Encountering technology with traditional Chinese five cardinal relationships — Dr. Chan Kai Pak

Updated: Sep 23

Encountering Technology with Traditional Chinese 

Five Cardinal Relationships

Dr. CHAN Kai Pak

Dr. CHAN Kai Pak (CHAN) grew up in Hong Kong. After completed the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination with nine distinctions in 1987 and represented Hong Kong in the 30th International Mathematical Olympiad, Chan went to Massachusetts Institute of Technology in USA and received his Bachelor and Master Degrees there. He became a Christian in 1990 and got his Doctor of Ministry in 2016 from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. CHAN is currently serving as Interim Pastor at Boston Chinese Church of Saving Grace. He has extensive experience in student ministries and network ministries apart from his profession as a software engineer.

In view of the drastic technological advances from 1992 to the present, which have changed the worldwide scenarios of technological development.  CHAN explored the landscape of technopoly and its threats and consequences. He expounded the scenario of technopoly as follows: ubiquity of information and knowledge, artificial intelligence challenges human intelligence, robotics replaces large portion of the workforce, globalization challenges values and culture, and "winner takes all" economics.

CHAN reviewed the stages of technological development in relation to global, including Asian cultures and societies. Technology has been developed from tool using culture to technocracy and now to technopoly.  In a tool using culture, technology defines the techniques. In a technocracy, technology defines the problems. In an age of technopoly, technology defines the humans! In a technopoly, technology becomes an end to itself. Technology is considered as superior to traditional cultural values. It becomes a "totalitarian technocracy”. Now, in this age of technopoly, human thoughts and human values are subordinate to technology. 

Neil Postman in his book, Technopoly: The surrender of Culture to Technology, describes how Americans have turned the technology into a religion. Postman proposed to rebel against technology as a solution. Echoing with Postman, CHAN proposed to encounter this by integrating the Traditional Chinese Five Cardinal Relationships with Christian values in the Asian context.

How can the integration of Chinese five cardinal relationships with Christian values provide ways to preserve and revitalize coaching in face of technopoly and faith? CHAN explained that the five cardinal relationships in the Confucian system are Asians highly valued relations, namely: Parent and child (affection), Ruler and minister (rightness &loyalty), Husband and wife (differentiation), Elder and younger siblings (precedence), and between mutual friends (trust).  He then proposed that the Five Cardinal Relationships and Biblical Faith could be understood as: God as Father, God as King, Christ as husband, Christians as brothers and sisters (Christ is the first born), and God as friend. 

CHAN expounded also that it is possible to integrate the five Chinese cardinal relations into a biblical-covenantal framework to resist technopoly in the Asian context. Technopoly has become an idolatry and even Christians succumbed to it.  The restoration of traditional Chinese values, including the five cardinal relations, would then be seen as “resistance” in the Asian context. The key to revival of traditional Chinese values is to understand covenantal commandments verses legalistic commandments. Under the legalistic context, commandments are subject to be perverted into being oppressive; whereas within a covenant, commandments may help to affirm and protect human dignity. The Book of Philemon in the Bible is a good case for exploration; it testifies how covenantal relations can go beyond the demands from Roman slavery system.

Relationship is the key element in Chinese/Asian cultures.  Hence, CHAN proposed a Four Steps Action Plan to resist Technopoly in the 21st Century: (1) Be content; (2) Pay attention to the side effects of technology; (3) Build family and community; (4) Emphasize meanings and missions over numbers and metrics.  Contentment is a defense against idolatry. In 1 Timothy 6:6, which says: “But godliness with contentment is great gain”, precedence is important. Recognition of traditional Chinese culture, like biblical covenants, values history and names, and pay more attention of proper titles and etiquettes.  Hence, each person has his/her proper place in their relations.  

Lastly, CHAN admitted that human values in Asian cultures encountered also the danger of being eroded by technopoly. Technological development in the Asian contexts became a means to empower the authority/ government rather than to empower ordinary people as it was in the Western world.   In China, it is easier for the government to gain massive control while people trust in technology. As a result, human decisions, moral choices, and human values would easily be taken away by the dominance of technopoly. And there is a real danger that human judgment and thinking would not be valued anymore if numerical data are over-emphasized and are wrongly used.  


