Technology, Transhumanism and Toddlers

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Recently, a friend lent me a nice book entitled Books the Build Character: A Guide to Teaching Your Children Moral Values Through Stories.  While it provided an overall great book list as a resource (personally, I’m not a huge fan of Maurice Sendak), I felt somewhat sad that the world the author was writing for didn’t quite exist anymore.  While I know “there is nothing new under the sun,” it seems like things have changed greatly since the book was originally published in 1994.  I wish the world was even as simple as it was for me growing up in the 90s.

It seems that my son’s generation (he is now 3) will have far more temptations surrounding it. From opportunities for literal transhumanism experiences to all kinds of gender bending wierdness all going against God’s created order.  I feel there is a strong need in the very early toddler stage before a child can even read to simply create a love of God’s created order and God’s created things: people, forests, trees, animals, general peacefulness, and even educational books that reinforce the order of language, numbers and basic science.  And of course Saint’s lives written for children.  After all, when they are alone in their room, they are only left with a memory of the story and the pictures by which to tell their own.

It’s not necessarily that I see my own son at huge risk for these things (who does see their own child that way) but I want him to be actually saddened by how things are in today’s world and how they affect those around him and even grieve The Heavenly Kingdom.  I wonder if his generation carrying the last, or nearly the last flag of Christianity will feel their hearts in a perpetual Lent – living life in a beautiful melancholy.

I realize since the issue of transhumanism and everything else is so new, there is no “time tested” method to deal with these temptations other than trying as hard as possible to live the traditional Orthodox Christian life.  Father Seraphim Rose says that even if we try our hardest, however, our neighbor is not…no matter how we try to protect our children from “modernism” we can’t.  These days I have seen children watching videos on their ipads in even the mostly unlikely places.

It would seem that since the “world outside” is trying to bombard us with messages to confuse us and won’t even reflect, let alone reinforce, God’s order anymore – I may have to work harder as a parent at this.  It is probably more important to reinforce gender identity, the traditional family, and love of God’s creation through early literature, when this was probably something taken for granted by previous generations.  In other words, I don’t read books about robots to my son, but prefer to read books that have something beautiful and human in them.  (For example, today we picked up some books from the library including one about a family that moves from the city and builds a house in the country with the help of family and friends, and another about a family that runs a small farm.) I know there are probably books about robots that are “moral” and “cute” but there are too many reasons to not read the robot book for me. Among all the other agendas, there is indeed a transhumanism agenda as well.  When my son learns about robots, I want him to learn the whole story about them in an age appropriate way…so no “cute” robots for us for now.  The agenda is pretty evident is most modern media, so if you don’t already notice it, these links probably won’t help much, but just in case:

The Hidden Message In Pixar’s Films

So, What Are We Now? : Posthumanism and Transhumanism in Music Videos

Transhumanism for Children

Our Transhuman Kids – this article is actually against transhumanism

Robot to Attend School for 10 Year Old Cancer Patient

Meet Life Like Robot Nadine that works as receptionist

I lived the first almost 7 years of my life without computers…and while I can’t tangibly remember the freedom that gave my soul, somehow I can feel the change and how technology has grown and grown and could completely drown my soul if I let it.  Someday my son will be on his own and making his own decisions.  I want him to feel the ache in his heart like I do.  I want him to long for simpler and more beautiful times after he finds himself making mistakes.

But someday soon I will tell my son as much as I can for his age, and keep telling him more as he grows.  It will be an “Orthodox Survival Course” for children until he is ready for the real thing and to start his own Orthodox Christian reading.  But for now, I just tell him “I wish I could tell you more, but for now all I can say, ‘the hour is very late’.”

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Quitting Facebook: Christmas Letters, Facebook, Technology, and Community

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The other day as my husband and I designed our yearly Christmas card (the first one in three years), we reminisced about the Christmas letters our parents would receive each year when we were growing up. I loved reading these letters and seeing what all of our family and friends around the United States were up to, especially the children around my age. In the 80s and 90s, the Christmas letter was clearly the key time to, well, brag about oneself and one’s family. (I’m not sure if my family did a Christmas letter actually..maybe one time?). I wouldn’t say that all of the letters were bragging by any stretch of the means, but its funny to think that the Christmas letter was essentially the Facebook of the 80s and 90s! That was all you got! A yearly update to tell you that Johnny’s soccer league won the City Championship, Sara earned another Girl Scout badge, Marjorie sang a solo at church, or maybe a new baby was born. If you were lucky, the Christmas letter would include an updated picture of everyone in the family, or possibly even a homemade photo collage including vacation photos.

