Friday, September 16, 2022

The fragility of the internet. . .

While driving I listened to a report about how the DNA that is routinely offered up for ancestry research could be used for nefarious purpose by those who are our enemies.  I must say I had not even thought of that.  Then there was that cutting of the internet cables that thrust many French into darkness without the web and a report of how vulnerable our internet access can be to those who seek us harm.  Add to that all the ransom paid to those who hold our data captive and the ability of bad actors to access all the things stored on the cloud and you have a trifecta of terror.  Not to mention the robots that do everything and, apparently, while playing chess break an 8 year old's finger.  Nothing is safe.

Technology is wonderful until it isn't.  When it exposes us to harm through those who would steal our identity or trade on our personal information or rob us of assets, then it is not so good.  We think that everything is solid, secure, and safe but the reality is that much of technology is fragile -- dependent upon access to a broadband internet connection and subject to the wiles of those who are far smarter about harming us than we are to avoid such harm.  Then we begin to realize that maybe things are not quite as carefree as they seem.

Truth is that I am a dinosaur.  I do not like my meager private information in public -- not that I have something to hide but simply because I do not like to enlighten the marketers or the thieves to anything that might help them and harm me.  I hate the myriad of passwords that I must recall to do ordinary things on the internet and yet I am constantly warned to change them regularly with random passwords that no one could possibly recall or crack.  It is a conundrum of sorts.  So much of what we do is online -- even as a pastor and a church -- that we daily expose ourselves to those who are far better at exploiting us than we are at avoiding them.

I am not sure whether this feeds the rapid pace of change or is a fruit of that quickly evolving world.  It could be that we have invented the cloud because we put nothing on pause anymore or it could be that we put nothing on pause because we have everything in the cloud.  In any case, I spent some time in my small town home tending to the death of my mother and found the change of pace there captivating.  I hardly watched any TV, did not spend much time on the internet, and took a breather from the rapid pace of change that waited for me the day after I returned home.  Some of you are probably thinking that this means I am ready to retire but I would suggest that all of us are too tightly wound in our changing world and too fragile due to the pace of change and our vulnerability as well as dependence upon technology.  We all need a rest even if we are not all at a retirement age.

The fragility of the internet seems to be a reflection of our fragile lives -- so dependent upon technology, the whims of desire, the vulnerability of feelings, and the constant pursuit of happiness.  In the end we have much to be thankful for because of technology but only a fool would deny its cost to our lives as individuals, as a society, and as a nation.  It is a mixed blessing and we have spent more time harnessed to our digital tools than freed up by them for better pursuit.  In the end I fear that much of what ails us as a people and as a culture is a reflection of our lives and livelihoods so wedded to technology -- along with our happiness.  Surely the division and contempt with which we hold one another is fostered by if not created by the constant opportunity for self-expression created by the internet and social media.  So there we are -- we cannot live with it and we cannot live without it.  Or, at least that is what we think.

Technology is wonderful until it isn't.  Our digitally integrated lives are wonderful until they are not.  The cloud is wonderful until it betrays us.  It is a good thing that faith is not dependent upon or wedded to the virtual world of the web.  God comes to us in concrete forms in the means of grace in order to bestow concrete blessings.  Believe me, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting we have in Christ are far more real than the reality we encounter through technology.  The Word and Sacraments are always wonderful, always bestow what they promise, and always deliver what they sign and say.  Perhaps it is good to recall that from time to time...

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