Technology without morality

Recently, there have been headlines about ‘scandalous “slut lists” being published on popular South African instant messaging chatline MXit, ruining youngsters’ reputations and making some suicidal.’


The lists – including phone numbers – allege rampant promiscuity by the people on it; one list naming girls between 14 and 16 and another naming women between 18 and 25.


Although this is shocking news, it should come as no surprise. One only needs to look at the lack of morality which has engulfed our society in recent times to see that this is not something unpredictable – it’s simply a union of technology and immorality.


Don’t get me wrong – I’m not anti-technology. I don’t believe that TV, computers, the Internet, etc are bad things. They are not. They’re simply a product – a medium – and they can be used for good or bad.


Unfortunately, in today’s times, the bad far outweighs the good when one looks at it from a moral point of view.


New technology

Inventors, scientists, engineers – whoever – all work on these things, and create these technologies. They then unleash it on the world, to be snapped up by the masses of technology-greedy consumers out there.


But, the thing that is so often missing in technological thought is regard for the consequences. Worrying about what moral risks the technology could pose to society – given the state of mankind in the present era.


If you can see something is very wrong with a person – for example, they’re driven by rampant sexual desire and look for any avenue to fulfill it – do you really want to give them something which assists them in compounding that fault?


If an enraged, racist madman is walking around in the streets, looking to harm people of another race – do you sell him bullets and a gun?


You may think my analogy is extreme – but promiscuity is akin to murder, in my eyes, because promiscuity is what destroys the moral fabric of society.


With technology, just because you can do something, it doesn’t mean you should do it.


And when people put themselves out there so publicly – putting personal information and pictures on the Internet, the risk of things like predators, stalkers, ruined reputations and the MXit lists is high.



Personal responsibility

I think the creators of the technologies usually take the following stance, when it comes to morality and abuse of their product:


“We put the product out there, we have disclaimers and  guidelines of how people should use it, and we put some systems in place to punish those who abuse the system. But at the end of the day, it’s up to the users as to what they do with it. We cannot be held responsible for people who use our product for wrongdoing.”


So it’s like: ‘We’ll give you access to the technology which can do all these things – but it’s up to you to use it responsibly’.


With regard to this MXit thing – honestly, can kids that age be responsible with a technology which opens up so many doors to sexual and other temptation?


At that age, where hormones are crazy – for  guys especially – does the inventor really think a teenager can control themselves?

Ok, so if not, then there’s parents. But the following view (Sayed Rajack, representative for the Parents’ Association of  KwaZulu-Natal), quoted in the article, sums up the case with many of the parents nowadays:


“Parents are not taking responsibility for their children. Children have too much liberty and parents are too lax. “The parents of these culprits  are not doing their bit to bring the kids to book and would rather  protect them than tell them that what they are doing is wrong”.


What about adults? Are they immune?




Anything can be addictive, and no one is immune from the risk. Even adults can get hooked on things like this.


But it’s not just technology – the same pattern can be seen with gambling and alcohol.


The promoters of these things put it out there – knowing it appeals to people’s lower desires; then they tag along some little warning slogan, like:


“Winners know when to stop”, or

“Please drink responsibly”


In my view, these petty little slogans don’t make a difference to people who want to  indulge in those vices – because the desire is so strong that no warning can make a difference.


It’s the same thing with the warning labels on cigarette boxes: maybe it deters some people, but at the end of the day, smokers have an addiction, and they feed that addiction.


I think the high prices of cigarettes are the more effective deterrent.


The bottom line

Mankind has the potential to be higher than the angels, but also the potential to be lower than animals. What we see in today’s world is the latter; and technology is being abused to take us down lower and lower.


At the end of the day, it’s not the job of the inventors to police people. But, they can stop and think before they introduce something new. Realise that if something can do more harm than good – given the state of society at large, they should think twice before putting it out there.


Government is not responsible either – but, they can think twice before letting things like this out in to the market, again, realising that – given the state of their society – it can do more harm than good.


Then again, a government needs to want to have a morally-sound society – and prove it in their actions.


In Islam, we’re taught to stop ourselves before we even fall into temptation. For example, we’re not told: “don’t indulge in adultery” – we’re told “Don’t go near adultery”…don’t even come close. Lower your gaze, because what the eye sees, the heart becomes attached to.


