Friday, September 22, 2006

Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology

by Eric Brende

The author, a graduate of Yale and MIT, moved with his newlywed wife to an Amish-like community (that he calls “Minimites”) and lived for eighteen months with no electricity or running water.  They plowed their field and grew and sold crops, helped the Minimites (but much less than they got help from the community, of course), and learned about themselves.

Brende has written a fairly interesting book about the experience.  As Jon Krakauer said in a blurb, he certainly does not come off as a “sanctimonious scold,” which would be boring.  Instead, he quietly asks a series of questions about how we use technology and how technology takes from us (in terms of time, money and social skills).  He argues that technology is a not a tool, but a sort of organism, because it grows and uses fuel, and therefore we should be wary that it can be a drain on us, or worse, a competition with human endeavor.  I liked Brende’s conclusions on labor, on how in its pure state it frees the mind and shapes the body and promotes socialization; in fact, the work was less strenuous than he’d feared it would be, and they had what he calls a lot of leisure time.  It’s certainly an interesting line of thought, and Brende lives it, because despite his education he works as a buggy driver and soap maker. 

four stars

No comments:

Post a Comment