A couple sits down to a meal together. But they spend their time on their smartphones, barely speaking a word to each other. It’s become a common sight wherever mobile devices are common. According to a new survey in China, 60 percent of married respondents complained about intrusion from smartphone use in their relationship.
“Mobile electronic devices have become the ‘electronic enemy of love,'” the survey concluded. Overuse has become “a major enemy to spousal relations, parental relations and personal health.” Nearly two-thirds of respondents reported taking their smartphones to bed, and half continue using them after turning off the lights. Those who did so find it five times harder to go to sleep than those who did not bring the devices to bed.
Smartphones are raising legal questions as well. According to The Wall Street Journal, several lawsuits in the U.S. are alleging that companies expect employees to work unpaid and off hours by using their digital devices. One executive explained that the trend started with the pager, used only for emergencies. It expanded to smartphones which supervisors expect employees to check at all times, even after work. For example, T-Mobile was sued by salespeople who alleged that the company required them to work 10-to-15 hours a week off the clock, answering emails and text messages from customers and other employees. The company paid an undisclosed amount to settle the suit.
Despite such problems, technology is becoming more pervasive and personal every day. Meet iCub, which The Guardian describes as “a toddler-sized humanoid with a streamlined plastic head from which two huge doe-eyes emerge, complete with seductively drooping eyelids.” It is one of the most advanced “humanoids” of its kind, with a sense of touch and hand-eye coordination and 53 degrees of limb movement. It can grasp objects, play catch, and dance to music.
Stephen Hawking recently declared that the development of full artificial intelligence (AI) “could spell the end of the human race.” Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors and a future-embracing inventor, believes AI to be “our biggest existential threat.”
The answer is not to ignore all technology, of course. Without the Internet, you wouldn’t be reading this Cultural Commentary and our ministry would not exist. Organizations such as Global Media Outreach would not be leading millions of people to Christ every year through online ministries. Digital tools play a vital role in preaching the gospel to all nations, part of God’s clear mandate for his church (Matthew 24:14; 28:19-20).
The key is to submit technology to the Spirit of God. It is to seek his power in refusing temptations such as online pornography. It is to follow his leading in setting boundaries for our digital lives. It is to make technology the means, not the master.
Paul appealed to us to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). Have you surrendered your digital devices to God’s Spirit today?