Our only solution is to realize that God created us, knows what’s best for us, and has communicated that to us – through the Quran and Sunnah.


Whenever mankind chooses another way, they’ve been destroyed. It happened in previous nations – with catastrophes like the floods of Noah’s time – but in our times, it’s a slow destruction, which is being brought about by the lack of morality spreading all over the world, and getting worse as the years go by.


As Muslims, we know the solutions. We just need to have the courage and strength to implement them.




7 thoughts on “Technology without morality

  1. So – are you saying that companies shouldn’t manufacture cars because people may abuse them (which they do). Are car manufacturers irresponsible because people drink and drive? No matter how much thought one puts into an invention there will always be other inventive people who figure out ways to abuse it.

    I think the word ‘abuse’ is key here – using something for purposes other than what it was created for. Technology is amoral – it is neither moral or immoral. It’s people who abuse technology that are immoral.

  2. Hi Gavin

    I agree with you that technology is neither moral or immoral, but the case of a car and this is not a fair comparison.

    the *vast* majority of people do not buy cars to misuse them, to abuse them for something other than their intended purpose.

    if we knew that a large portion of the population were known maniacs who like to deliberately drink and drive and hurt people with cars – then yes, it would be irresponsible for car manufacturers to sell cars.

    but we know that it’s a very, very tiny minority of drivers who would do that. and only a psychotic person would actually enjoy that and PLAN to do that.

    with the technology examples i’m talking about, it’s not the same. it’s not the same crime, and it’s not the same very low level of risk as cars.

    we don’t have a monogamous society. we don’t have a modest or sexually restrained society. and the advertising, tv, films and so much stuff in the public domain just feeds and feeds and feeds this lust.

    we have extreme promiscuousness running rampant, and you cannot deny that.

    in South Africa especially, with our HIV rate – you cannot say that we’re a sexually modest nation.

    and is this promiscuity a good thing? looking at the social consequences at present? and the long term population and economic consequences?

    so, when you look at the state of this society, and you create a technology that makes it very easy for strangers to connect with each other – you must know that some people – many people – are going to use this as a means of fulfilling their desire. a desire which is hurting this society because lots of people do not have self control.

    it’s like the atom bomb. why the hell would people create a weapon that can do so much harm? sure, it *could* be done. it was technologoically *possible*.

    but that doesn’t mean it should have been done.

    and the state of fear now with regard to atomic weapons is a result of just this same thing: scientists creating something which – although it’s possible to create – should never have been created.

    Bottom line is:
    – scientifically, they could do it.
    – morally, they should never have put that idea into practice and invented it.

    morally speaking, there is absolutely no justification to build a weapon that can kill on such a large scale and do such long term damage thereafter.

  3. slms

    i think key here is to remember that human beings have been given the ability to think, to decipher between right and wrong and to create from created things.

    we cannot give technology any human attributes, calling it “amoral” attributes morality to a thing, which to me sounds crazy.

    i think the post sums it up well: people, as human beings created for a purpose, are supposed to be moral creatures. we are supposed to have moral governments and laws that lead to morality.

    this mxit craze is just another little show of humans degrading themselves; its just another sign of immorality.

    and btw, to “amoral” to me, means to be immoral, coz anything void of morals, is useless and a waste of time…

    once again i think the best and only way to protect ourselves and our kids from this is to preach and teach morality in our own lives, to live it, strive for it and always keep in mind that without it, we are “ahuman”

  4. i have to agree with gavin and alia. i love the tools just not the dominant societal message. humans are interpreting beings creating meaning out of everything. even a religion as pure as islam can be perverted by those who choose to. the enemy is not the technology, it’s the dominant societal discourses perpetrated by humans

  5. I can only reiterate what the others have said. it’s our responsibility to use it in the right way. If Muslim teenagers can send out lists such as these, the problem lies not only with parents but with the community as a whole.
    Somebody I know was listed, and I know it’s not true. To slander a woman such is one of the biggest sins, and yet young boys do so with impunity.

    As for putting oneself out there, it amazes me how otherwise responsible people can do so.

    The bad may outweigh the good, but one cannot discount the good. Our madressah & islamic school system as a whole needs to change because obviously we’re raising a bunch of rotters

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