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Returning to the 'Real'

The virtual is not an adequate substitute for the authentic
Tuesday, September 3, 2013, 10:34 AM

A paradox of life in these times is the inverse relationship between technological wizardry and the satisfactions of being a live organism in a real place (i.e., on the planet Earth).  It probably boils down to a proposition that the American public is not ready to entertain: that the virtual is not an adequate substitute for the authentic. Eventually it will be a hard lesson to learn.

Poor Substitutes

Ours has been an age of producing ersatz substitutes for just about everything. We call the housing subdivisions slapped up by the production builders “communities” when they are just cartoon simulacrums of a community. The houses within them are called “homes” in order to confer emotional allegiance that they have not earned by being things worthy of our affection in places worth caring about.

The manufactured products we call “food” are visibly poisoning the public in epidemics of obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. And the manner in which this “food” is dispensed to solitary “consumers” — from drive-in-windows, microwave ovens, and convenience store racks — has drained all nurturing social ceremony from the act of eating as surely as it has drained out all the nutrition.

Having scores of “friends” on Facebook is not about personal association but is rather a marketing racket for a company set up to be an advertising enterprise.

Computer graphic wizardry has only damaged our ability to tell meaningful stories in the dramatic arts media and reduced it to sadistic spectacle. Personal computers, now including phones and tablets, prey on our genetic weakness for novelty and rob us of our waking hours when we might be doing more satisfying things than email.

Where public affairs are concerned, Federal Reserve interventions, pervasive accounting fraud, and computer-derived market manipulations are not an adequate substitute for a real economy of volitional transactions based on purposeful activity. And so on. The list of bad bargains is very long.

The Cost of Technology

Lately, we run most of the critical systems in our culture on the basis of the proposition that if we can just measure everything we can control everything. This delusion has only produced an earth more out-of-balance and a humanity too distracted by its own dazzle to notice that we have a problem.

At the heart of our perilous romance with technology is the peculiar near-religious sentiment about progress. Victims of future shock vie for better seats on the Starship Enterprise hurtling into the event horizon of human extinction. Our techno-narcissism drives us to seek ever more “cool” applications (apps!) and embroider them into a matrix of deadly hyper-complexity. And, despite the veneer of glamor attached to novelty, these things end up making life worse and leaving us less than human. Techno-narcissists of the Ray Kurzweil stripe would probably reply that to become less human is exactly the point, since we are destined, soon they say, to leave all that flabby-fleshed rubbish behind and transmute into immortal computer vapor bots in the thrall of never-ending cosmic orgasm. But this is merely proof that some very smart people never grow up.

What’s perhaps more troubling is that the memory of a pre-hyper-complex techno culture fades a bit more each day and we may be losing the ability to recover the cognitive skill necessary to function without technological crutches — at least not in time to prevent us from losing a lot of ground in the project of remaining civilized. Prior to the onset of computer thralldom, these cognitive skills enabled us to interact socially without prosthetic extensions of Facebook and LinkedIn. They enabled us to understand where we stood in relation to others, to locate the boundary between the sacred and profane, and to achieve real artistry in our art — as opposed to the mere attention-seeking stunt-mongering that passes for art in our time. Obviously, a lot has been lost in a culture where the Kardashians battle with Duck Dynasty, Pawn Stars, and Grand Theft Auto VI for supremacy of the captive national attention-span. It remains to be seen whether a generation addicted to smart phones will be a lost generation in an era of epochal economic phase-change moving in a direction that very few of expect: a long emergency of resource and capital scarcity with all its attendant hardships.

Future Shock

The recognition that technological progress has a dark downside is not new. It has been articulated by figures ranging from Thoreau, Goethe, Max Weber, Henry Adams, Lewis Mumford, Albert Einstein, Morris Berman, Jane Jacobs, Ronald Wright and many others. Before them, the phantom of Ned Ludd haunted the knitting mills of Britain, and older mythologies are replete with stories about the hazards of dabbling in black magic. The last hundred years of history have produced an eerie balance of techno-magically induced thrills and horror, with things like powered flight, radio, motion pictures, microsurgery, Photoshop, and Kevlar on the happy side of the beam and trench warfare, Auschwitz, Hiroshima, 9/11, and Fukushima on the other. One might wonder how the human race stayed sane through all this. I’m not sure it did.

Our current behavior suggests a rather new incapacity to survey the horizon of reality and come to some consistent conclusions about what we ought to do next and how we ought to act, and it is beginning to look like we won’t act but rather just let history break over us like a great punishing wave, drowning the spellbound observers on the shore and washing away the monuments we erected to our own specialness. This cataclysm, where peak resources meet climate change, will bring on a time-out from the worship of “cutting edge” progress — since the cutting edge will have severed many heads in its transit around the earth — and it could bring on something we might characterize as a dark age where we’re too busy toting up the losses to do anything else but struggle to stay alive. But, we should desire deeply to want more than that. We should want to play a part in the healing of the planet and the redemption of our species and some people in some places will be more successful in this endeavor than others in other places. It will require the re-enchantment of everyday life.

Wittgenstein remarked, “It is astonishing that anything exists” (or as Keith Richards put it, “It’s great to be here; it’s great to be anywhere”) which implies that we begin by reestablishing some reverence for the simple privilege of our conscious lives. This is what religion might be about, perhaps what it started out being, before it became a vehicle for guilt trips, punishment traps, revenge fantasies, and the concentration of wealth and power. Religion carries the obvious appeal of set programming. You just open the package and play it. One downside is that it tends to become despotic in periods of historic tribulation, as secular government withers. The culture of United States is already prone to a high level of religious hysteria. If we’re fortunate, this strain of fundamentalism will burn itself out sooner rather than later in the phase-change to a post-industrial society.

Where To Next?

The questions will otherwise arise: what will people who can think for themselves do? What kind of narrative about the world might they construct outside of superstition? How will it prompt them to act? And might their actions make the world a better place for human beings and our other fellow passengers on the planet?

In Part II: The Future of Living, we surface the answers to many of these questions. The trends clearly underway in world affairs point to human communities that will be smaller, more localized, less complex, and less alienated from our primary ties to the natural world. These conditions will probably entail reduced access to the kind of advanced technology we’re immersed in for the moment, so we look at the career skills, solutions and living models that are likely to be needed most for entering this new -- more reality-based -- future with as much grace and prosperity as possible.

