Very few people are happy with the way technology has come to dominate our lives, argues author Andy Crouch, and he thinks it will take a while for humans to reclaim autonomy from machines.
“I rarely meet anyone who thinks, ‘Oh, it’s really working quite well,’” Crouch said in an interview. “I just don’t meet anyone who thinks we’re in great shape and should just keep kind of on the path we’re on.”
Crouch’s new book, “The Life We’re Looking For: Reclaiming Relationship in a Technological World,” identifies one of the core problems of our time as a “breakdown of recognition.”
“Our neurology is actually wired for this kind of face-to-face encounter. It’s when another person really attends to me and knows what I’m feeling, and in a way thinking, that I can fully be myself,” said Crouch, a former executive editor at Christianity Today magazine who has written four other books on culture-making, the ethical and moral uses of power, and how to use technology rather than be used by it.
There are, Crouch said, “fewer and fewer settings that I’m in where I can expect that another person knows who I am, knows what it’s like to be me.”
In addition to separating humans from one another, Crouch says that too often technology separates the individual from an essential part of themselves. “To be a person is actually to be a heart, soul, mind, strength complex,” Crouch said in an interview on “The Long Game,” a Yahoo News podcast.
“Much of our technology disassociates us from one or more of these qualities,” he said. For example, “it’s best for the computers if we sit still.”
“So we're idling this aspect of the human body that is a crucial part of being a person,” Crouch said. “And this is doing huge damage to people. I mean all these jobs, of which you and I probably each have one, that mostly we're paid to sit without motion most of the day: It’s horrible for our heart, for our blood sugar, for our weight, everything.”
Crouch had already written a book in 2017 called “The Techwise Family,” which has plenty of practical advice. But his latest book is harder to categorize, as Crouch struggles with how to recover our humanity. His answers to this question are unconventional.
For one, Crouch writes that those who are considered “unuseful” will be “teachers of real personhood and real community.”
These are the young, the old, the disabled, and anyone else who Crouch says “cannot make themselves of use to our kind of practical … money-driven, market-driven world. Their value cannot be accounted for in money.”
He writes: “If we can stay with them in their limits, their profound anchoring in this place and time, we have some hope that we will not detach from the real world of heart, soul, mind and strength.”
And Crouch, who is currently caring — alongside a sibling — for two older parents who are struggling with illness, warns that “if all your value is wrapped up in what you’re useful for, that is an extremely precarious position to be in as a human being because the truth is all of us could lose our usefulness overnight.”