My fifth-grade son used to walk around the house pretending to be texting. Rehearsing what has become a central practice of 21st-century life, he would move his thumbs across a cast-off cell phone that no longer worked. Finding no solace in the fact that he had the rest of his life to be beholden to gadgetry, he had decided that feigned distraction was better than no distraction at all.
As we’re all in the midst of Advent longing, I realize that I’m turning 40 in a couple of days. Which puts me in an odd position, since I write and speak about ministering with people in their 20s and 30s.
It’s scary. Sometimes, we Scrappers have to swallow our pride in order to start working with the institution that turned us away. Often, Scrappers develop autonomy and a certain voice that we fear we'll lose if we move into partnership with an established organization. We worry that the structure will steal our ideas and they'll have the money and power to pull them off—without us.
There is a good chance that you are a cyborg. A cyborg is a cybernated organism—which is anyone whose normal biological systems are enhanced or extended by technological mechanisms, especially electronic and communication devices. The word "cybernetics" comes from the Greek word for "steersman" (kubernetes) and describes one who is in control, who is both flexible and agile in response to a given environment and who can tame it to certain ends. To the extent that we exercise such control through technological devices, our lives have become cybernated. If you have a hearing aid, a pacemaker or an artificial limb, if you use a computer or telephone or drive a car, you are a cyborg.
As soon as I heard that Steve Jobs had died I went on Facebook and posted, “RIP, Steve Jobs.” There were many responses, some that surprised me. A few people talked in glowing terms about how Jobs had transformed their lives, as though he were a spiritual guru.
An English theoretical physicist, Freeman Dyson came to America after World War II and held a coveted position at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton. Now retired, Dyson has one of the most interesting minds of our time, concerned with topics ranging far beyond relativistic quantum field theory, the discipline that made him famous among physicists.
The abundance of ideas Richard Powers throws at readers can feel overwhelming. As I read this novel, Powers's seventh, I was tempted to try to identify each literary allusion or reference to popular culture. Yet, though Powers is one of our foremost novelists of ideas, his narratives engage our attention through characters who do more than toss around profound thoughts.
Only a generation ago the settled opinion was that work would soon occupy fewer and fewer of our waking hours. We were bracing ourselves for the challenge of how to spend our increased leisure time. But it hasn't worked out that way. Instead, cellphones, laptops and PDAs tether us ever more firmly to the workplace.