Click here to access Part II of this report (free executive summary; enrollment required for full access).

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37 Comments

gillbilly's picture
gillbilly
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Posts: 388
Balance.

Thank you for putting a light on the cons of technology. As a teacher I was recently asked to respond to two articles on the use of technology in the classroom, both articles stress the inevitability of a tech-filled classroom. Here are links to the two articles:

http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar13/vol70/num06/Our-Brains-Extended.aspx

http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar13/vol70/num06/Students-First,-Not-Stuff.aspx

My response:

Many thoughts arise after reading these articles. In the second article, I like the concepts of effective thinking, action, relationships, and accomplishments, but it seems to contradict the outside needs of industry for disciplinary/specialty assessment. Most trends in education are heavily influenced by market needs, in particular the specialization required for the techno-structure of mature planned capitalism. This trend for more technology to be put into the hands of students is no exception. To look at technology strictly through the lens of education denies the context of the larger picture and how the market economy and education interact, in essence, it is the equivalent of looking at it inside a disciplinary silo without any windows. Increased complexity of a “system” also creates more inherent system fragility, therefore the need for “windows” in an increasingly more specialized system is paramount.

Whether discussing technology in regard to the classroom, or in our own lives, the questions that arise for me are those of balance. How much of gadget reliance do we want in our lives? Technology, contrary to what the first article states, is not an extension of our brains, and is also nothing new.  I would encourage anyone who wants a more comprehensive and balanced view of how technology evolved and its role in our lives, that you begin with the writings of Mumford, Spengler, Heidegger, and Ellul (all wrote extensively on technology) and then work forward to more current authors. The example the article gives…”losing one’s phone is the equivalent of losing half your brain” is not as straight-forward as it seems. One might alternatively ask in light of the huge increase of internet addiction groups, is it an actual physical withdrawal from an addiction? When the response to stimulus (phone/computer/etc) is that we can’t live with out it, it prompts deeper questions about dependency. All individuals are not created equal in his/her relationship with technology, and so its impact can be drastically different.

There are pros and cons to technology, and often those pros and cons depend on a person’s status within techno-structure of the system. Those who plan, i.e. beauracrats, administrators, managers, politicians, technicians, are the first to promote the benefits of technology because the techno-structure requires them to buy-in to this narrative to maintain the power and survival of the “organization.” The necessity to adhere to this narrative was extensively examined by economist J.K. Galbraith in the 1960s in his defining of the manager’s role in the new industrial state.  It must be noted that these planners are the first and predominant beneficiaries of technology. Those who are farther down the organizational ladder are more intuitively sensitive to technological change because they are more often the victims of the costs. Again, society gravitates to pros first because the industrial/technological market economy requires it, and the social narratives formed around technology are usually disseminated from the top down within this techno-structure. 

Furthermore, the costs of technology are most often not discovered until much later (externalities – health, loss of employment, monopoly, cultural deterioration, environmental -pollution, species extinction, climate change, etc.). The irony of the cyclical nature of technology is that the solutions to the externalities created are almost always end-of-pipe engineered fixes that require more technology and specialization, which in turn, create a set of new problems that need fixing at a later date. It becomes self-perpetuating.

Silicon Valley is one of the most powerful market forces in the world right now, matched only by the energy industry, governments, and their accompanying military. Open-source is not as open as you might think and the delivery systems are very much confined within the algorithmic programming of the software engineer.  Jaron Lanier, one of the architects of Web 2.0 and Artificial Intelligence (AI) discusses the pitfalls of “system lock-in” and the homogenization of the web due to the open-source platforms in his book “You are Not a Gadget,” a must read for any open-source advocate.

So my long-winded response and overarching question to these articles is… what are the costs/losses/externalities to implementing new technology in the classroom and more importantly, in our lives?  For example, how many teachers will lose their jobs because of MOOC classes? (as stated in the article, they are free)  If apps take over the organizational aspects of students lives, how will they fend for themselves in a protracted situation where they don’t have a gadget available to them?  Will they be emotionally and practically lost? If the costs of a new innovation are discovered later, and found to outweigh the benefits, will we be able to reverse course or will we be locked-in to the use of that technology? There is always the tendency to argue that the market is a self-correcting mechanism that will weed out and correct itself in relation to negative or costly changes.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t reflect the reality of system lock-in and/or the models of planned mature capitalism. “Planned,” not free, markets are the rule in a world of trans-national corporations. If we truly want to understand education and the use of technology, we must understand it unfortunately comes down to power (size does matter) and money.

Please don’t misconstrue that I have a bias either way in regard to technology.  Sometimes I find myself with a bias for, sometimes against. It's a love-hate relationship. 

I wonder if any of this got through??

dugsmith's picture
dugsmith
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Too broadly condemning of religion

Your article makes some really valuable points and has some important insights about our use of technology that we need to consider. Your ending doesn't fit though:

This is what religion might be about, perhaps what it started out being, before it became a vehicle for guilt trips, punishment traps, revenge fantasies, and the concentration of wealth and power. Religion carries the obvious appeal of set programming. You just open the package and play it. One downside is that it tends to become despotic in periods of historic tribulation, as secular government withers. The culture of United States is already prone to a high level of religious hysteria. If we’re fortunate, this strain of fundamentalism will burn itself out sooner rather than later in the phase-change to a post-industrial society.

Your broad, sweeping generalization of all religion reflects a pretty narrow view that isn't my experience at all. I don't deny that there are slices of some groups that are labeled "religion" that embody some of everything you described. However, the same might be said of governments, educational institutions, or any other organized group of like-minded individuals. 

My experience is that religious groups with a real faith based focused on the Creator's love, goodness and justice are the first to sacrifice to help the hurting, the first to feed the hungry, the first to cleanup after a tornado, or the first to find shelter for an abused spouse. They are all about restoring, encouraging, helping, building up, and making whole. 

"You just open the package and play it" implies the tired atheist rhetoric that asserts only non-religious people have a brain. While there are certainly several bad (some very public) examples of "religious" activity, most of the believers I run with are some of the most analytical, thoughtful, pragmatic, and wise people you will find. It must be an atheistic "article of faith" to believe that only non-believers are intelligent and think though their irreligious understanding of the world.

Real faith-based groups will be the first place to turn if the prophesies promoted on this site ever come to pass. These people will be grounded in transcendent realities and ready to adapt and trust their Maker to lead them through all of the trials.

