Low-tech is the answer… partly

In my last post I had neglected to mention another article in the Daily Yomiuri on the same page and day about how the spread of disease can be slowed simply by opening the windows. I had so much ground to cover (I covered too much) that I didn’t feel I could put that in. But I think it is important.

Technology – if you consider our literally rock-solid housing techniques as technology – runs counter to our desire to live. This, of course, is how the human species is today. We have chosen to live as far apart from the nature, to segregate “us” from “them”. Yet life’s four billion years in the making can end within our lifetime. Of course, it won’t. Humans are more resilient than we think, as are the “other animals” we share the planet with. But many will suffer unnecessarily for our lifestyle.

So open a window. Open the windows of your home, of your car, the bus, the train, the place where you work. Reconnect with the outside world again, not just to slow disease. Go beyond the city limits and remember the way man had lived for more than a hundred thousand years. Go beyond the forest and try to find a place where no human traces exist. It may feel “foreign” at first, but then again we must ask why it should feel foreign in the first place.

No, I am not trying to be mystical here. I am not trying on flower power. But neither am I saying we should take the other extreme and live so far from the reality that we forget how much of our life depends – has depended – on the entire fabric of the biosphere.

Stop this senselessness before it causes any more suffering. Say “less to technology” and more to living. Open a window instead of opening your browser.

7 thoughts on “Low-tech is the answer… partly”

  1. Suhit,
    Thank you for your comment.

    You are right that technology the in itself good or bad.

    But the scale to which we use technology and the kinds of technologies the human species creates (I am NOT talking about the rudimentary sticks-in-holes-for-ants types here) is simply not doing the planet any good.

    So if I have to say what or who is good or bad then I must say it is the human species, but that would be another philosophical debate on Man’s inherent goodness or badness. I am not prepared to argue this.

    My last post does seem to be rambling. The topic was one which is too big for a little post and too abstract to be clear. Moreover, I am pressed for time, hence the style.


  2. Hi:

    I think you cannot blame everything to technology. Technology per se is not good or bad. It is its use that is the problem.

    It does come down to people’s understanding and perception of technology.

    However, this post rather than the previous one makes sense. One way of solving the problems we have is to reconnect with nature.

    I am going through a similar stage and trying to open my windows.



  3. John,

    Sorry. I had been too busy to go online to reply (a post on my trip to a recycling-oriented industrial zone soon).

    I do not think it is a problem of genies and bottles. Lifestyle choices are not about unfettered usage of something. The problem is the “we have to utilize it because we have knowledge of it” kind of mentality we have today.

    Yes, the Amish have made their choice and have shown self-control. And what I have said in the last two posts is about showing self restraint of some kind that is not imposed by others or by laws but because we should be mature enough to do so.

    This is not always easy but it is possible. If people see that you are genuinely responsible and sincere about it they will follow suit. The first step to this is to let one’s guard down to be honest about one’s own mistakes and be willing to accept the criticisms of others, even if the other person (or people) have not let their own guards down. Someone just has to be brave enough to let their guard down first. Otherwise we only have two opposing sides with perpetually raised fists.


  4. Just brainstorming here… Most people assume (and I guess I’m one of them) that there is no going backward in technology, that we could never return to a time of simpler technologies. I wonder if there’s room to question that assumption. The Amish would be one example of a small group which has done that. But could you envision any way in which humans as a species could do that? Should we? (It’s certainly been thought about with regard to getting rid of nuclear weapons. I think that could be possible in terms of regulation, but the knowledge would still be there, so there’s a “putting the genie back in the bottle” problem.)


  5. “So if medicine – a technology – did not occur do you think we still have these problems at the levels we have today?”

    No, not so much. I gave medicine special status. It’s one of the few technologies I’m not sure I would be happy to give up. True, today it often just prolongs a life without regard for its quality. But sometimes it really does allow for a new lease on life that wouldn’t have been possible 50 years ago. There are counter arguments there, though, as I think of it. e.g. regarding heart disease, medicine can now often bring those who might have dies of heart attacks in middle age into old age. On the other hand, if it weren’t for the diet and lifestyle technology allows us, would the rate of heart disease today be anywhere near its current level? Probably not. So I suppose even the status of medicine is not so clear. Still, there are places its advances would be welcome regardless, I think.

    When it comes to other technologies, though, and even though I’m communicating over the Web, if there were a world vote on whether we should magically revert to the technological level of, say, 1955, I’d probably vote “yes.” (And I’d lobby to include a return to 1955’s population level too.)

    I read how you reconciled your use of the Web with your criticism of technology. I’m not sure I know how to explain it for myself. I probably need to think it through better. But here I am on the Web, and I’d vote “yes.” And I’ll tell you one nice side benefit of such a reversion: Household appliances would all last about 20 times longer.

    There’s something very nice, as well, about a low tech approach when it works better than a high tech one. (like the window opening) Simplicity is good.


  6. You know, medicine is the one causes of the population growth. More people are living longer meaning more mouths to feed. But that is only a temporary problem because as long as we do not have continued pushing up longevity then eventually mortality will level off to the correct ratio.

    But because of the increase of the fertility rate combined with the increase in longevity that we have this present problem.

    John: “Now, I realize we’d still be facing serious ecological problems if technology had stopped in, say, 1975.”

    So if medicine – a technology – did not occur do you think we still have these problems at the levels we have today?

    David Suzuki wrote in the same book I quoted from about the death of his father. Diagnosed as terminally ill with his passing within days Dr Suzuki questioned whether the quality of his life would be better simply by prolonging it for a few days, weeks or months.

    This all comes down to contentment, doesn’t it. And in our day and age we don’t seem to be content or know what contentment is even if it hit us in the face.

    This is my short answer. I had been thinking about writing about population sometime soon, may be this week.


  7. I’ll admit it stirs mixed feelings for me to think of making do with less technology or with fewer comforts. But I grew up in the ’60s and ’70s, before computers for the home, the internet, microwaves, answering machines, mp3 players, cell phones (even cordless phones), fax machines, ATMs, cable or satellite TV, and lots of other modern “essentials.” And you know what? Life then was about the same as now. It felt every bit as comfortable.

    It makes me think of the Genuine Progress Indicator:


    …which suggests things really haven’t gotten better since then. Technology, as we approach it now anyway, really isn’t the answer.

    Now, I realize we’d still be facing serious ecological problems if technology had stopped in, say, 1975. But it’s clear that for the last half century technology hasn’t done much for us, save possibly for specific areas like medical advances. And the explosive growth of population was directly correlated with the advent of the industrial revolution. What if we could go back to it’s start and approach technology differently?


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