陳啟柏博士(陳博士)在香港長大。1987年他以九優會考成績畢業及代表香港參加第卅屆奧林匹克國際數學比賽。 他後來在美國麻省理工學院進修、獲得學士及碩士學位。他在1990年成為基督徒,2016年在哥頓康威神學院(Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary)獲道學博士學位。陳博士現任波士頓中國基督教救恩堂(Boston Chinese Church of Saving Grace) 暫任牧師。除了擔任專業軟件工程師之外,他在學生工作和網絡事工方面亦有豐富經驗。

有見及科技自1992至今急速發展和全球擴散,改變了科技世界的山脈,陳博士深入探究科技發展的概要、威脅和影響。他闡釋科技的發展步入2018年的情況如下: 資訊和知識的含糊、人工智能挑戰人類智能、機械取代大部分勞動力、全球化挑戰價值和文化、以及 確立“勝者取全”的經濟模式。 

陳博士檢視了科技在全球的發展階段,包括亞洲文化和社會。 他認為科技發展已經是從「工具使用文化」時期進入到「霸權科技 」時期至現今的「極權科技」時期。在一個工具使用文化時期中, 科技定義技術。 在「霸權科技 」中,科技定義問題。 在「極權科技 」中,科技定義人類!  在「極權科技 」中,科技變成終極目的。 在「極權科技」中, 科技被認為比傳統文化價值更為卓越。 這是一個「極度霸權科技」的年代,人類的思想和生命價值現今已經被科技支配成為科技的從屬了。 

尼奧布士文(Neil Postman)在他一書《極權科技: 降服於科技的文化》 (Technopoly: The surrender of Culture to Technology) 中,描述美國人是如何降服於科技、甚至將科技變成自己的宗教。布士文建議現代人必須抗衡科技、尋求自救之路。 作為東方人的回應,陳博士建議應該融合傳統中國的五倫關係和基督教的倫理價值觀、以抗衡科技在亞洲處境中帶來的挑戰。 

至於如何能夠結合中國五倫關係與基督教的信仰、共同抗衡「極權化科技」的新文化,並為科技與信仰之間保存應有的活潑生命力呢? 陳博士解釋亞洲人民均是高度尊崇中國儒家奉行的五倫關係,即是: 父子有親(親密)、 君臣有義(忠義)、夫婦有別(差異)、長幼有序(尊卑)、朋友有信(誠信)。 若是從基督教信仰的角度看,陳博士建議傳統中國的五倫關係可以被理解為: 神是父親、 神是君王、神是丈夫、基督徒是兄弟姊妹(基督是長兄),和神是人類的朋友。

陳博士又解釋如何能夠整合傳統中國的五倫關係和聖經的信仰、去積極抗衡在亞洲文化處境中的極權科技。 陳博士介紹兩種不同的命令觀,即是: 『法理的命令』和『契約的命令』。 在過份強調法理的處境中,命令容易被濫用、變成壓迫異見分子的工具; 但在契約保護之下,命令卻是肯定地維護人類的尊嚴、尊重人權的。 《聖經》中的《腓利門書》可以提供一個好的例子,即是: 契約下的人際關係是可以超越當時羅馬奴隸制度的法理要求。 因此,若要重建中國傳統的五倫關係,關鍵是在於能夠明白契約命令和法理命令不同之處,這樣才可以有效地抗衡在亞洲處境中的極權科技。

「關係」是中國或亞洲文化的一個關鍵的生活元素。 陳博士建議用一個四步曲的行動計劃來抗衡21世紀的極權科技,即是: 1) 知足的生活態度; 2) 小心科技產品的副作用 3) 建立健康的家庭及社群關係; 4) 強調生命的意義及目標遠勝於數字及量度的指標。知足能防禦對科技的盲目崇拜。 提摩太前書6章6節說:『然而敬虔加上知足的心便是大利了』。 若是能夠確認傳統中國的五倫關係文化恰如聖經的契約命令的話,並能看重人倫關係中的不同名分和禮儀的話,陳博士相信,每個人便可以在個別的人倫關係中找到一個正確和恰當的位置了。


最後,陳博士亦承認在亞洲文化中的人類的身分與價值也將會面臨被「極權科技」侵蝕的危險。「極權科技」的發展也可能會是在亞洲產生出強化政府權力的效果。 譬如是在中國,「極權科技」可以成為政府的一個統治人民的工具。 當人民相信科技時,政府便可以輕易取得人民的控制權。 結果,在「極權科技」的統治下,人類的抉擇、道德的決定和人類的價值標準都被政府奪去。所以若果政府過份強調或錯誤地使用數字數據時,便會出現一個真正的危機,就是: 人民的價值判斷和道德思維將不會再被視為是有真正的價值和意義的了。 

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