Feb 28, 2020

Do you actually own your technological devices or are you just leasing the software that’s running them? From Apple to John Deere, it’s increasingly clear that these companies are securing their ownership through the very design of their devices. This is evidenced by the fact that we’re entirely dependent on the providers for repairs. These machines are not made to be fixed by us. In this episode, Nathan and Cameron discuss the implications of this trend, as well as the disturbing possibility that what may initially appear to be an elaborate conspiracy is in fact simply an example of the cost of our demand for convenience.

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Transcript



Please Note: Thinking Out Loud is produced to be heard, not read. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio. Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

Nathan Rittenhouse: Hello and welcome to Thinking Out Loud. Thinking Out Loud is a podcast where we think out loud about current events and Christian hope. I'm your cohost, Nathan Rittenhouse.

Cameron McAllister: And I'm your cohost, Cameron McAllister.

Nathan Rittenhouse: Cameron, I was thinking about something this morning while putting my daughter on the bus, that the way that our news cycles work, and rightfully so, is they're always focused on the new thing. But sometimes in doing so, we forget kind of the subtle things that have a massive impact on our life. It doesn't make the headlines, like the sun is working today. But without that, all of civilization would collapse. It's a pretty important part. But because of the routineness of it and the subtlety of it, it kind of shifts down in our focus to a level of thinking that is totally subconscious.

Cameron McAllister: Well, now I'm paranoid about the sun. So thanks.

Nathan Rittenhouse: Well you should be. Yeah. Because in a couple of billion years it's over, and there will be cataclysmic climate change for sure. But one of the things, I came across an article this week that I think is intuitive to us in some sense, but it's one of those things that just kind of subtly there. And it has to do with the internet of things and property ownership. It came to my attention by a professor of law at Washington and Lee University, Joshua Fairfield. He had just some funny, funny might not be the right word.

Nathan Rittenhouse: Let me throw out an example of how he starts the article on this, and then I'll pitch it over to you to see how you've been thinking about some of these ideas. But he talks about a casino that got hacked because of the sensors in its fish tank. So there were probes in the fish tank that were hooked to the internet that were recording data, I mean temperature, and I think water cleanliness.

Nathan Rittenhouse: And hackers were able to get onto the network for the thermometer, then get into the system, then get into the total casino system, and then download like ten gigabytes of personal data to someplace in Finland or something. It's a bit of a humorous version of that, but he's looking at how now that the internet is connected to everything that we have, all of these portals and back channels and loops, of kind of fascinating ways in which, and of course there are the stories about our equipment spying on us, and lots of people have experiences with that. So that's one element of things I'd like to talk to you about.

Nathan Rittenhouse: The second direction of that then comes in the form of the conversation of ownership. So the question is, is do you actually own your technological devices, or are you just leasing the software that's running them? And the reason that gets interesting, is companies from Apple to John Deere are sort of subtly or blatantly saying, “You don't actually own the device. We own it, and you're leasing the software from us. You can't fix that on your own. You have to send it to us to fix it because it's our property.” And so it kind of messes with the idea of who actually owns the devices, and the tools, and the things that we think are ours.

Nathan Rittenhouse: And I don't know that he's seriously in the article that I was reading going in this direction, but he said we're actually returning to a form of feudalism rather than private property. If you think of a feudal structure, Cameron owns the land. I work for Cameron. It's his land. I use his tools. I live on his space. He actually owns and controls everything, and I'm just part of his system. He was saying that the internet of things is returning us to a medieval system in which we don't actually technically own things. We're just paying somebody else to use their thing in order for us to exist. And so, I don't know, have you thought anything along those categories? Or is there anything in that that strikes you as, I never thought of that before?

Cameron McAllister: So one initial takeaway lesson is that we should read the terms and conditions before we click yes to the software update.

Nathan Rittenhouse: All that fine print.

Cameron McAllister: All that fine print.

