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Archive for February, 2009

Technology

This blog has been a long time coming.  It’s funny, I went from practically no job to two jobs in the course of a few hours about three weeks ago- and now I have a different job altogether.  No complaints here, but this blog has been rattling around on hold a bit…

When I was in the U.S. over the holidays I ran into two different people with iPhones.  I was amazed at how much the little device dominated their consciousness.  If anything came up that the thing could do- and it practically folds your socks, so this happened a lot- they would pull it out and fiddle around.  I’m not judging them, I’m just observing.  For all it’s amazingness, it seems an oppressive little device to me.  Or at least it has the potential to be, much like any new technology.

Shortly after this I read an article, written in 1990 or so, by Wendell Berry: Why I am Not Going to Buy a Computer.  Berry, in case you don’t know, is a farmer and a writer that lives in rural Kentucky, and this article explained why he was resisting using a computer in his work.  In it, I admit, Berry comes off a little old-fashioned and resistant to technology- as well as a bit out of date by now- but he was thought-provoking.  I feel like my relationship with technology is complicated- it often frustrates me and sucks my time, but it can also be extremely helpful and useful.  Sometimes I wish I knew more, other times I wish I could get rid of it all.  In that light, I offer Berry’s 9 “standards for technical innovation” in his work.  They are certainly provoking; they help me actually think about technology instead of going with the flow and automatically accepting each new development.  These things are rarely neutral.  Without further adeiu:

1. The new tool should be cheaper that the one it replaces.

2. It should be at least as small in scale as the one it replaces.

3. It should do work that is clearly and demonstrably better than the one it replaces.

4. It should use less energy than the one it replaces.

5. If possible, it should use some form of solar energy, such as that of the body.

6. It should be repairable by a person of ordinary intelligence, provided that he or she has the necessary tools.

7. It should be purchasable and repairable as near to home as possible.

8. It should come from a small, privately owned shop or store that will take it back for maintenance and repair.

9. It should not replace or disrupt anything good that already exists, and this includes family and community relationships.

Like I said, a little old-fashioned; by these standards, I don’t know what makes the cut.  But thought-provoking nonetheless.  I especially like the emphasis on being repairable and standard number 9.

I thought about this article a lot for a few days at my old job.  I often found myself trying to unscrew something in an awkward or small place, fighting my drill,  or I would be messing with extension cords and I would think: ‘you know Scott, the screwdriver in your workbelt would get this job done with a lot less frustration- and probably almost as fast in the long run.’  For what it is worth, I did start using the drill only when necessary and though it may have taken me a tiny bit longer, I had a lot more peice of mind with the screwdriver.

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