SPAM_ferralhen's picture
SPAM_ferralhen
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yes it got thru gil, you took

yes it got thru gil, you took some time on that thank you

________________________________

i have to say this somewhere.....

the reality most likely is syria----- broke international law by using chemical weapons

the reality: usa will break international law by attacking  syria without un blessings

don't like it? change international law.but don't attack until then (or call down upon us ill biddings.)

if we attack syria, then all sorts of countries are justified to attack us because we set a presedence, like 1939 germany to attack at will.

think our guns so big that won't happen

think again

this is fools play and deadly fools play at that.

we are here folks at a music stopper/ chair grabbing event.

my guess, the us will attack.

the "axis of evil" will counter attack.

best top off that garden of yours, and water storage.

if this isn't a time to be ready aforehand...............

good god keep yakin....and HOPE

who will help me bake my bread

not i said the dog

not i said the cat

not i said the.......

then i will do it myself.

.

Stan Robertson's picture
Stan Robertson
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Exactl right!

dugsmith wrote:

My experience is that religious groups with a real faith based focused on the Creator's love, goodness and justice are the first to sacrifice to help the hurting, the first to feed the hungry, the first to cleanup after a tornado, or the first to find shelter for an abused spouse. They are all about restoring, encouraging, helping, building up, and making whole. . . .

Real faith-based groups will be the first place to turn if the prophesies promoted on this site ever come to pass. These people will be grounded in transcendent realities and ready to adapt and trust their Maker to lead them through all of the trials.

I couldn't agree more. My home was severely damaged by a tornado this spring, but members of my church put tarps over gaping holes in the roof in the dark in a matter of hours, thereby preventing further damage from the rain. The next day they came back and cleared the debris and downed trees and pruned other broken trees, not only at my home but at all of the neigbhbors as well.

Stan

John Lemieux's picture
John Lemieux
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All kinds of folks pitched in to help after Alberta Floods

We had a massive volunteer effort here in Alberta after the devastating floods in May.

And what I saw was a broad range of folks donating their time and best effort to help out. The local Hutterite communty helped, but so did all kinds of other folks. Families and friends helped each other. And government assistance has also been a big part of the response. But large amounts of money were raised through community efforts.

I'm not a member of any religious group, but I felt that I should help simply because I could. And because help was greatly needed. So for me and many others who volunteered our reason was as simple as that.  

thc0655's picture
thc0655
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I'm 100% with dugsmith

Despite his many positive contributions, Kunstler's prejudices and hatred are tiring. I'm 100% with dugsmith. And I would not want to be stuck on a lifeboat with Kunstler! He's one of those people with great ideas and vision, but who is so prickly hardly anyone can stand to be around him. It's a shame.

robie robinson's picture
robie robinson
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Pascal

in his pensees said it best,"God made man in his image, man has returned the favor ever sice."

gillbilly's picture
gillbilly
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Agree and disagree

My understanding of what he was trying to say was that we have made "progress," and in particular, our faith in technology to be our savior, and that it is this faith that has become the strain of fundamentalism that is pervasive in our society, and that he was making more of an analogy to certain strains of fundamentalism in our current religions. Science and technology have become a pervasive fundamentalist religion for many,  even with the contradictory trappings of logic and empiricism (there in lies the faith).

It is too bad that our news tends to focus on the negatives when it comes to culture and religion. (and positives when it comes to markets) There are so many non-fundamentalist religious organizations doing great and necessary work everyday, but we don't hear about it.

It is also unfortunate that Kunstler makes the remark of plug and play in regard to rituals. Rituals are a necessary component of worship, but his point is worth considering, as some just go through the motions.  I've been guilty of this as well at times, but regardless the communal act of ritual, whether engaged or not, does make a difference in worship. We should always question where we put our faith, so maybe that is what he is suggesting.

westcoastjan's picture
westcoastjan
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Faith, change and controversy

From the last paragraph:

Wittgenstein remarked, “It is astonishing that anything exists” (or as Keith Richards put it, “It’s great to be here; it’s great to be anywhere”) which implies that we begin by reestablishing some reverence for the simple privilege of our conscious lives. This is what religion might be about, perhaps what it started out being, before it became a vehicle for guilt trips, punishment traps, revenge fantasies, and the concentration of wealth and power. Religion carries the obvious appeal of set programming. You just open the package and play it. One downside is that it tends to become despotic in periods of historic tribulation, as secular government withers. The culture of United States is already prone to a high level of religious hysteria. If we’re fortunate, this strain of fundamentalism will burn itself out sooner rather than later in the phase-change to a post-industrial society.

Bolded parts my emphasis.

I am not seeing this as an attack on religion in general, but a rather an (un-necessisarily inflammatory) statement that, like many generalizations, offends many in the process of trying to make a point. Kunstler's style is, from my perspective, very much in keeping with the sensationalistic nature modern journalism/blogging. If there is no controversy, will it garner much attention?!?

From the outside looking in, there is a definite strain of fundamentalism in the US that has risen to the surface and made its voice heard loud and clear. This voice is so loud (and obnoxious to me) that it drowns out all the other good religions that others have mentioned - and all the people working hard to help others without fanfare or glory. And like John points out, it does not necessarily have to come from a faith based organization. Many people pitch in when the going gets rough simply because they are good people.

From Gillybilly in post # 8

We should always question where we put our faith, so maybe that is what he is suggesting.

Herein lay the gist of it for me. For some people questioning their faith, be it religious or political is sacrilege. They just cannot, or will not go there. Perhaps this can be tied in with the current situation in Syria. There are some people who just cannot believe that the US government would do/sanction such an act as poisoning civilians in a foreign country. This in the face of the fact that they have done similar things in the past as well as the overwhelming evidence of many blatant actions by the US government against its own people, making a joke of the constitution that is for all intents and purposes the equivalent of a bible for many people.

For some people, there is simply no shaking of faith in the leadership, no matter the level of deceipt or betrayal, no matter the evidence, no matter the stakes. To question would be to willingly give up a source of comfort and stabillity, to step outside of a box that is all they have ever known.

Progess only comes via questioning the status quo. This does not mean one has to abandon their faith in whatever it is that they hold dear. But it does require one to examine that faith to see if it is still as relevant now as it was in the past. If it is no longer relevant, or is doing harm, then perhaps it is time to re-think that faith.

