The annual Consumer Electronics Show draws thousands of consumers and retailers to explore more than 20,000 new appliances, gadgets, apps, and related products every year. This time, however, the organizers from CTA are asking “what is technologically
meaningful, not what is technologically possible…. Now we focus on what does it mean, why does it matter, how does it change our daily life?” (Los Angeles Times, 1/5/16)
It reminds me of the scenario in the Coen brothers’ A Serious Man, when a dentist discovers Hebrew letters engraved in his patient’s teeth. Kabbalistic secrets? A key to the mystery of life and death? “Rabbi, what does it all mean?”
If the folks at CES are asking that question, we’re in for a big turnaround. For a decade or more, we’ve been focused on how many different things we can do with technology. How many people are following, liking or friending us, how precise are our Fitbit statistics, whether we have the app that tells you exactly how many minutes till it rains. Yet, NONE OF THIS WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE unless we know the answer to the other question:
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
Will it help us defeat evil in the world?
Will it help us get out of the exhausting soap-opera cycles of personal drama?
Will it help us find clarity, insight, wisdom?
If not, will we finally, in desperation, toss our smartphones into the garbage to follow a Truly Wise Earthly Righteous Person?
The next decade’s question is how we are going to bring all this massive information together for the good of all beings – that it should become technologically meaningful, yes, but also humanly meaningful, existentially meaningful.
Answering that question may take all our efforts — heart and soul, mind and strength.
To begin, ask yourself, the next time you click on a celebrity story or a police report or a politician’s latest jab at the straw man, WHAT DOES IT MEAN? Does it matter to what you are really here for?