Nathan Rittenhouse: Well, so here's an example, I think it was in that article or maybe another one that I read. So here's an example of that. So Roomba, you know the cute little robotic vacuum cleaners. So while your Roomba is going around and dodging your coffee table, and the nightstand in your bedroom, and all of that, it's also building a digital map of the layout of your house, which helps it be more efficient at what it does. It just doesn't have to calculate every time that, oh that lamp stand is there, it just knows and can go around it.

Nathan Rittenhouse: On the other hand, it has a digital map of your house that can be sold to advertisers to say, “Oh, Cameron has this eight foot section in his hallway that doesn't have anything. And so that map that your vacuum cleaner is making of your house becomes an economic asset to the company because there's a great marketing potential there for people you don't know to plug the map of your house into an algorithm to generate ads for you. So you're speaking about fine print, there would be one of them.

Cameron McAllister: Right. And I remember a lot of conversations about Alexa when she made her debut. I'm saying she. When you have that little Alexa device, and you talk to her. Basically, of course the device is recording you at all times. And anecdotally, not long ago, I was just standing around with a friend. You'll see where this is going. Immediately we were discussing a certain book. We go back to our desks. And not an hour later, the book pops up as an add on my friend's feed. And he just texted me and says this, "Look how creepy this is. I didn't even have my phone out. Nothing." I mean this is just really pretty, pretty interesting. So yeah, I think there's several items of concern that come to mind there immediately. The feudalism angle is, I haven't heard it put quite that way, so it's-

Nathan Rittenhouse: And maybe that's a bit over the top there. I don't know that he's trying to create an economic panic of that, but he's just using that as a model of saying this is a subtle thing that is happening that's different. So you look at an old tractor is not connected to anything. I have a tractor that doesn't have lights on it. It cannot be digitally controlled from a distance. Where now if you have a quarter of a million dollar tractor, it probably is a software based thing that you have to have a certified technician, because of the property rights of the software, work on it.

Nathan Rittenhouse: So when you get to the point that your farm equipment is dependent on an outsourced digital connection, that is a difference. I think you saw this when Tesla boosted the range of some of its cars when people were trying to flee a hurricane, and it remotely added distance to their cars, which on one hand is really cool. On the other hand, if they could do that, it's kind of strange. Your car can be shut down at a distance.

Nathan Rittenhouse: So all of us, I think, have experiences of our technology not doing what we want it to do because we're impeded by somebody someplace else who actually has the permission to do it. So I don't think it's something to be alarmed about, but it is an interesting thing to notice that there is a significant difference there, in what it now means to own a thing. Yeah. If that makes sense to say it of whether or not we're just kind of leasing it.

Cameron McAllister: Well yeah, the feudalism angle I think is, it's a helpful analogy in some ways. The other item there of course is people were more and more concerned about privacy. But here's kind of a larger question that I'm thinking of whenever these conversations crop up, I believe it's in The Shallows, isn't that, it's Nicholas Carr.

Nathan Rittenhouse: Nicholas Carr.

Cameron McAllister: So in The Shallows, Nicholas Carr talks about the notion of irreversibility when it comes to certain items of technology. So you introduce the wheel, right? Now once the wheel is a part of the technology that's in use, you can't now subtract it. We're entirely dependent on it, right? Same now with vehicles and all that.

Cameron McAllister: So he argues in The Shallows that smartphones, and at the time that that book came out, smart phones were still relatively new, but he argues, and his argument is still pertinent now, even though the rate at which technology goes these days, it renders so many of these books on technology obsolete within three years often.

Cameron McAllister: But his argument still holds. He argues that the smart phone is roughly analogous to the wheel in terms of how revolutionary it is, and also in terms of its irreversibility. So now you subtract it, and it would significantly hamper many operations in a modern society, right?

Nathan Rittenhouse: Including people being able to find their car, and then find their way home.

Cameron McAllister: Find their way home, even. We're all pretty directionally challenged these days. But so my point here is when we talk about privacy, and this has a bearing on ownership as well, and we need to get back to ownership because that's the real interesting item here too. But when we talk about these growing kind of insidious factors, the way your Roomba is mapping out your home, and who has this information, what are they doing with it?

