Tuesday, February 21, 2017
If you expect the future to resemble the past, then you are very likely to be disappointed. Quite a few people understand this, but don’t know of any alternative to continuing to do what they are accustomed to doing—driving to a job, shopping, paying bills—until they no longer can. They can’t figure out anything better to do than shove their children through an overpriced educational scheme so that upon graduation they can take part in a game of economic musical chairs—until they no longer can either.
A lot of people also find the future too depressing to think about. Yes, it is depressing to think about cities and suburbs with no electricity, running water or functioning sewers, buried in rotting garbage and trash and overrun by feral dogs and armed gangs. It is far more pleasant to escape into a fantasy world where renewable energy saves the day as soon as the fossil fuel industry gets out of its way, or where the fossil fuel industry saves the day as soon as the environmentalists get out of its way, or some other politically motivated nonsense.
One question that doesn’t seem to be asked enough is, What alternative is there that actually works? The answer is surprising: there are hundreds of thousands of people living throughout North America who will be largely unaffected by the dismal scenario outlined above. When the electric grid fails, they won’t even notice. When cities and suburbs became uninhabitable due to filth and crime, they won’t even know about it. When starving vagabonds come trudging by their homestead, they will be fed a good meal and gratefully move on.
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
None of this invalidates the approach I proposed for shrinking the technosphere which is based on a harm/benefit analysis and allows us to ratchet down our technology choices by always picking technologies with the least harm and the greatest benefit. But this approach only works if the analysis is informed by our own tastes, not the tastes imposed on us by the technosphere, by our values, not the technosphere’s values, and by our rejection of a mechanistic conception of our selves. These choices are implicit in the 32 criteria used in harm/benefit analysis, favoring local over global, group interests over individual interests, artisanal over industrial and so on. But I think it would be helpful to make these choices explicit, by working through an example of each of the three types of control listed above. This week I'll tackle the first of these.
Tuesday, February 07, 2017