To never question is to never change, and change is what we all seem to be advocating for here on this site. Kunstler's message mirrors Chris's message, it is just done in a different, albiet more provacative manner. But some of his message was as calm and clear as if Treebeard wrote it:

...we begin by reestablishing some reverence for the simple privilege of our conscious lives. This is what religion might be about, perhaps what it started out being...

If I can embrace any one religion with all of my being, then it will be the religion of living a simple, conscious life with reverence for all life on earth, and nothing but goodwill towards others in my heart. That is one "faith" I wish would catch on like a fast-burning brush fire.

Jan

KugsCheese's picture
KugsCheese
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If Facebook goes dark..

What will happen to all those "friends".  Will suicides spike?   Will this help get rid of the lessers for us?

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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mindful technology use

I applaud Mr Kunstler's clarion call to more authentic living.

Only those who have baked their own fresh whole grain bread, eaten their own fresh porduce, tasted the sweetness of sleep after phyically hard labor, or spent time in the presence of wise elders or loving extended families can truly understand eveyrthing we've lost.

He and I will have to disagree about his view of people of faith, but mindless believers in any system--be it a religion or secular humanusm--can be a problem. We need to be mindful - living in the now, not some utopian future or some idealized past.

***

But where have we lost touch?

In the late 70s/early 80s I was a decon in a Presbyterian church, and a part of my responsibilities was to vistit and check in on the church's shut-ins. One elderly woman lived in a rental, and her adult son lived there. He was addicted to some sort of early videogame. That was my first glimpse at computer-assisted addiction: he'd become so involved with his game that he ignored his responsibilities and relationships.

Today, almost every home I visit struggles with some sort of media addcition. Facebook, Twitter, cable TV, computer games, even email or news sites or blogging can take precedence over real life, real people, real responsibilities. Workers play on their computers at work. Homemakers neglect cleaning and children have even more reasons to avoid chores, homework, and playing outside or with others.

I urge you all to be mindful of your use of technology. Don't be dragged along by high tech so that your life is suborned by the whims of entertainment at the behest of advertisers. Who's in charge - you, or the computer? You or the television? If you crave interaction with others, instead of social media try meeting with real people face-to-face, at least one in a while.

My television stays off unless I choose to use it, once my work for the day is done (or rationed on breaks.) My computer time is done with a timer, so I do not lose track of how long I have been online. I mindfully choose to spend time with others, whether it's with a neighbor or a friend of family. I urge you to do the same. The first step in recapturing authentic living is to rediscover simple pleasures and each other. When you do that, you won't be as concerned about all we are about to lose due to peak oil. We will gain back so much more.

Ejh237's picture
Ejh237
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Thank you for summing up my thoughts on a tough topic!

Jan,

Loved your words! This comment is because I can only thumbs up your response once!

-eric & cindy (in the northwest)

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jtwalsh
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Tranquillity

Wendy:  Your observations are right on.  Raising five children in the eighty’s and ninety’s our house became a technical war zone.  Five televisions.  Four computers. Video games. Internet games. Email. Facebook. It was a constant fight with one screen or another to get anyone’s attention.  Every year we vacationed at a friend’s house in the mountains.  He was a sports nut so the whole common area was dominated by a huge flat screen tv. The rustic nature of the site was lost to the constant cable television programming.

Two years ago my wife and I had the opportunity to purchase our own cabin.  A decision we came to very quickly was to have no television service.  There is one television to watch videos and DVDs.   It might get one or two Portland, Maine, over the air, stations if someone  stood on the roof with an antenna. We don’t know.  We have never tried.

We have a stereo system to play music and we do bring my laptop and my wife’s i-pad.  Even so the difference is stunning. No running news or sports commentary.  No commercials. We spend a great deal of time just enjoying the silence, reading, working on projects, cooking and gardening.  When we want to listen to something, it is music of our choice, or New Hampshire/Maine Public radio over the net. The lack of constant noise has created a place of mental tranquility. Often I just sit on the screened porch to watch and listen to the woods.  There is a calmness we never seem to have at home.  By the end of a busy week my brain and soul are longing for the woods and the quiet. If James Kunstler’s view of the future  is correct I will not miss the barrage of noise.

SPAM_ferralhen's picture
SPAM_ferralhen
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i've never had a cell phone,

i've never had a cell phone, and i have dial up internet that runs on solar, so i'm selective and not online for more than an hour , if that per day(i can fry 2 eggs and bacon in the same time it takes to get online)so much of the hour is spent waitin not reading. if i had high speed, i would be done in 5-10 minutes.per day.

. i get one tv channel via the air....sometimes...and have a tv tucked away in a apare room in case i would like to watch a movie. this is september and i sit ourside and enjoy the milky way after dark and think of the psalmist who wrote....what is man that you should think of him.,, sometime have a campfire and listen to the birds settling in the cattails for the night. then the chorus of frogs starts up.

i would not call it meditation, but at night, i do sit outside and enjoy bein peaceful. or should i say i enjoy just being, which is peaceful.

i have studied and lived theology of several organized religions. and prefer my own thoughts and beliefs which have their roots in several of the major religions

i don't wish for a quiet life, i live one now. i constantly mention things and comment to g-d through out my waking hours.

i think i already live the life james alludes to for the future

i never could race around.

i've recently come on line to this site, but that is unusal and probablywon't last too much longer. from time to time i may check in.

i am living the change i want to see.

jdye51's picture
jdye51
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Technology as a tool is

Technology as a tool is neutral. It's the intent of the user that is key. It is the context in which it is used that determines whether its effect is primarily positive or negative. Who is using it is more meaningful to me than its mere existence. Unfortunately, the intellect of homo sapians evolved faster than our moral sense. The amount of harm we could do with our tools/weapons was somewhat limited until fossil fuels came along and made so much more possible. We were delighted to rush forward using this seemingly limitless energy to create extensions of ourselves and to shape nature to our will. In the process, we lost something intangible but necessary - a humble awareness of our place in Nature.

I don't necessarily share JHK's vision of the future though it is an interesting one. I agree that our technology is based primarily on our use of fossil fuels and that as peak oil progresses, we will have to go back to using pre-industrial revolution energy sources. How far back we go no one knows. There are so many factors involved in shaping the future. We don't even really know if we will survive as a species because of all the harm we have caused.