Cameron McAllister: We tend to think sometimes in terms of large scale conspiracy theories, but it seems to me that what's really happening is innovation continues to happen and there's no grand master plan. So the frightening aspect is not that there's some grand conspiracy theory, or some grand conspiracy here to harvest all your data and use it against you for nefarious purposes, but that it's moving at such a rate, and there's less control there, but we keep introducing new items. And those items then become irreversible items in the sense that we now need them. And so it keeps barreling forward.

Cameron McAllister: So some grand conspiracy would assume a greater level of control than I think we actually have. Ethicists will continue to remind us, and you see this in bioethics and all of the different ethical spheres that look at technology, that every new piece of technology, no matter how seemingly innocuous, introduces completely unforeseen ethical questions.

Cameron McAllister: My go to example here is always the air conditioner. Air conditioner's a great thing, right? We love air conditioners. But there's a fascinating, and I mean of course you know this Nathan, you think along these lines. This is why we do this podcast together. But there's a fascinating sociology of the air conditioner because many regions that were previously seen as just uninhabitable, now all of a sudden we're building homes there.

Cameron McAllister: And some of those places are places where probably if we look at the landscape, we look at the environmental conditions, we probably shouldn't be building our homes there. We do. And then there are some sometimes drastic consequences. But those are unforeseen ethical issues that come by way just of an air conditioner. Now in the United States, we so value creativity and innovation, we're a “how to” culture. We're not as reflective on whether we should in the first place. And I sound like I'm quoting Jurassic Park here. But we really aren't. And so I think a lot of the worry sometimes is misplaced because it tends to assume this higher level of control. Where I think the worry really should be is that we actually don't have that much control.

Nathan Rittenhouse: So let me back up, and kind of parallel your train of thought there on a couple of things. One of those being the Nicholas Carr idea about once a technology is introduced, you can't take it back. I heard somebody say once he attributed to hearing an Amish guy say this, whether or not it's true, the phrase, "What one generation considers a luxury, the next generation considers a necessity." So your GPS would fit into that. I think that that phrase captures some of that.

Nathan Rittenhouse: Then on the privacy thing though, I'm with you. There's not a grand conspiracy theory here, and there's not something unethical in the sense that there's nothing being taken from us. All of it is being given by us. We click the “accept the terms,” when we download the app to say, oh yeah, this app can access my contacts and my camera and my location, and blah, blah, blah. We willfully do that.

Nathan Rittenhouse: I don't know that a lot different would happen if Roomba said, "Oh hey, and by the way, we're going to map your house and sell that data." People might say, "Cool. Now I can be advertised to with more precision." You know what I'm saying?

Cameron McAllister: I do.

Nathan Rittenhouse: The concern there is it's important for the app to have my location because now it can recommend restaurants to me when I'm driving by.

Cameron McAllister: And it's important to look at that voluntary aspect there, Nathan, because more and more, we wouldn't state this so plainly, but more and more, what we're doing is we're outsourcing our thinking to these devices. And so we are voluntarily doing that. I mean, whenever we're in the car together, and we're doing an event together, Nathan, I love this, you're the stubborn one who wants to outsmart the Google Map, or just not be reliant on it in the first place. And I love that. I, on the other hand, am slavishly tied to it. Of course, I was directionally challenged to begin with. Because I think what you're doing is you recognize that, hey, it's a helpful kind of habit to be able to get a basic sense of direction and to read a map, and to think for yourself. So we're outsourcing a lot of our thought here as well.

Nathan Rittenhouse: Okay, so let me run with that there a second. But by outsourcing our own thinking and actions, we're becoming dependent. I think that's a phrase used earlier, and a helpful little line that always sticks in my head that my grandpa used to say to me is that you pay for dependency in units of freedom.

Cameron McAllister: That is absolutely right. And these companies are adapting to our need.

Nathan Rittenhouse: Right. But then, suddenly you can only get to the places that exist on Google Maps. So your freedom is now hampered by your ability to go to places that somebody has uploaded.

Cameron McAllister: But that's an emergent property. Couldn't we say? Again, that's not some grand conspiracy to take away your freedom.

Nathan Rittenhouse: Oh no. Most people are totally happy for that to be the case.

