Archives For Internet

DN16-405TRAFFIC-MBAn odd thought-process occupied my mind as I drove into Los Angeles the other day. It started as I was inching my way along I-5, and I thought about how crazy it is that we can simply check the flow of traffic on interactive maps while we “drive” (quotation marks owing to LA traffic). Then I looked out over this mass of concrete and humanity and thought—somehow all of this data is flowing through the air, filling our atmosphere, and landing inside of our cell phones.

And then my mind blew a fuse. The entire internet is blowing in the wind. It’s invisible and everywhere. It’s in the air I breathe. As I looked out over Los Angeles, everything I could see was filled with invisible data—anything you want to know about anything. But it wasn’t just “out there.” All of this data was also passing through my brain, my heart, and my liver. It’s doing the same thing now, in my office, as I write.

In my primitive understanding, cell phone data works in the same way as sound, light, satellite television, and wifi. It all travels through the air in waves, different frequencies carrying different bits of light, sound, or data. I have a hard time getting my mind around it (I haven’t even done a Wikipedia search on the topic), but somebody knows how and why it works. In other words, there’s a perfectly clear scientific explanation for why our atmosphere is filled with Google, episodes of I Love Lucy, blog posts, radio talk shows, and who knows what else.

Radio WavesBut being able to explain it hardly makes it less miraculous. The fact that we can explain it, at least in a certain sense, only adds to the miracle. Not only did God make a brilliant world, he made us with brilliant minds that can question and explain such phenomena.

God made a world in which data can fly invisibly across continents. Our very air, the atmosphere we look through in order to see all of the objects around us, is constantly hosting light, sound, and information. And the world, from the moment God spoke it into existence, has always been capable of this. Our atmosphere has always served as a freeway for light and sound, but not until very recently in world history have human beings thought to send radio signals, phone calls, and cell phone data through the air. But God designed the world so that it could. To put it in perspective, had Abraham been a techie, he could have labored to develop the technology to text message Lot.

I know my thought process is odd, but I think the basic point is something we all experience from time to time: This world is full of wonder! We take it for granted that we can see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. And yet how miraculous is each of these senses! What incredible gifts from the Creator! How is it that God allows us to walk through this world that plays host to so many wonders—constantly surrounding us, each truly unbelievable, and yet rarely acknowledged by human beings, enlightened creatures that we are?

We see the world around us every day, but only occasionally are we given the gift of seeing the world in all God’s glory. Our necessary familiarity with life makes us numb to the miracle of it all. Light and heat pour out of the sun and saturate our world, giving it life, making it inhabitable and enjoyable. Wind sweeps through our cities, unseen but powerful in its presence. Flowers bloom, leaves fall, clouds collect, birds sing—and rarely do we give a moments’ notice.

But the more we can learn to be amazed by the world God created and thereby be amazed by God himself, the healthier we will be. So there is one good thing, at least, that came out of LA traffic. Who knows what you can find on your daily commute or anywhere else?

Craigslist is a great idea. Yard sales are so random, you have to be in the right place at the right time, and you never know what you’re going to find. But Craigslist essentially links every yard sale in your extended area so that you can find exactly what you’re looking for. It’s simple and effective.

I’m pro Craigslist, generally speaking. I have used the site to successfully buy and sell items. Chances are, so have you.

Craig Newmark

Craig Newmark

But a couple of years ago I read an interview with Craig Newmark, the “Craig” in “Craigslist.” He explained that his site is based on the belief that people are basically good. So give them a platform for interacting with one another, and everything will work out fine.

The Bible, however, has a different view of mankind. Yes, we were created good, but since the moment sin entered the world, we all possess a sin nature. This does not mean that we are all as bad as we could possibly be. Far from it. God’s grace is constantly restraining us from being as bad as we’d like to be. But we are all prone to sin, and the Bible can safely go so far as to say that our hearts are “deceitful above all things and desperately sick” (Jer. 17:9).

So Craigslist is based on the assumption that people are basically good, yet in reality people are basically sinful, though not as thoroughly as they might be. What does this mean for the functionality of the site?

Because people are not as bad as they might be (because God’s grace is constantly working in all of us—even though we are typically unaware of its presence), we are going to have a pleasant experience with Craigslist much of the time. Given a platform in which to exchange goods, people will often be kind, straightforward, and honest.

But because sin lurks in every heart, we are also going to have bad experiences on Craigslist. I have had to dodge scams from people trying to “buy” my stuff on Craigslist, and I know others that have been ripped off. Craigslist has also served as a convenient marketplace for prostitution. They have been making changes to the site to try to avoid this, but the issue doesn’t appear to be resolved yet.

To be clear, this doesn’t make Craigslist the worst site on the net, nor is it the only site affected by human depravity. But I do think that sites like eBay, which enforce rules and have some level of governance, take human depravity into account and function better because of it. There’s still something to be said about freeing people up to do business (this is the basis of capitalism, and most of us enjoy this system on the whole), but we would be foolish to assume that no problems will arise (our form of capitalism is not this optimistic—we are miles away from a true free market economy).

Craigslist Warning

This warning comes standard in Craigslist email exchanges.

In reality, Craigslist does not function entirely on Craig Newmark’s assumption that people are basically good. The fact that they have made changes to the site to try to avoid prostitution shows that they are being forced to account for depravity. I have also noticed that every email interaction on Craigslist includes a standard warning about giving too much information to inquirers—another nod to mankind’s sinful condition.

As I said, I’m all for Craigslist. But our theological assumptions matter in the business world as much as anywhere else. Viewing the world as God views it means that we are viewing the world as it actually is. And when we view the world as it actually is, we are bound to function better in the real world.