I don't blame technology but our misuse of it that has resulted in more and more disconnection. It can be used to enhance contact or to create blocks to it. It can be used to create art or to detach ourselves from our creativity. To separate or bring together. To harm or heal. The level of consciousness of the user determines the shape it takes. So far, we have been pretty unconscious in our use of this power. And we became distracted by our own creations. We are at a point in history where the consequences of our choices are coming home to roost. We have divorced ourselves as much and as long as we could from those consequences, but that has become increasingly diffucult as the planet reacts inevitably to the overshoot fossil fuels also made possible. We have come to a turning point where we either destroy ourselves or become wiser and more mature - call it homo spiritus perhaps. We must realize our connection to everything around us and within us and evolve beyond self-interest, or we may disappear from the planet. Either way WE are the ones who created our own destiny. We cannot blame the tool for the actions of the maker.

If there are any survivors, I hope they would have learned from our example what not to do. I haven't a clue what that would look like beyond projections of current ideas such as gifting economies, permaculture, and intentional communities all of which seem to work better on a smaller scale. For now, there is Fukushima, a perfect example of technology in the hands of those incapable of foresight and based on a business model that puts profit over the health of people and the planet. Much depends on how this debacle is handled and whether or not the worse case scenario happens. If it happens, we're probably toast along with much of the life on the planet. That's if climate change doesn't do us in. Or we blow ourselves up in a giant mushroom cloud.

Clearly, we aren't ready to handle the power of our inventions in a responsible way. Maybe peak oil is a blessing, a gift from the planet until such a time comes when we are more mature and no longer a rapacious species greedily thinking only of its own survival. I think we can do better, and be better, but we have to make radically different choices. We either do so voluntarily or circumstances will force it on us. And haven't we all resisted change until it can't be avoided? Whatever happens, chances are the future will look nothing like what we've known during this brief period of energy abundance. If we survive, it will be because we have changed in a way that allows for greater awareness of our connection to the whole.

Joyce

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SPAM_ferralhen
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Posts: 151
a challege to you all

Technology as a tool is neutral. It's the intent of the user that is key.( the quote option isn't coming upso i don't know how to make the blue box.)

yeah and so is money and so is nuclear intelligence and so are hammers and so are autos and C4....all can kill can't they?you perhaps? it's not people is it? oh no,well, it is people and not theC4 isn't it?  c'mmon stop quacking that the future is tomorrow. the future is now, in that what youdo now, determinds your future.

methods of killing in the past have all killed....just in closer range.so is tech any different? only that  it kills from farther away. and largeramounts in a shorter time frame..

how many of you out there are living the life? now? are ready? are secure?are happy ? are peaceful?

talk is cheap . andit  wastes precious little timefor the talker  to prepare.

no one can predict when

ok. let's get past that

.intelligent minds can spot fragile and vulnerable situations.ok we are there.

and realize that somethings are coming soon(one week to one month) that are potentially changing our cush life style.

the us gov't is painstakingly take time to attack syria, to commit a world changing event....if you can't figure out that now is the time to squirrel up--- what are you waiting for? the emergncy broadcast warning noise?a gemeral to say ok sir or honey, time to take stock move along.?

how about less opinion and more sharing of what you lived today?

todayi bought and loaded onto my truck 2390 lbs of stone pavers for a retaining wall that i built part of today. so i lifted the 1 ton of stone into my truck  one by one at 10lbs each..and then ferried them home. then unloaded the 1 tons of stone off the truck (by hand) and place one ton of stone in the wall

that is over7000lbs or over 3 tons of weight i moved today in 7 hours, because gas was cheap and so was the stone.this is reality

i am 60 years old. 60 yr old women in germany circa 1939-45 who couldn't do this were killed.i'm not diana dyad, i'm trying tosurvive todays enviroment/situation. it may be a one percent chance that i have to do this under review, but should the low percentage play occur, like the  high rise hotelfire that i was in, it's nice to know there is a turbo of reserve i can draw on.

c'mon, we have an american president trotting around the globe selling war today we have this article telling us.....informing us.....to be real not virtual?????? have we've sunken this low?

i've always sort of known the difference between the two.virtual and real. trust me, real is way more real! heh heh  you get the point.

do you need to hear this...? then please hear it.

i don't want to hear commentary. i want to hear tomorrow what you got off your fanny and did to make yourself more like it to make it to friday.

and i was told this was a sight of like minded people to myelf.so far humph

if you feel uncomfortable reading this, then that just means you best get crackin and assure yourself some safety.

i have believed that several predicaments were at hand and so i've have put every cent and effort into trying to make a better life for myself and others.. i stopped talkin and started doing.

now i'll stop talking and hope you start doing.

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westcoastjan
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great posts Wendy and Joyce

Both of you expressed some great thoughts which I completely agree with. I often wonder what all these people who are so addicted to technology are going to do if/when the ability to use it is seriously curtailed, if not lost altogether. There are so many people with not just poor social skills, but poor life skills on top of that, which makes me think that their ability to cope in a less technological world would not be good. Wendy has hit the nail on the head in saying we need to connect more in person. This needs to start happening a great deal more sooner as opposed to later, while there is still time to acclimatize and re-develop the lost art of interpersonal interactions.

As an example of how things seem to be going "out there", and I am sure you can all relate, I just returned from my daily post-work walk. My favourite route goes through one of the more popular off-leash areas for dogs. Lo and behold, I see a guy throwing a tennis ball for his dog with one of those throwing thingies. As soon as he let loose, dog now safely gone in hot pursuit, he tucks the throwing thing under his arm, whips up the smart phone, escaping back into the virtual world, completely oblivious to where the dog or ball ended up, or the stunningly beautiful scenery of this path along the ocean that overlooks the Juan de Fuca strait, and the Olympic mountains in Washington across the way. This is an all too common scene, and I find myself momentarily pitying the people who choose to be this way. In that Joyce nailed it too - it is a choice, so my pity only goes so far.

I can so relate to ferralhen about enjoying "just being" and the peace that comes with simple things like hearing the chorus of the frogs as twilight decends. I'd like to share an experience regarding that - I first heard the frogs singing for the first time in my life at the age of 44, a few years after getting my cochlear implant. I was "wwoofing" on an organic farm up Island. They had a pond out back, and when I came in one evening I heard this sound I could not identify. I asked the farm owner what it was, and he said it was the frogs in the pond. I remember writing in my journal "I heard a new sound today-it was a frog party in the pond". And my heart sang for the sheer joy of experiencing that new sound. I still experience altogether new sounds here and there. I hope that never changes. I hope I never cease to marvel at it. And more than anything, I hope that collectively speaking we do what it takes so that my little nieces and nephews will be able to delight at the sound of the frog parties too.

