Technology is changing our lives at breakneck speed and in unpredictable ways. In just one decade, for example, the mobile phone has transformed the daily life of virtually every church leader in the world. Technology also changes the way the gospel gets communicated, whether through PowerPoint slides, websites, or screens at multi-site churches. We sought out a man who has decades of practical experience with technology in business—as well as wide and deep thinking about its significance.
Al Erisman spent 32 years at Boeing, and for the last 11 of those years was director of research and development for technology. He now teaches in the business school at Seattle Pacific University and is co-founder and editor of Ethix magazine (Ethix.org). He also consults and lectures on faith and economic development, most recently in the Central African Republic and Nepal. He recently spoke with Global Conversation editor and CT senior writer Tim Stafford.
What does technology have to do with the gospel?
A lot. Narrowing our scope just to information technology, we recognize it is all about information and communications, a fundamental element of proclaiming the gospel. It is also about what kind of people we become, and how we communicate to people who are part of the digital generation. We could also look at the broader impact of other technology, such as automobiles, nuclear power, or biotechnology—anything that comes from a step-by-step process or the use of tools. But we have our hands full talking about information technology.
I think of information technology in five layers. The bottom layer is the basic technology—the microchip, for example. Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, predicted what is now called Moore's Law: The microchip will halve in size every 18 months. This translates into the chip's performance getting both faster and cheaper at an astonishing rate—a factor of 10 in price and performance improvement every five years. That enables a fundamental, unending churn.
The second layer is the products the basic technology makes possible. Here we are more directly influenced. In the case of the microchip, our computers regularly become both faster and cheaper. This part is fairly predictable, but we also see the unpredictable emergence of new products and capabilities. We have the Internet, Google, social networks, Twitter, digital cameras, the iPhone, and so on. Sometimes we use these devices simply to do what we did before, only faster. But sometimes new products introduce a whole new way of thinking and working.
The third level is where products are put together, made to work, made secure, and all of the things that go into infrastructure. About this layer, users usually only need to know that there are talented people who keep everything working.
The fourth layer is where the lives of church leaders could be changed—where the technology enables fundamental redesign of what we do. For example, a pastor can readily access many more sources and incorporate video into a presentation. He or she can put sermons online and thus reach many more people. Discussion groups can reach across a community, even across the world. More than one author has suggested that this is "the ...Read Al Erisman's complete article
Selected writers respond to Al Erisman from around the globe.
Al Erisman is absolutely right to note the dramatic effects of emerging technologies and to use Information Technology (IT) as his example. It is the most developed and familiar of the new technologies; ...Read More
The technological transformation that Koreans have gone through since the last century is unprecedented in terms of its speed, scale, and scope. My father, born in 1938, saw a train for the first time ...Read More
Technology is a label for all kinds of things humans create. Some are material, such as machines of various sorts. Others are procedural, such as organizational approaches. In recent times, technologies ...Read More
I often awake at 5 AM, not quite ready to get out of the bed. So I click a preset button on my mobile phone and for the next hour or so listen through a book of the Bible. I couldn't have done this just ...Read More