Cyber is a Greek word that means pilot. A pilot leads you into a harbor or helps you find your way if you get lost. Cybernetics is the piloted control of information. The word seems to have been invented in the last few years but since there is nothing new under the sun it is interesting to see that Plato used the word to describe governments and their need to control information over populations. With all the stuff going on about Facebook and the use and abuse of information; of computer hacking and the revelation that you and your IPhone can be tracked even when the phone is not on; that individuals can get into an information system and steal things and leave a print behind that points to someone else we have entered the world envisioned by Science Fiction writers years ago. The idea of a special code of ethics for robots and the idea of the speed of sequential computers were subjects of conversation in the 50’s. “The Nine Billion Names of God” posited by Arthur C. Clark, he combines an ancient belief that once the nine billion names of God were spoken or written the world would come to an end, and the modern world of an Automatic Sequential Computer to develop a truly frightening and surprising end of the story.
Equally frightening is the idea that the information that freely is given to someone or something like Facebook, is the product and the action. Information about my life and my friends, my joys and sorrows and ambitions are poured into a public place, the action, where we together as the members of Facebook externalize and share subjective states which someone else wants to by or manipulate the product, and we have a new kind of reality. We have false information and the corruption of real information. We have the promulgation of certain information and the suppression of others.
Of course the uses and abuses of cyber space and cyber technology are listed and rehearsed daily but it doesn’t stop the onward thrust of a new kind of reality. As someone interested in the care of orphans in Africa who has worked to fund their education and care in Christian communities, it was jarring to be lectured about an idea to combine orphan support with the internet to allow sponsors to talk and communicate with a person that they had sponsored. It seemed like a good idea at the time but the reality is the exploitation and marketing of children in the developing world is aided and abetted by cyber trafficking and remote villages can be targets of the worst sorts of predators.
Information and communication are foundational. God speaks us into existence and speaks us free in Christ. His communication creates a new thing, a new environment of mercy and grace. What does a self perpetuating communication system based upon the need for constant recognition create?
I have read somewhere that Marshall McLuhan of “The Media is the Message” fame darkly whispered to someone that artificial information environments like the internet and the social networks they give birth to are the mystical body of the Antichrist. He may not have been wrong.