Jan

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Arthur Robey
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Fukashima has spawned some impressive robots.

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We're out here, sister

Feralhen, we're out here sister and we're listening.

Yesterday I built and mounted the cyclone filter for my gasifier, Chaired the Public Services Committee of the village were I live (we're going to have to raise our water and sewer rates to replace our lift stations and paint our primary water tower) and fitted tritium sights to my WASR 10 (yeah, I know, but it's what I could afford).

I work in a rather surreal place were we routinley save the lives of people on a daily basis with something as simple as suplimental oxygen.  Not a shift goes by that I don't have someone who would have died within hours even a hundred years ago admited for "routine" treatment of this or that.

I look around at the glass and metal and plastic that we take so completly for granted that we bury it in land fills my the mega ton.

I stumble on other threads on this site and find people happily chatting back and forth about buying this and that  and realize that they are in New York or Los Angeles playing the markets and having a grand old time apparently oblivious to the purpose of this site and the comming storm.

I look at my clothing and try to calculate what a pair of blue jeans that I can by for less then an hours wage today would cost if somone had to sow, cultivate, harvest, card, spin, weave and sew by hand.  Hundreds, thousands of "dollars"?  How many people today are even aware of were there clothing comes from other then "the store"?

It would be facinating to meet the children and grand children of the people who survive the crunch, crash, culling, correction, bottleneck, reset, apocolypse.  I imagine them to be highly intelligent, self motivated and emotionally resilient and extrordanarily dangerous people, Apache 2.0.

With gentle respect I have to say that I don't think that there is going to be much opportunity for cultural refinement in the comming years, more likly a distillation, the cultural kumbiya momment probibly passed in the 50's and 60's. 

Personally, I think that Kunsler is an optimist. 

Thanks for letting me rant,

John G

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robie robinson
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JohnG

We're so with you that we were living like FeralHen when she was 35yrs old! (insert a smile emotion)

the Robinsons

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what did I do?

ferralhen,

I hear you with your challenge/rant. At first I took offense a bit as it seemed like you were casting aspersions on us. Maybe you are - hard to read tone and inflection with the written word. You have been held up as an inspiration, with good reason. But don't make the mistake of thinking that you have a monopoly on hard work and actioning plans. Also do not overlook the fact that talking or wiriting about things also goes to emotional resilience - it can be cathartic and a coping mechanism, especially for those who may not have the mental toughness that you seem to portray.

Not all of us are in the circumstances you are in, but are actually doing things to move in the direction of resilience and self-sufficiency - they just might not be herculean. I personally would love to be in a position to have to haul a few thousand pounds of rock by myself to build something that was meaningful to me on my own property... maybe someday.

Until then, this is what this lesser mortal did on Labour Day weekend: I started by revisiting my financial plan and budget to see if I was on track; inventoried my deep pantry and supplies and re-plenished those things getting low, spent another 350 bucks on gluten free flours and other GF cooking supplies as I am switching off of wheat, dried in my dehydrator 5 large bags of kale and lots of tomatoes from my garden, put down a flat of strawberries for the freezer, re-planted winter crops after removing spent crops, gave some veggies to the neighbors, enjoyed some laughs and giggles with the neighbors over a glass of wine, read half of Dimitri Orlov's Five Stages of Collapse, went fishing in the hope of adding some trout to the freezer (got skunked but had a marvellous day just "being" out on the lake with a blue heron and two river otters for company), visited my best friends ailing 100 year old mother in the hospital, made a batch of super salad from my garden ingredients for my best friend who is getting run down from her life stresses, cooked 3 dishes to have ready for suppers this week, and oh ya, managed to clean the bathroom too [always seems to be at the end of the list ;) ]

I guess this is my rant back... While many of us like to chat on this site, we are in fact doing lots of meaningful things aside from just talking. Some perhaps more than others. Could we do more? probably, but I think most of us are doing the best we can given our own personal circumstances.

Peace sister

Jan

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Tall
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What people are doing

I am saddened to see the demise of the OilDrum.  However, the bright spot pertinent to this thread and the concept of doing rather than discussing is a thread entitled "So, what are you doing".  I found some food for thought there and wanted to share it with this community.

http://www.theoildrum.com/node/10230#comments_top

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Ferralhen

Here's how I see things: Jan's cochlear implant is a good example of positive technology used to help. Someone invented it to give those with hearing loss a chance to experience what we hearing folks take for granted. I don't see that as a bad thing and I imagine Jan doesn't either! The intent behind technology that harms is quite different from the intent behind something that heals. Both arise from human thought, human consciousness. A knife can be used as a tool or a weapon; it is the person weilding it who decides which action to take. We are creative beings with the power to choose to do good or evil. Has our technology gotten away from us? I would say yes and it sounds like you agree with that. No question. And it sounds like we also agree that it is our disconnection from Nature that causes so much trouble.

The solar panels powering your frig and providing your internet hookup are technology that serves you. Yet fossil fuels were used to mine, manufacture and transport them. We all make our choices on the role technology still plays in our lives. At least until the time comes when industrial society breaks down and we will be without it. The sad part to me is that the good things will go along with the bad. Things like John mentioned, oxygen that saves lives. Personally, I'm attached to indoor plumbing! I love a good shower and not having to use an outhouse!

It sounds like your life experiences taught you to rely on yourself and to be as self-sufficient as possible in your day to day life. You do a great job. Others of us are in different circumstances. For example, there is no way I could lift tons of stone. I have a chronic neurological illness called Dystonia which is a type of movement disorder. (Symptoms began when I was 14 and I'm 62 now.) I wear a cervical collar except when sitting in a high backed chair or sleeping. My brain overactivates certain of my neck muscles causing a constant turning, twisting movement to my left and up. I also have degenerative disc disease which kicks in when I lift anything too heavy. So I admire your physical strength in being able to do such hard manual labor. I'd love to be able to do that. I've had to focus on other types of prepping that don't require physical strength. But we share the same intent here which is to prepare for uncertainty, now and in the future. We see that something big is happening. Fortunately, my husband is coming on board more and more as world events intensify. I'm hoping that we can accomplish that much more together.

Being able to converse with others who see the same thing is helpful for me. As Jan said, emotional reslience is important also. I find comfort in knowing that I'm not alone, in connection.

