This I Believe

Kevin - Richland, Washington
Entered on January 4, 2007

I believe…

that technology can never save us. “Of course!” most readers would agree, “Who ever said it could?” (Then they speed off to work in their computer equipped cars, with a computer in their pocket and another on their hip, arriving at their desk to stare at some screen until they go home to watch digital tv served up from the PDR.)

There’s no question the computer is a clever piece of machinery. A fascinating toy, an indispensable tool — indisputably the work of genius. And even that doesn’t do it justice. As a computer science student, what impressed me the most were the many layers of genius that lie below the surface.

We usually see only the top level – the “user interface”. Those who delve into programming begin to see some of the inner workings of the programs, or perhaps get a glimpse of the underlying libraries and drivers. They may even peer into some of the layers of the registry or the operating system. Perhaps they open the black box itself and ponder the mother board or gaze with not a little bit of awe at that metropolitan map carved inexplicably into a fingernail-sized piece of silicon. And deeper it goes, and deeper. Every layer deftly intertwined with all the underlying strata, and each one a masterpiece of extraordinary brilliance.

For me, uncovering all those layers was like looking down a giant spiral staircase, gazing past floor after floor of a mighty tower, and then, beyond ground level, deep into the chasms of a multi-floor basement, and on into the darkened depths into which even grad students seldom descend. It was a breath-taking realization for me, to behold the phenomenal depth of the genius of the computer.

But what convinced me that the computer can never be our savior, was the realization that all of the mind-boggling brilliance of the computer — every bit of the genius in its chips – was placed there, just so, by its creators. It was the vast intellect of the designers that bestowed such awe-inspiring complexity to the computer. Giants, on the shoulders of more shoulder-riding giants, whose collective intelligence has dared to erect the most daunting structure in history. Energized by the loftiest dreams since the architectural plans for the Tower of Babel, these geniuses are the true masterminds. Even if someday the computers outdo themselves and begin to create even more computers, it will always be the brilliance of the original designers that will be on display. Only genius could unleash such genius.

Perhaps then, the giants will be our saviors. Can our own genius save us?

No. The same logic persuades me that all the genius in our own chips – the brilliance in our brains – did not spawn itself (the result of some infinite chain of accidents) but was placed there, just so, by its creator. And so with overwhelming awe and wonder I am led to the inescapable conclusion, that the uncharted genius in our race is simply a dim, fingernail-sized reflection of the incomprehensible brilliance of our Designer.

And that is why I believe, that technology can’t save us. Nor even our own genius. Indeed, salvation will always elude us until we finally discover, like the builders of that Babylonian Tower so long ago, that we simply can’t save ourselves. We need a Savior.