Taking Account of Tech: Fulfilling Our Personhood in the Smartphone Era
But random reflections on the human condition need, like beads, to be strung on a connecting thread…this thread should be the Islamic concept of Man as God’s Viceroy on this beautiful but transient earth… Are we or are we not fully responsible for everything that we do, regardless of whether we are obeying orders or constrained by fear?- Gai Eaton1
The products indoctrinate and manipulate; they promote a false consciousness which is immune against its falsehood. And as these beneficial products become available to more individuals in more social classes, the indoctrination they carry ceases to be publicity; it becomes a way of life… it militates against qualitative change. Thus emerges a pattern of one-dimensional thought and behavior in which ideas, aspirations, and objectives that, by their content, transcend the established universe of discourse and action are either repelled or reduced to terms of this universe.- Herbert Marcuse2
- The extreme conservative position holds that there is no good in modern technology, only harm.
- The conservative position holds that there are both good and harm in modern technology, but the harm outweighs the good.
- The liberal position holds that there are both good and harm in modern technology, but the good outweighs the harm.
- The extreme liberal position holds that there is no harm in modern technology, only good.
Personhood and moral accountability
- a creation and slave of Allah the Exalted;
- the one who has been given knowledge of Allah, the cosmos, the terrestrial realm, and the self by Allah; and
- the possessor of the sacred trust, trusted to do Allah’s work on earth before returning back to Him for judgment.
Eyes with which to see
False news reached more people than the truth; the top 1% of false news cascades diffused to between 1000 and 100,000 people, whereas the truth rarely diffused to more than 1000 people. Falsehood also diffused faster than the truth. The degree of novelty and the emotional reactions of recipients may be responsible for the differences observed… Falsehood diffused significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information, and the effects were more pronounced for false political news…24
- Mundane caveats from friend’s lives, such as vacations, meals, and hilarious parenting memes;
- Reports of deadly violence in the form either of news reports or actual footage of war, protests, or police brutality;
- Retail advertisements specific to this user’s preferences; and
- Environmental justice content, including scientific or agricultural photos, scholarly articles, and editorials.
- Deadly unjust violence ought to command one’s action with particular urgency, and ought to call to action;
- Environmental justice—and the miscarriage thereof—ought to move one’s heart, command attention, and call to particularly urgent types of action;
- The buying and selling of goods and their advertisement comprise business, and represent good ḥalāl income that is necessary for human flourishing; and
- Mundane caveats are a beautiful and necessary part of life, culture, and embellishments.
Our mutual rights
These days, those phones in our pockets are changing our minds and hearts because they offer us three gratifying fantasies. One, that we can put our attention wherever we want it to be; two, that we will always be heard; and three, that we will never have to be alone. And that third idea, that we will never have to be alone, is central to changing our psyches. Because the moment that people are alone, even for a few seconds, they become anxious, they panic, they fidget, they reach for a device. Just think of people at a checkout line or at a red light. Being alone feels like a problem that needs to be solved. And so people try to solve it by connecting. But here, connection is more like a symptom than a cure. It expresses, but it doesn't solve, an underlying problem. But more than a symptom, constant connection is changing the way people think of themselves. It's shaping a new way of being.49
Of all the changes that have taken place in the human condition over the past hundred years none is more significant than the increasing difficulty we now have in tracing acts to their owners… The State, the society or the organization acts. ‘They’ act. But ‘they’ cannot be loved or blamed or touched. The need to attribute acts to men or women like ourselves finds no satisfaction. It has become essential to redefine the idea of human responsibility in relation to a society of jobholders and civil servants, a world in which the majority of men are absorbed into vast collectivities and appear to have as little personal stake in their own actions as the slaves and bondmen of other times.56
Responsibility to the Earth and her creatures
[M]uch of the toxic pollution comes from burning circuit boards, plastic and copper wires, or washing them with hydrochloric acid to recover valuable metals like copper and steel. In doing so, workshops contaminate workers and the environment with toxic heavy metals like lead, beryllium and cadmium, while also releasing hydrocarbon ashes into the air, water and soil.59
Conclusion: The interior space in each of us
… the kind of environment in which a large part of humanity lives today—the environment created by technology at the service of immediate, short-term needs… an entirely man-made environment, in the midst of a clutter of our own products, is to be isolated in a narrow world which gives no play to the capacity we have for reaching out to what lies beyond the human realm as such… It offers only a setting in which ceaseless and, for the most part, aimless activity can take place. There is nothing in common between, on the one hand, the stupor produced by an environment which offers no nourishment and, on the other, that ‘sleep of the senses’ induced by a beauty which melts the barriers between one world and another—or by such concentration of attention upon what lies beyond the immediate grasp of the senses that perceived reality becomes, not blurred, but transparent. For beauty to penetrate or for concentration to become stabilized, time and stillness are necessary.70