“Managing Technology” by Andy Crouch

The presentation “Managing Technology” has been brought to my attention several times in the past year, usually by people who are eager to share it with teachers or parents and are curious about my thoughts. My take: Andy Crouch gives an interesting and engaging presentation on an important topic and the second half of the video in particular is very powerful. He speaks of the importance of Sabbath rest and formative power of family — timeless truths worthy of sharing.

However, the first part of the video contains a lot of pointless technology bashing that does little to bolster his take-home message and ultimately undermines the rest of his talk. Crouch’s presentation contains head-scratching claims like technology is good for production but not good from creation (entire creative fields would not exist without modern technology); technology forces the lower classes to work harder for the upper classes (if anything the opposite is true; technology is stealing blue collar workers’ jobs), and the weirdest quote of all, “Technology did nothing to form me into the kind of person who would have something to offer you.” (Does he really believe he has lived his life completely untouched by the influences of technology?)

The biggest problem is that Crouch never explicitly defines what he means by “technology” but instead refers to the concept of “easy everywhere” which becomes his catch-all term for negative behavior. He lays the groundwork for this idea by distinguishing “tools,” which require skill, effort, and attention to use, from “devices,” which require almost no effort. Tools are good; devices are bad. This is an arbitrary and vague distinction that does little to enlighten but creates an “us versus them” dynamic where anyone who considers themselves a tool-user can look down their noses at the device-users who have it too easy.

Crouch suffers from the same “back in my day” syndrome as many anti-tech pundits: the technology that he grew up with (automobiles, washer/dryers, air travel, television) has had no negative side effects, but technology that’s new (presumably email, cellphones, social media) is now destroying culture.

Crouch ends his presentation with a rousing call to choose real life, together. This would have been a much better focus (and name) for his talk. The technology portion does not hold up to scrutiny and wasn’t necessary to prove his point in the first place. Anyone looking to truly explore the impact that modern technology is having on society would be better served looking at the works of Simon Sinek and Sherri Turkle.