Cameron McAllister: Right, right.

Nathan Rittenhouse: I'm just saying there are fascinating places off the map.

Cameron McAllister: Of course, right. No, you're totally right. But I think it's important because a lot of conversations surrounding technology still, they go in that direction of, well, more and more of our freedom is being taken, and we're being spied on because…but the kind of the underlying sentence there should be, yeah, because we want to be. Because we're giving it away. And even if you just look at the titles of popular articles, I watched the entire series of blah, blah, blah, blah, blah so you don't have to. Here's what's really going on. And basically telling you, here's what you need to think. Here's how to think rather than allowing you to draw your own conclusions. So yeah, I see that dynamic reflected all over the place.

Nathan Rittenhouse: But part of that is that is reflective of the parallel dynamic of the fact that we're totally consumers rather than producers now.

Cameron McAllister: Yes. And here's where I think we can lay some blame actually at the feet of some of these Silicon Valley masterminds, or who have you. Because lots and lots of studies have been done. And I think Nicholas Carr draws on this in his book. And I mean in many of the books on technology, Alone Together is another one.

Nathan Rittenhouse: Sherry Turkle.

Cameron McAllister: Sherry Turkle. They draw on this data, but basically they point out that so many of our online tools, and really our smartphones, they're designed to be maximally addictive. I mean, even the scrolling option is, you opened up with a story about a casino, well, those are designed, the kind of the blueprint of those is a slot machine.

Nathan Rittenhouse: Well, and I came across that article because my computer recommended it to me.

Cameron McAllister: Right. But a deeply revealing fact though is more and more, we're hearing that a lot of these software developers in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, who are kind of at the cutting edge of all of this stuff, won't take it into their own homes, and certainly won't share it with their kids. That's pretty deeply revealing.

Nathan Rittenhouse: So we're not saying that it's thoughtless. We're just saying that it's not a conspiracy. It's a market driven thing that we want them to do to us. But the people producing it see some major flaws knowing how it actually works that gives them some pause.

Cameron McAllister: I mean again, if it's maximally addictive, it's going to work really, really well. So there's this kind of symbiotic-

Nathan Rittenhouse: And despite the consequences. I mean, that's how addictions lead to some bad places.

Cameron McAllister: Well, I remember years ago when the iPad was first making its debut, it was kind of one of those off the cuff moments that I don't know that it was actually planned. They were doing an interview with Steve Jobs. And the journalist said something to the effect of, "Well, of course your kids must all have iPads and they must have been playing with this stuff long before it hit the market." And he just, "Oh no. No, absolutely not." And then he kind of gathered himself a little bit. But there was kind of this moment of almost alarm. And by implication it seemed to be, “Oh no, I would never do that to my kids.”

Cameron McAllister: Then of course there have been subsequent studies that have shown pretty conclusively that, for instance, putting an iPad in the hands of a child under the age of four actually has some pretty serious effects on the ways in which they process information and the ways they think. But there's that dual aspect there. Of course there's some blame, but it's a symbiotic relationship because as we want more and more of our thinking outsourced, as we want more and more of the work done for us, then we become more addicted. And so I think a lot of these people are simply trying to design stuff that fits our needs, or fits what we want actually.

Nathan Rittenhouse: It's like the joke about the guy who had so many labor saving devices, he had to get a second job to pay for them all. It's sort of that. The way that it's marketed to us doesn't really have the effect that we think it does in that way. I was also, as you were talking, thinking that we, as a culture, justify almost anything as long as it's perceived to increase our safety.

Cameron McAllister: Yes. I would say that's true. Yep.

Nathan Rittenhouse: So the first thing that it does is, I think a lot of the technologies that we just kind of absorb into our life make things easier, efficient. There's an enjoyment factor. So entertainment would be maybe step one of why we get the thing. We might justify it as a safety thing of, well, I need to know where my kids are so my phone tracks them. And I can call 911 from any place now, and da, da, da. Not quite sure where to put my finger on that, but it seems like the entertainment and the safety aspect, if those things can be marketed to us, well, then we'll swallow the bait regardless of what the hook is, even if we know there's a hook.

