Advanced Technology and the Human Person: Re-reading Jacques Ellul for the Internet Age

French Protestant historian, sociologist, and lay theologian, Jacques Ellul (1912-1994), offered broad social analysis for the western world in the years following World War II up until his death, particularly in the area the impact of modern technology on society and on the shaping of the human person. At Ellul’s death, the internet was just beginning to enter into use by the general public, before rapidly expanding in the second half of the 1990s. This paper will offer a re-reading of Ellul’s works on the impact of technology on the human person in order to apply his insights to the changed social reality of today in which ever-more-advanced technologies shape human life (the internet, smart phones, social media, big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and ChatGPT). This paper will interact with a broad range of Ellul’s prolific writings, particularly his major works on technology (The Technological Society [1954], The Technological System [1977], The Technological Bluff [1990]). This paper will also interact with some of the recent interpreters of Ellul in English, such as Jeffrey Greenman (Understanding Jacques Ellul [2012]), Jacob Van Vleet (Jacques Ellul: A Companion to His Major Works [2020], and David Gill (a student of Ellul’s and the founding president of the International Jacques Ellul Society [2000]). This paper will also engage with other recent voices examining the impact of advanced technology on the human person, such as Derek Schuurman (Shaping a Digital World: Faith, Culture and Computer Technology [2013]). Finally, this paper will contrast a biblical sense of the mixed impact of advanced technology on the human person with the optimistic techno-utopianism of the rapidly expanding and well-funded transhumanist movement.

3 thoughts on “Advanced Technology and the Human Person: Re-reading Jacques Ellul for the Internet Age”

Leave a Comment