I'm not sure what precipitated your rant - maybe the exhaustion of lifting tons of stone on your own! smiley I'd be cranky too!

With great admiration,

Joyce

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SPAM_ferralhen
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i apologize for the rant.

and the blow back was well received here.thank you all who responded. this feels like more of a family than i have ever known. let me try to clean things up a bit.(as we sometimes must do because it is right to do so) since 2003-5 i realized things had turned downward...so i would have to say i wasn't the first to the party. i started to homestead in 1978 but life gets in the way sometimes. i was overjoyed to return to a life that made sense to me in 2006. and to the robinsons, it gives joy to me that someone got there way back when.and still carries on. don't be silent.roar should you feel the urge, the forest is too quiet. i put all of my few resources into homesteading and left a life that was suppose to just cruise on into the sunset(don't we all know that story no longer exists). for one of a hell of alot of hard work- life-here. that condo on the beach is looking g ood to me right now, until i pop back in reality.poof --my parents generation got that but it's lost now for me.i'm ok with that if i stop and be grateful to be alive and fed and warm.it's the whatever turning.

i guess my whole theme is: we have lived in the best of times and now we are still living, but at a time when the best of times leaves.. i no longer live in the best of times....lots of technology still lingers but it's availability is swiftly leaving my grasp and the ability to sustain this level of technology is also leaving.at least for my income level and soon only the "1%" will once again live like kings. i've tried to build a small castle for myself to age in, before age stopped me...which is this year. and to secretly go unnoticed and live as a queen.which of course sometimes is subject to our interpretation. if i dcan smile, i'm a queen.

on to the themes: we can overcome way more than we think we can. physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. i don't think of myself as a superwoman and i have done and learned this.(i know i'm not the yardstick to measure by...trust me i know i'm not a yardstick of any sort., i'm sharing my experience as a human) i'm trying to say i tried this or that and voila it worked.wendy can elaborate on this theme.as can jdye51, and jan. part two of my theme is we will be in a position to have to do theme one. tough times are a comin. well tougher than we've been used to. this is what chris says so well. so again times tell us we can do more than what we think. and theme three is not to wait for part two to occur before i act. and learn that i can do way more than i thought. which is where my frustration comes in. we see, and don't act. i probably should have just written this instead of what i did.

back ground material: i have scoliosis and fused lower vertebrae and have know lower back pain just about every day that i can remember. and you know of other issues, which inflicted pain. i've known pain..i will say that. but i don't succumb to it. it's still pain tho, and i live with it daily. i expect more pain to follow but it doesn't persuade me to back down. i recently had an mri that shows a torn menicus in my right knee...so i hauled all those brick with that going on. the situation was that i don't have much money, and i prayed for and received an opportunity to purchase $1200 of these stones for $150. i know so well how the tide can turn and i was motivated and willed myself to get them before the guy changed his mind. and so i trucked. i forcast that this is what i will need in the future..not the stones...the attitude that wills me past my pain and whinings. i am not telling my story so that you applaude me, rather so that you find that in yourself also. i need a michael jordon effort everyday , in this cushy life we still have...and i know it will help me as things unfold. i'm wanting to pass that on to you. i'm still learning how to do that. re my rant, i think sometimes so quick i leave out the links. my rant was my frustration with: a large part of the population just doesn't get or see the precarious times. another part of the population, large but not as large, suspects but doesn't want to see. 3 e people see it but just talk about it.and talk about the future but then retract that they don't know when yada yada. i reached this point a few years back and decided, i could not predict the future, but i knew enough of it's direction. therefore, it made sense for me to think of what i needed as an organism to live, and focus on getting that in place for myself. even if i get relocated, as a soldier sometimes does, i will know what to look for. i'm trying to share...you dont have to be raped by your father to learn resilence. i'm hoping that if i talk about it you can gleen from it.....sometimes a rant occurs which is the brains beginings of making sense of what doesn't make sense. if this doesn't help clarify, write me. i'll do my best to connect. beth

SPAM_ferralhen's picture
SPAM_ferralhen
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something on the computer

something on the computer formated my response as it is

i don't type that crazy

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westcoastjan
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no worries girl!

Ferralhen - thanks for the apology but it was not necessary. We are all entitled to rants here and there. We've seen worse... you have conducted yourself with integrity and that is the most important part as far as I am concerned. This site is indeed like a family for some of us; a refuge where we can find like-minded people to share our thoughts, concerns, plans, failures and successes. One of the pluses I think is that people will call you out if warranted (hello Jan... blush), unlike many other sites that have literally free-for-all, profanity laced comments. Not that I am above letting loose a good profanity, however, I do not have the time of day to wade through lots of crap to find the gems that I want. There are lots of priceless gems right here, so this is my go to place to help me retain my sanity in this crazy world.

Your insights are keen, and sharing your experiences invaluable, in the same way as others who share their experiences. That is how we learn. Once again, you have our admiration. I know though that that is not what you want to hear - you want to hear that we are getting off our duffs and putting our words into action. We are, at varying levels. I personally want so badly to do more; I know I should do more as I feel the importance of being able to hold my own is critically important. But I cannot seem to find a way around some of the financial constraints that hold me back from making the move I want to make. At the age of 54, I cannot afford to make a big financial mistake. It would be too hard to recover from - especially given how the economy is headed. Until I can do what I have planned, I will listen and learn from people like you, and hope that my path is a little easier for all the knowledge I have gleaned here, once I get my own place.  When that happens, you will be the first I invite over for a well earned beer!

In speaking of your pain and life experiences, and how you have pushed on in spite of them, you have given us a glimpse of what true perseverance looks like. The word hero is bandied about a lot these days, rather loosely I might say. In my mind heroes are down to earth people such as yourself, who, in spite of the s**t that life throws at them, the hurt and the pain, they not only keep on going, but put many others to shame with how they manage to prosper. You are more wealthy than you realize.

Thanks for continuing to post and share. Priceless stuff.

Jan

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No apology necessary

Hey Beth, please call me Joyce. Good to know your name! Glad you could get it out of your system. We've all been there. What's the phrase: what doesn't kill you makes you stronger? I too have learned I can do more than I thought and possess a will and inner strength that is hard earned. On the other hand, I am a product of my generation which grew up accustomed to all the benefits of cheap oil. I wonder if I have what it takes when the shit hits the fan. Maybe my challenges in life have prepared me in certain ways to overcome the relatively pampered life I've been lucky to experience. We shall see.