Cameron McAllister: Yeah. So then to get us back to where we started, let's talk a little bit about ownership then. So the digital feudalism aspect is interesting. A number of years ago we were talking about digital Maoism and that was Jaron Lanier who was one of the early architects of the internet actually, who had formerly had a very optimistic view of the possibilities that the internet would introduce. He thought it would be basically the next step for democracy.

Cameron McAllister: And he has since so completely changed his tune. It is amazing. He almost sounds like a Luddite these days, even though he's a brilliant software engineer and computer programmer. But he's taken a pretty dim view of the web 2.0 era. But he was talking a lot about the ways in which we lose a lot of our genuine thinking. But ownership is another side of that coin because it's true if we own a device that is effectively useless without the software, I mean essentially, we are entirely, in a manner of speaking, we are entirely dependent on the provider, right? I mean-

Nathan Rittenhouse: So here's an example.

Cameron McAllister:...an iPhone's useless without it. Yeah.

Nathan Rittenhouse: Yeah. So I think Nebraska at one point, I don't know where they are in the legislation, it's called a Right to Repair law of basically saying you can't technically repair your iPhone, or have a local person do it. And there's one Apple store in Nebraska, which is like the size of the UK. So they're saying it's inefficient.

Cameron McAllister: So you have to go to Lincoln to get your phone repaired.

Nathan Rittenhouse: Yeah, exactly. Of saying a local repair shop can't order an authentic Apple part and replace it because it's actually Apple's phone.

Cameron McAllister: Amazing.

Nathan Rittenhouse: Which yeah, it's fascinating. I mean, on the other hand I just repaired my dryer, bought a $19 kit of bearings and rivets online and tore it all apart. And watched a five minute YouTube video and stapled it all back together and it works. Because it's not connected to the internet, I have the right to do that. But with the digital aspect woven into it now, that dryer that you bought that sends a signal to your phone to let you know when it's done is no longer yours.

Cameron McAllister: So that is actually kind of a scary thought though because when the technology works, when the dryer that's hooked up to the internet works, it's working at an amazing level of efficiency, and there's more convenience there than we've ever known. And we've got more time on our hands until it breaks. And then we're so dependent on technology that now we're really in trouble because if we can't get somebody to fix it in a timely manner, in theory, we don't have recourse to any other kind of repairs.

Cameron McAllister: And so to think of that on a larger scale as more of our technology, if it goes this way, not only have we outsourced our thinking a little bit, but we've outsourced our handyman skills now too, to the point where we in some ways maybe even legally cannot repair our items. Our level of dependency is now pretty high, isn't it? I mean, that's a radical level of dependency.

Nathan Rittenhouse: Yeah. Well, and part of that too goes with the, I was working on an appliance with my brother, and he was saying you can't find somebody who actually works on these anymore because most things are made just be thrown away when they're done, not fixed.

Cameron McAllister: Interesting.

Nathan Rittenhouse: And so that's part of kind of the consumer culture pushes us in that direction of who looks at something that's broken, and thought, well if I just pop these rivets out and these screws loose, I can probably get in there and change a piece. That's not our mindset. It's, well, we'll just get a new toaster rather than take the cover off and bend the little tab that holds the handle down. That's not our cultural mindset.

Cameron McAllister: And see, okay, so you mentioned mindset. Because the other factor that a lot of these ethicists and people who do all the nerdy thinking about our use of technology will point out is that a new piece of technology introduces new ethical challenges, but it also always inevitably reshapes how we think. I mean, Marshall McLuhan is the most famous proponent of this view and his most famous soundbite, “the medium is the message.” That's part of what that phrase encapsulates, that every new piece of technology changes the way you think, changes the way you look at the world, actually.

Cameron McAllister: So I mean again, just to back up a little bit and say to our listeners, hey, by the way, as Nathan, as you said before, when you proposed this topic, hey, you're listening to us on a device right now. That's very meta observation, isn't it? Yeah. And do you own it? But we're not recommending... again, this is not a council of despair or absolute fear, but I think this is one area technology, and especially where convenience is concerned and innovation and also we like getting the newest and the best in the items, but it's just to have a higher degree of reflection about it in general. And to think about what it's doing to how we think in the first place.

