“Sanity often consists of knowing what not to think about.” K.W. Jeter
The exponential growth of cellphone use and especially of smartphone use in the last several years has made an obscure mineral called coltan one of the most valuable substances on earth. Coltan’s heat resistance coupled with its ability to hold an electric charge for a long time, make it an ideal component for electronics, and it consequently is used in almost all cellphones and many computers. Unfortunately, much of the world’s coltan comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where it is hand mined by people who see almost none of the profit. The profit is split between mining corporations and para-military groups.
The irony I refer to in the title is that I know about this moral scandal, and am therefore enabled to be outraged, only because I possess the very coltan infested technology that makes me an accessory to oppression. I am made aware of oppression only by my participation in it. This points to the paradoxical ability of technology to connect us, making the whole world and all its problems available to my every click and tap (of the mouse), while simultaneously causing widespread isolation, oppression and–in a word–dis-connectedness. All this reminds me of Tony’s exquisite definition of original sin:
“…that structures of oppression, violence and rebellion against God are ‘already in place’ and work to form us as people before we are able to understand or critically resist them.”
Technology has become an integral part of our society. It obviously has the ability to help us make real and lasting connections with real people. A perfect example of this are the friends that I have made through this blog, most of whom I have never had any face-to-face interaction with. It is the very same technology that makes me aware and connects me to suffering people in the Congo. My knowledge makes me responsible to them, they have become my neighbors, and yet the very tool that allows me to connect with them as neighbors is partly responsible for their suffering. Oh Lord, how do we break free from the bondage that seperates us from each other and from You?
Part of a (Long) Series of (Short) Posts about Science and Technology
The Tragic Irony of Technology Coltan, cellphones and being connected
Singularity, Progress, and Darwinian Common Sense Artificial Intelligence and Sciencism
Middleduction A post that would have made a nice introduction (coming soon)
Science Fiction as Prophetic Witness or Scientific Gospel? (coming soon)
Creating the Problem in order to Fix It (coming soon)
More on Sciencism (coming soon)
Kierkegaardian Dread (coming soon)