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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Evaluating Technology



There's a myth out there that the Amish reject technology. They don't. What they do is carefully evaluate technology to see if it will fit in with their community's values. Early adopters they are not. However, if something over time proves useful they will approve it.

There's a story about how an Australian aborigine was given a steel knife. The man admired and was impressed with the steel blade, but ultimately gave it back. His reasoning that while his flint knife wasn't wasn't quite as good, he could easily build another one. If he became dependent on the steel knife, he could not replace it if lost.

In the modern world it's impractical to take the aborigine's attitude towards technology. However, knowing basic bush-craft could save your life. The skills necessary to put together a basic survival tool kit from nothing are good to have. If you can get by with nothing you can go long ways with a little.

The problem with doing things the old fashioned way is that they can take a lot of time. If you've ever hand ground grain to make a loaf of bread you appreciate being able to buy bread at the bakery. Never mind actually growing your own wheat and threshing it. Sometimes I make bread from whole grains, but I didn't have to grow them and usually use my electric mill. To be honest, lately I've been buying my bread.

Time is an issue, there being only so many hours in the day. Another example: the oil company just delivered 200 gallons of heating oil to my house. The house is set up to burn wood and I burn at least some wood nearly every day. However, oil heat buys me time. After a cold night I don't have to get up before dawn to stoke the fires. The oil heat kicks in and keeps the house from freezing solid.

One winter, when we had almost no money at all, I heated the house with wood found within walking distance. It was cut and harvested mostly with hand tools. I did have a small electric saw to cut the logs into woodstove length. Heating oil and firewood was expensive. However, being out of work I had time to process wood. We got through the winter, but it was a daily grind.

Providing heat was just one aspect of survival. Now imagine if I had to forage for food and haul water. What if I had to do my laundry by hand. Make soap? Make candles? . . . and so on and so on. I know how to do these things, but they all take time and energy. That's why I often choose to make use of modern technology; there are more interesting things to do with my time.

Having oil in the tank and a pile of firewood is like having time in the bank. Same goes for food storage. The technologies that allow that are pretty good trade offs in my book.

There are technologies I reject as not worth the bother. Dishes are washed by hand. When the dishwasher broke I figured out it wasn't worth replacing. Snow is shoveled by hand rather than by a modern snowblower. Once the cost of the machine, gas, oil and repair was factored in, it wasn't worth it for me. My driveways are short. Besides, I hate the noise. While I have a clothes dryer, we have both an outdoor clothesline and an indoor one, plus a drying rack. The dryer is mostly used when time is an issue or the weather is too wet.

We've lived completely off grid and it worked. Now we have a mix of off-grid and utility power. The cost of grid power is worth it as it acts like a backup generator that I don't have to store gas for. That's what works for now. Our technology use is always up for reevaluation. There's a constant cost/value evaluation going on.

-Sixbears

15 comments:

  1. Wise thinking. I've noticed something about the Amish and technology, though. It usually benefits the men more than the women. Still, I'm sure they appreciate the gas ranges, gasoline washing machines and gas lawnmowers (since I've never seen an Amish MAN mow the lawn). ;-)

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    1. Funny how that works out when men make the rules.

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  2. The commentary on picking the modern ways for the most time consuming is good advice. The act of collecting water for daily use was a huge time sink back in the day.

    You notice the photographs of that era, not a whole lot of smiling going on. Daily life was a struggle back then - I'm not sure I could go back in time and keep my cheery attitude. :^)

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    1. Hauling water is a good one. Most people don't realize how much they use in a day or how heavy it is.

      Go backpacking or live on a boat and you'll learn very quickly.

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  3. Or a coronal mass ejection from our star (the sun), if it directly hit Earth, would shut down the power grid and any electric motors or generators that may be running at the time. It can even induce a high current in any circuit. It will happen, when is the only question.

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    1. It's estimated a CME could kill 90% of the world's population, if it was strong enough. Most of those deaths would be from failed infrastructure, everything from food, to water, to electricity to . . . just about anything modern.

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    2. i ask God to keep the sewerage delivery and treatment and water delivery and treatment going or there will be cholera.
      i can live without electric light but not without water.

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    3. I am truly blessed to have a well with an overflow. However, many many people would be in serious trouble.

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  4. a good choice of options make survival easier n a day to day basis

    the Amish plan for long term survival and so make their choices wisely

    Wildflower

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    1. They have a plan, but I think they've made some errors along the way. Of course, it's none of my business.

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    2. "no one is perfect"

      "trail and error determines what survives in whatever areas"

      have a nice day!

      Wildflower

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  5. I'd go along with those thoughts. I use modern equipment and conveniences, but I have a back up for essentials, and if I can do it, two backups.

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    1. We should also have some backup people to do all the extra labor.

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