1. Majors and Minors
  2. Faculty and Staff
  3. Apply Now
  4. Contact Us
  5. About Us
  6. Internships
  7. Calculus Readiness Exam
  8. Quick Facts
  9. Career Opportunities
  10. Pathway To Med School
February 22, 2024

Technology and Time

S. M. Gollmer

To avoid the negative impact of technology I mentioned we need to ensure it does not undermine who we are experientially and socially.  We begin here because I feel the root cause of the world’s problems start with us!  If we tackle the perceived threats of climate change, enhanced function viruses, and artificial intelligence without evaluating what is wrong with us, we are only treating symptoms.  We will only implement incomplete solutions and generate additional problems.

It is hard to know where to start when evaluating humanity as a whole and us as individuals.  As a result, I will begin with something as simple as time.  In the creation account of Genesis, one purpose for the lights in the sky was for signs, seasons, days, and years (Genesis 1:14).  Years correspond to the orbit of the earth around the sun, days with the rotation of the earth on its axis, and seasons with the tilt of the earth’s axis.  Signs could imply a number of things, which I will not delve into.  The point being that time comprises a key component of the created order.  But do we look at time in the same way as people did in the past?

Koine Greek, the language in which the New Testament was written, uses several words to indicate time.  The two I want to focus on are Chronos and Kairos.  The first refers to an interval of time, such as an hour, day, or year (Acts 13:18).  The latter is used to convey an opportunity or season (Ephesians 5:16).  Hours of the day could be estimated by the position of the sun in the sky or more precisely using sun dials and water clocks.  However, what drove people’s lives was seasons of planting and harvest and using daylight while it was available.

It is not until the fourteenth century, when mechanical clocks were installed in city towers, that a shift in the perception of time began to occur.  Accuracy of clocks steadily improved and by the seventeenth century Huygen’s pendulum clock had an accuracy of 99.99%.  In 1761 Harrison was able to construct a chronometer that maintained its accuracy in rough seas, thus enabling mariners to determine their longitude within one half of a degree.  By 1884 Greenwich Mean Time was established and Chronos could be synchronized around the globe.

So profound is this shift in perception of time that Mumford in Technics and Civilization states that “the key machine of the modern industrial age” is the clock, not the steam engine.  He goes on to say, “The bells of the clock tower almost defined urban existence.  Time-keeping passed into time-serving and time-accounting and time rationing.  As this took place, Eternity ceased gradually to serve as the measure and focus of human actions” (p. 14).

Precision measurement of time and space made way for the advancement of science and technology.  Simultaneously it reordered society to value minutes and seconds over the variability and uncertainty of human relationships.  Some human societies hold adamantly to their Kairos perception of time.  But this is done at the expense of competing well in a global economy, which values efficiency and productivity.  Technology presses everyone into its mold and those who don’t conform must count the cost.

I mentioned that the problem begins with humanity and us as individuals, but it seems the problem is technology and its impact on us.  Representing people as interchangeable parts in a vast machine dehumanizes us and portrays humanity as less than God intended.  Is it possible for us to live in a technological world and still become a complete person?  That is the challenge of the twenty-first and twenty-second century!

Posted in: