This blog post can only properly begin with a loud throat clearing, and a confession.
– AHEM –
My blog, “Good Kid, Maad FX”, is at this point loaded with content about technology – robots, cell phones, handheld gadgets and futuristic web services – using language that is often recommending, laudatory, and fairly uncritical in promoting high-technologies. Even when writing about technology related problems – like the loss of privacy & ecological degradation – most of my posts never really challenge the core ways that we think about high technology – exciting, valuable, necessary, inevitable … fucking cool.
This giddy perspective is lacking in balance, boring, and largely indistinguishable from mainstream ways of thinking. I’m reminded of how pervasive social values & impressions can influence the way we experience the world – powerful and oftentimes invisible.
Ours is a culture that consistently glorifies the “next big thing”, presuming that any problems that arise can be fixed by “the next big thing 2.0”, and so on … but that going “backwards” is never an option.
“Low Tech Magazine” takes a different view, a web publication with monthly articles from a skeptic’s point of view on technology. The site’s principles are expressed in the tagline: “Doubts on Progress and Technology”.
The articles are well researched, & fairly argued – re-introducing old/lost technologies, while offering alternatives to high tech solutions that we take for granted as good and necessary. There is an emphasis is on “efficiency & sustainability” … instead of the “flash, comfort & convenience” that we’ve come to love from today’s high tech industries.
Articles are broken down by the main categories –
and Low-tech Housing
- This Low-Tech Nov. 2013 article: “Heat Your Clothes, Not Your House“, makes the case that heating large homes is extremely inefficient, and that heated, insulated clothing would keep us warmer, longer, while saving energy. “Modern thermal underclothing makes it possible to burn the heating at much lower temperatures without sacrificing comfort or sex appeal.”, they argue.
I care very much to preserve my current level of sex appeal – or improve upon it, if possible – and I just don’t know if the ladies will call back after seeing a grown man in a battery-heated onesie. Still worth a read.
- In June 2010 Low-Tech published: “Lost Knowledge: Ropes and Knots“, lamenting the fact that ropes and knots, “ancient and useful technologies”, are fast becoming obsolete.
This is an interesting article, first because I previously didn’t think of “ropes and knots” as technology. However, after reading and giving it some thought, the manipulation twine and rope in this clever way must have proved super-useful to early practitioners for fastening and pulling objects in manual chores. The second reason for interest is that it made me consider other seemingly lost arts/methods … like perhaps penmanship and mental math.
Low Tech Mag is full of these … questioning orthodoxies, dropping serious uncomfortable knowledge and challenging basic assumptions about what makes the most sense to perform daily tasks, and live well.
All of these articles are smart, some are viable and important alternative/hybrid tech solutions to common needs. Other articles present techniques and tools that are – in my humble opinion – simply untenable for a large scale society. The pedal powered vehicles, rope and pulley elevators and hand powere
d tools can do the job, but have their limitations – and the authors often recognize and try to address these.
The underlying point is to question the assumptions around our current privileged and affluent high-tech/high energy lifestyle. Low Tech Mag argues that a downsized, sustainable industrial civilization is absolutely necessary to avoid impending ecological disaster and extinction. The only request is to give up alot of modern energy sucking comforts, and that message is unpopular for obvious reasons. The prospect of rolling back basic standard comforts – like home air conditioning – would cause most people to logoff and flip on their favorite Netflix show.
In defense of geeks and tech-junkies everywhere … I agree with British author, Arthur C. Clarke, who is quoted as saying that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” If true, then the occasional “WOW” and awed expression is a perfectly reasonable, even unavoidable, response to new arrivals of high-tech. Just like magic, it takes a little maturity and care to look deeper for the hidden tricks – the doves & rabbit, struggling beneath the magician’s right sleeve.