Comment 60883

By Borrelli (registered) | Posted March 10, 2011 at 14:26:55

Was happy to read this piece. Thanks Christopher.

One of your lines got me thinking:

Perhaps technology can save us. We could [...] slow down but not eliminate consumption and prey our resources last until we can find some way to reverse the damage we've done or get off this rock before our ecosystem collapses.

I see a particular irony in any hopes that technology will save us from the cycle of consumption. Much the way the Khazzoom-Brookes postulate demonstrates that we tend to react to increased energy efficiency by using more energy, the past century is littered with examples of the wasted potential of technological advances.

Think of the average daily life of someone in 1920 compared to today. Someone living almost 100 years ago might be personally responsible for preparing and cleaning up after meals, mending/repairing and maintaining clothes, shoes and other goods, child-rearing, walking or traveling to work in often slow and inefficient ways, and a whole host of other daily duties that we have effectively outsourced in the 21st Century.

But to what benefit? Despite advances in food processing and marketing that allow us to eat quickly with little personal effort; despite clothes and dishwashers that cut clean-up time to mere fractions of what they were in 1920; despite nannies or other professionals that can ease individual burdens associated with childcare, and; despite modes of transportation that can take us from A to B in minutes, people are still as pressed for time as ever.

Plus we're fatter, more depressed and more anxious than ever. Our children aren't looked after, our civic institutions are crumbling, our democracies are in danger, and eternal problems like poverty, crime and pollution are no closer to being solved than a century ago.

Any assertion that technology will liberate us seems a bad joke in an era where Blackberries 'free' us to never leave work at the office, and the extra time offered to us by productivity-boosting machines is quickly gobbled up by consumption of trash media or junk food.

So I laugh, wondering what happened to the idealism of wishing to making the world a better place in one's spare time: the time and resources are there, but we just keep misappropriating or poorly investing them.

Comment edited by Borrelli on 2011-03-10 14:29:23

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