Cameron McAllister: I think that's, in my experience, Nathan, this is not the case with you, but with many, that's a deeply un-American mindset. It's more of a European mindset. And I can say that as a European transplant. Europeans, we're the weirdos who are more theoretical and less practical. And we're always worrying about background assumptions, and what it's doing to our minds. But I think a little bit of a dose of that in the United States could be really healthy here rather than just going with the flow.

Nathan Rittenhouse: Yeah. So I think one of the tricky things with technology, is it's hard to answer the question, is it worth it? So on most of our consumer, physical material things, I can look at a thing and say this is the value that's asked for it. And I can say, hey, that's worth it to me. I can give this much of my time, ala money to that to purchase that thing because it's worth it.

Nathan Rittenhouse: With the digital technology, it's hard to see what the downside of it is, or the other consequences. And so it's hard to say, hey, this looks like a convenient app or this looks like a good deal. And I don't feel like we always have the data we need to think through that kind of meta level you're talking about of is it worth it? At what consequence? I forget, I read some book by a guy who graduated from MIT, and then went to live with the Amish just as a detox from it. And I think it was in that book-

Cameron McAllister: You would read that book.

Nathan Rittenhouse: ...where he said...Yeah, I would. Yeah. Well, yeah. So my wife and I couple years ago wrote out a Rittenhouse theology of technology, of just ways we want to be thoughtful about the way we use technology and what it does. Because actually yeah, and this pertains to that book. He said the Amish guy said we're not opposed to change, but we want to negotiate change, and basically think about what it does to our concept of community.

Cameron McAllister: Interesting. That's really wise actually.

Nathan Rittenhouse: Yeah, that does seem wise. And so I'm not advocating being Amish, but I'm advocating being thoughtful about if I do this thing, what then does it do to fill in the blank? So as a disciple of Jesus, and if I'm taking every thought captive, and I want to look at the trajectory of the things that I "own," purchase, bring into my home, or bring into my relationships, then this does have a bearing on really practical...It goes from metaphysical to physical very quickly in unique ways. And that's why it's fun to be able to kind of think out loud about stuff like this because, not to be a fearmonger, but just to be thoughtful, I think is a wise step.

Cameron McAllister: Well two practical applications that do come to mind here, Nathan, as we kind of bring this to a close for our listeners. Well, one more of a principle and then one more of a habit to cultivate. But as a general principle, as a Christian, I would say that anything that is promoting any kind of addictive behavior is not good, it's bad. So we want to work to undermine addictive habits wherever they find themselves.

Cameron McAllister: And so with technology there are unanticipated aspects. You mentioned that. I mean, when a new technology emerges, part of what makes it challenging is that we can't fully anticipate its effects, what it's going to do. I mean, social media would be a case in point, right? We're finally now starting to really take note of some of the lasting long-term effects of social media. And a lot of the reports are pretty sobering actually. I've actually seen some sociologists report that one day we may look at the ways in which we use social media, not social media itself, but our habit of constantly using it, we may look at that the same way we look at smoking one day.

Cameron McAllister: So there's those unanticipated aspects, but however, we can be intentional and mindful. And that means if we observe something that we're losing control over in our lives related to our technology, whether it's our social media usage, whether it's our constant checking of the weather, or the news, and it's promoting huge anxiety. Well, we can curb that. And we can set up a system of accountability. So undermine addictive habits, number one.

Cameron McAllister: And number two, slow down, and take that kind of bit of Amish wisdom there. And just because everybody else is racing to the next big thing doesn't mean we need to. What we forget, I think, because our culture moves at such a speed is that human beings don't move at that speed. We're not machines, and we don't process data like that. I often talk to people and they say, "Well, I want to up my reading list." And I mean, we count everything. We count our calories, we count our steps, we count how many books we read, and we try to maximize our potential.

