By Rabbi Arthur Waskow for Jewish Reconstructionist Communities
The Computer of Babel
The Torah's story of the Tower of Babel is about what happens when humanity becomes so arrogant as to use a "universal language" to "storm Heaven."
Today our universal language is the 0-1-0-0-1-1-0-1-0-0-0-0-1 of the computer, and we have used it to make the whole human race dependent on a single technology. Now we know how flawed that technology is. Will computers and chips that do not recognize the Year 2000 actually bring on a near apocalyptic global disaster simply because they get the date -- one of the most the basic numbers -- wrong?
Some believe this might happen, if chips and computers that are embedded in electric power systems and other crucial infrastructures fail as the millennium turns. This could be even more serious than failures in bank records and other commercial enterprises.
What is to be done? Here too the Bible points the way. When Babel's arrogance brings disaster on its builders, God not only baffled and "babbled" them -- but also healed them -- with a multiplicity of tongues.
"Back to the space where you speak face-to-face," said God: "Recreate your local cultures and communities, to replace the towering machinery of global arrogance!"
Out of that crisis, if we look back at our Bibles, came the family of Abraham and Sarah, the people Israel -- and all the other peoples that speak their own local mother-tongues in their own localities on Mother Earth.
Whether the Y2K bug creates merely serious problems or a major disaster, the solution is the same -- because the values that Babel teaches are the same:
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