The force of personality

By: Dana Robinson, National Catholic Community Foundation

A Godless world is an impossibility. But, the perception of one – willful or otherwise – is not. How easily this misperception can lead to the dehumanization of our society.

This thought resurfaced as I attended a recent seminar on the utility of “webcasting.” The enthusiastic young speaker extolled the “infinite potential” of the Internet and the technology that propagates its ubiquity. For whatever reasons it is employed, be it commercial, personal, social, educational, etc., web technology is a powerful force. Who would deny this? So as to allay any concerns we listeners might harbor about how we fit in to an increasingly technologized world our speaker ended her presentation with the reassuring words: “everyone is equal in the eyes of Google.”

To be efficient technology needs, perhaps even requires, uniformity. For better or worse standardization ensues. The more we rely on technology the greater the danger we have of succumbing to its demands for standardization. We risk surrendering to a homogenized mass of dehumanized humanity our own particular individuality, that which makes each of us uniquely human, our own personality.

Because of its power and universal applicability, technology empowers us to do great things we are unable to do without it. Ironically, though, it reduces our self-reliance. Can I still do long division with a pencil?

Technology is a gift to be sure; but, like the gift of the Sabbath, it was made for us and not we for it. We should be wary of how dominant this seductive force becomes in our lives.

For many technology – exemplified here by Google – has been personified. Impersonal though it is, it plays such a highly intimate and indispensable role in our lives we regard it as a person.

The implications of this in a society more and more lost in the fog of ‘Godlessness’ are chilling. Our humanity arises from two gifts we are given. The first is the gift of life where each of us is created in God’s image. What makes us ‘persons’ is this Personhood of God whose image we bear and do so with infinite value and uniqueness. The second is God’s Providence. All knowing and loving he sees and cares for each and all of us – a knowledge and love that flow form his Personhood.

The wellspring of our humanity, we must remember, is not the ‘personhood’ of technology. It is the Personhood of God. We should be careful not to be seduced into the understanding that the former has trumped the latter.

After all, would you rather be equal in the eyes of Google or the eyes of God?


Dana Robinson is chair of the board of trustees of the National Catholic Community Foundation.