Cameron McAllister: And we talk about ourselves in such mechanistic terms, you don't download data into human mind. You have to think through it. We don't process it like a machine. We're thinking through it. We're mulling it over, slow down. Think about something. Write out a philosophy of technology. That's a great idea. That's a great little exercise. Rather than just going with the flow and adopting new pieces of technology. I mean there's nothing wrong with thinking it through first. Waiting till it's settled in the market a little bit, and studying some long-term effects. What's wrong with that? Being more intentional, slowing down, and being reflective. So I think those two things, undermining addiction and slowing down can really go a long way here actually.

Nathan Rittenhouse: So this seems like the kind of conversation where somebody should quote Wendell Berry. So I'll do that.

Cameron McAllister: It certainly does.

Nathan Rittenhouse: And so one of his essays recently that I was skimming through, he said there's no such thing as autonomy. There is only responsible or irresponsible dependency. And so I think what we're saying is here, and he meant a lot of other things by that, but to apply it to this of, we're not saying that you can live an autonomous, totally in control of everything kind of life, but there's a responsible way to interact with others, and there's an irresponsible way to do that.

Nathan Rittenhouse: Whether you're on the giving or the taking end of that, to be thoughtful about the way that we're connected and engaged there. And then to quote are our highest source of authority, and thinking here on this podcast. Thinking about, I've been really struck recently by kind of a repeated theme that I've seen in the gospels and Jesus's teaching where one of the things that, this is not what Jesus said, I'm going to loop it back to that, but as it pertains to technology.

Nathan Rittenhouse: But I think one of the things that technology does is in the categories of protection and provision. It provides so much for us in such great ways. I mean, we could just do a whole podcast of just listing all of the great things that technology brings to our lives. I mean yeah, it is what it is. So the provision part of it, of what it brings and what it can do and enables us to produce is huge.

Nathan Rittenhouse: The protection part of it, of the security and all kinds of categories of life, not just our physical security, but intellectual, monetary, whatever, that those protection and provision categories are an important subcomponent of the things that all humans crave and desire. And technology amplifies our longing for protection and provision in fascinating ways and all sorts of categories of life. It's interesting to me that Jesus teaches his disciples to pray, give us this day our daily bread. Deliver us from the evil one. And so he looks to God as the source of both provision and protection.

Nathan Rittenhouse: And he routinely is dismantling the disciple's desire to see themselves as the greatest, to see themselves as the ones who are in control. Unless you become like a child whose protection and dependency and provision comes from somebody else. So I think as we look at technology and every other category of life that our protection, our provision, that we have real responsibility. We have a responsible dependency on God and on each other and on our communities in a way that's life-giving and healthy.

Nathan Rittenhouse: But ultimately, give us this day our daily bread. We would say that's a terrible American investment strategy. Because it looks to today to say that God will be the one who takes care of us. And to assume that God will deliver us from the evil one. Again, that seems just shortsighted, but that is the radical nature of what it is that Christ calls us to, that our technology will never be able to replace and fully satisfy us. And in fact might make us more vulnerable as we rely heavily on it.

Nathan Rittenhouse: So I think it's something to be enjoyed. I think there's an irresponsible and an unhealthy dependency there, and we want to be aware of that too. Recognizing that ultimately, the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof. If you're interested in property rights, that's pretty comprehensive. And so the proper dependency is on God and seeing what he has for us to do with that. And I think in doing so, we'll find the deepest satisfaction in the categories of life that we're often trying to explore through technology.

Nathan Rittenhouse: And I think we'll find that it's a way that is the most pleasurable really to us as humans because it's the way that we were designed to function. So overall, I see technology as a great asset, a terrible master. And so if we can keep it in that, yeah, maybe a good friend and a terrible master is a way to look at it, and try to keep those ordered in our lives, then that'll help us make good decisions and think through some of these issues.

Cameron McAllister: Yeah, make sure your assets don't become your masters. Well said. Well, thanks for tuning in with us and listening to this discussion. Don't be too paranoid about all the pieces of technology in your house right now. But we do hope that, yeah, this has been a good goad to some deeper reflections surrounding the area of technology. But you have been listening to Thinking Out Loud, a podcast where we think out loud about current events and Christian hope.

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