom and liberty be led down such a path so easily?

John Kenneth Galbraith coined the term ‘innocent fraud’. He used it to describe a lie or a half-truth that, because it suits the needs or views of those in power, is presented as fact. After much repetition, the fiction becomes common wisdom. ‘It is innocent because most who employ it are without conscious guilt,’ Galbraith wrote in 1999. ‘It is fraud because it is quietly in the service of special interest.’ The idea of the computer network as an engine of liberation is an innocent fraud.

It might be a good time to take our eyes off of our screens for a moment to consider how far technology has come so quickly, and where it might be headed. As we become more dependent on our devices and connections, and as the entities that provide and manage them become more consolidated and enriched, is unquestioning faith still justified?

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