Can Technology Really Make Things Better?

A challenge I am faced with from time to time: yes, technology is advancing, but people don't change and there's nothing ultimately either good or bad about machines. They are neutral. We aren't getting any better and technology can't possibly make our world "better" in anything other than the most superficial of ways.

I have many responses to that challenge. In fact, I think this entire blog may be a response to that challenge. But today I feel I need to offer only this:

iPad gives boy a voice at his bar mitzvah

Matthew is severely autistic and cannot read, write, or speak sentences. His family, friends, and educators never know exactly what he is thinking, but they know Matthew likes going to synagogue. He has been a regular at the Sunday service at Andover’s Temple Emanuel, where he hums, claps and smiles when Cantor Idan Irelander plays traditional Hebrew prayers on his guitar.

The structure of the bar mitzvah was set: Matthew could essentially lead the service by touching iPad icons. School staff recorded Matthew reciting “mama’’ and “dada’’ and the names of other relatives who would be called up to the Torah. Irelander recorded blessings and Torah readings that a boy being bar mitzvahed would ordinarily recite, and e-mailed them to Hoover - who matched the prayers to icons and photographs.

Soon Matthew’s parents were giving him their blessing. 
“Matthew, you are a remarkable young man,’’ they said, turning to their son. “Continue shining the special light of your love on the world and making it a better place. That is your gift to the world, and a mighty special gift it is. We love you.’’ 
After the family had walked through the synagogue with the rabbi and cantor and Torah, the service was over.

That's what I'm talking about, my friends. Better all the time.


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