If the Christmas letter of the 80s and 90s posed challenges to the passions then, I wonder what Facebook does today! (Passions are related to the seven deadly sins. Pride and envy, for example.) For many people, Facebook is like sending and receiving Christmas letters twenty or more times a day!

Perhaps I am a weaker soul than most. Over a year ago, I mostly stopped using Facebook. I say mostly because I still have an active profile. I had been wanting to quit for a while but was unsure because many people use the site for event invitations or mass emails and I didn’t want to be completely out of the loop. Then someone gave me the idea of adjusting my settings so I never have to log on and am only notified if I receive an event invitation, am tagged in a photo, etc. The rest is history. I feel a huge weight off of my shoulders without Facebook!

When using Facebook, most times I would log on, I would struggle with being judgmental (i.e. “Why would they post that!”), with being envious, or being prideful and with wanting to jump on the bandwagon and post my own witticisms to get attention and feed my ego. I must admit, the first week or so without Facebook was weird. Having used Facebook since the early 2000s while in college, I was truly alone with my thoughts for the first time in a decade. There was no one to immediately tell when my son did something cute, no one to tell right away if something interesting happened…I had to either tell myself and move on, text or tell my husband when he came home from work, or wait to tell a friend the next time we had an actual conversation at the park or at church, or maybe by text. If I forgot about the thing I would have otherwise shared, it must not have been very important to begin with and it could have been an idle thought.

I am honestly the most content I have been in a long time without Facebook. I am more bold with friendships…I don’t second guess myself like I used to, when I would say for example: “Well, they have so many friends on Facebook, they seem really busy, I’ll try another friend since they have enough, I would just be a bother to them.” Which brings me to another part of the story…kind of a sad part…

In the Fall of 2012, I moved from Orange County to North San Diego County. I was Facebook friends with pretty much everyone I had met during my four years of living there. After moving, I realized that my interactions with my Orange County friends were almost completely unchanged despite the fact that I had moved. I had grown so accustomed to brief in person interactions at church, with the bulk of the relationship being on Facebook, and by relationship I mean, of course, one’s thoughts thrown on Facebook for all to see (or perhaps everyone on a certain list to see). I guess I wasn’t bold enough before that time to find out what I knew to be true…I didn’t have many actual deep friendships. My moving away changed their physical world and cyber community very little.

I now communicate with all of my new North San Diego friends outside of Facebook and while I may not be able to count my friends on two hands, I am confident in these friendships and enjoy getting to know these people organically.

Which brings me to why I still have a hard time with having a blog because I don’t really like the internet and think that it has generally brought harm to society. Abbot Tryphon recently posted on his blog The Morning Offering on the topic of social media and isolation (for some reason, I am unable to link to his blogspot page.) I was very encouraged by his post about how we must struggle against the isolation of technology and fight for the communal nature of Christianity.

I remember the first time I saw “the internet” in my dad’s office at work when I was about nine years old. Even then I felt trepidation for how much the internet would change our world. Last week, as I walked around the airport with my 17 month old son, it was saddening to see how many people would not look up from their kindles, iphone, or ipads to glance or wave at an adorable baby. Some people did though…and for those people and moments, I am grateful.

I guess I have realized that as sad as it is, this thing – the internet – is the public square now for the most part. So its here, on a blog, I have decided to share from time to time, as odd as it is, to put a part of myself on the “internet,” separate from my body and separate from my soul, and it is here that “my blog” will interact with you in the same way. I was born into a world without computers in the early 80s, desperate for love and community as all humans are, and have grown up in a world where people have nearly become cyborgs.

Despite all of the modern changes of society, I hope to do my best to shield my son and any future children from the onslaught of technology. A developed soul is more important than developed computer skills and I don’t care too much if he is behind in technology when he is young. He will catch up…If I started learning to type when I was 9 years old, so can he. I would much rather him grow up being able to discern the difference between real and illusory, a smooth flower petal and a digital picture, and especially the difference between a real friend and a status update. Lord, have mercy!