Does Technology Serve Us Or Do We Serve It?

I’ve been reading Eric Brende’s book Better Off: Flipping The Switch On Technology.  The book chronicles he and his wife living off the grid and with limited technology for 18 months.  With all the current talk about sustainability and the search for new technologies that will make it possible, it makes the point that the answer to our modern quandries often lies in less, not more, technology.

As technology develops at an ever-faster rate, I often wonder if it’s serves a need or if the need is just to develop more.  At the end of the book the author wrote the following passage:

There really is no end to the possible uses of technology, nor are there limits to finding a way around it; but in all cases it must serve our needs, not the reverse, and we must determine these needs before considering the needs for technology.  The willingness and the wisdom to do so may be the hardest ingredients to come by in this frenetic age.

The question of whether technology serves us or do we serve it is worth considering.  I spend large chunks of time living a low-tech life at the field school or in the woods.  It agrees with me because of its simplicity, but it requires much more physical work than the modern lifestyle I’m living right now.  But while the technologies that align with each lifestyle are different, I don’t see one as more advanced than the other.  One costs more, and has more moving parts, and is harder to fix, but this doesn’t make it better to me.  Maybe even the reverse is true; the simpler the technology, the fewer moving parts, the easier to maintain and fix makes it more advanced in my mind.  Better technology for me, then, has much to do with minimum inputs into the system and little to do with physical labor involved.

I’m in complete agreement with the author that the first step is to determine your needs, and the second step is to find ways to meet them.  For me, things that initially seemed like needs became superfluous upon further inspection, and were thus discarded.

For a list of the simple, rural technologies we use at the field school, visit the bushcraft and sustainability field school background information page.

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