I welcome your prepping experience and knowledge gained through trial and error. Here at PP we each are like instruments in a orchestra playing the same tune. Each one different but adding to the beauty of the whole. How great that we can help each other. No one person can do it all.

I guess we qualify as elders now given our age. I sure don't feel it but there you are! As for those who don't have a clue or even want to know, God bless them. Just let go. I've struggled with this and finally realized that we each are on our own journey in life. I can only control what I do and need to respect other's decisions for themselves. At least here, we've found other souls who are alert and aware even if how we go about doing things may differ. But I feel your frustration at times when you just want to grab people and shake them awake.

Glad you're here,

Joyce

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treebeard
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Neutral Technology?

A hammer, blackhawk helicopter and native american peace pipe are all forms of technology, the catagory is so broad as to make the term meaningless.  Some simpler than others, granted, but each culture creates technologies in accordnace with its values, resources, and world view.  Native americans would no more have invented a plow than stick a knife in their own mothers breast (paraphrasing).  Their world view prevented them from innovating along the lines of modern farming because of the kind of relationship they had to the natural world.  This is not to pass a judgement, one way or another, but to discuss technology without a discussion of the cultural context in which it arises becomes meaningless.

Our particular approach to technology is a result of our world view, which tends to be power centric rather than meaning centric, which has had its own series of consequences.  I am generally not connected to the broader culture any more, I find the more I stay away from it, the harder it becomes to bear it.  I saw a short add clip in front of a internet video I wanted to watch.  It was an ad for the latest cadilac sedan.  The words "seak and destroy" were spoken on top visual of the car cruising down a desert highway.  When is a car not a car but something else?

With a lof of interest in gardening we are seeing a renewed interest in new hand tools. Eliot Coleman has invented a series of new tools out of his own market gardening experience that we can now buy, he encourages all of us to follow his inventive example by creating our own tools.  Is this what we mean by technological progress?  Or is it waiting for the latest round up ready plant species genetically engineered by monsanto?

Why is it that we as a culture create what we do whether it be economic, political, social, artistic or technological?  Is it possible to peal the technological piece out its milieu and answer the question is technology good or bad?  Perhaps we need to ask a different kind of question?

Is this technology that we are discussing something that we as citizens intend to create oursleves, or is it something that we as consumers will use that is going to be created on mount high by somebody else?  Is technology something that happens to us or are we going participate in the world that is unfolding before us?  Where is our own sense of personal power in all this?

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Treebeard and Ellul

Treebeard, Nice post. The questions you ask are a long leap for many to make, but they are right on in my opinion. I try to ask these questions to those around me, but I'm almost always dismissed. I find now that I have to limit my connections to the bigger picture by moving stepwise, like my first post on this thread...education to marketplace.   I've posted on this site many times over the past year that the most pivotal and comprehensive book for me that opened my eyes to these questions was Jacques Ellul's Technological Society (1954).  He rigorously examines technology in relation to society, and in particular, the "mass" society. Some of the book is outdated, but the majority of it still rings true today. Ellul, for those who don't know, was a French sociologist during the last century who wrote many books on technology, propaganda, western culture, and christianity. He also was the person who coined the phrase "think globally, act locally."

Have you or has anyone here read the book? You use the word milieu (which he used) which makes me think you might have. I would be interested to hear your or anyone else's opinion on the book. It's a tough and long read, but it completely changed the way I look at society... I think Arthur would appreciate that I have yet to find a left brain thinker who has started and finished the book.

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SPAM_ferralhen
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thanks and i liked and agree

thanks and i liked and agree with treebeard on the natural tech post.relativity and perspective.

i'm equally left and right brain  so i'm thinkin this sounds like a good book to read. i'm moving now to amazon.

my main focus tho , still remains to focus on what i need and how to get that vs just what exactly went wrong.

i think it's too late to change the momentum of things.

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treebeard
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Jacques Ellul

I have not read him.  I did just browsed/read most of his Wikipedia page, and I must say that the description of his posstion and thoughts on almost everything that I read was in alignment with my own mind.  I am surprised that I have not run across his written works earlier, he has written 58 titles!

I can relate to your feelling of being dismissed when bringing up such a topic. I get more of a "what they hell are you talking about" reaction and why are you passionate about this, I don't even understand what you are going on about.

A culture bent on creating ease and convenience creates technologies and a society that at first appear inwardly gracious and civil, but rapidly become externally exploitive and violent.  Eventually they become psychotically disconnected from reality necessarily leading to the kind of events like the Newtown shooting which seem to shock everyone.  The economic shenanigans discussed so often on this site are to my mind a result of a philosophical and ontological discontinuities that need to be addressed first. Outward actions that oroginate from you when you are off your center will always be out of kilter and cannot be fixed by outward action, the converse is of cousre also true.

I would argue the same is true of society as a whole, we are collectively out of center so all external actions are distorted.  I must admit to have given up on any fruitful discussions at this level, occasional posts at this site is the one outlet that I do allow myself.  I have instead committed to living my philosophy and keeping my mouth shut.

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treebeard

For what its worth, treebeard - I greatly appreciate your posts and perspective on this site. I find that your outlook helps me find balance within the variety of opinions here and elsewhere. Please keep posting as you see fit.

I agree with your point that outward actions stem from inner state of "being". I believe that the only real way to change our outward reality is to first effect change within - both on an individual level and a then societal level. Each of us needs to give careful thought as to what kind of a world we want to be a part of. Then we need to do some deep soul-searching and self-reflection to determine if our core values are aligned with our view/vision of the world. And finally, we need to be diligent to ensure that our actions are aligned with our values and world view. Repeat often.  

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north-of-the-border
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I second you. I find him

I second you. I find him absolutely predictable and tiresome. You can't influence people by writing about your fellow citizens with such withering scorn.

smb12321's picture
smb12321
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Nov 19 2011
Posts: 10
Religion in Society

I find that even as an atheist it is the religious folks who always seem to be the ones offering help.  Katrina, Ethiopia and Haiti are classic examples with religious groups cutting through the regulatory BS to directly aid people - not government officials, rich landowners or political favorites.  in MS, the Red Cross told a group of us that their work would be impossible without the vast outpouring of religious aid.  Christianity is hopefully becoming less supernatural and more directed to extending a hand.

smb12321's picture
smb12321
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Nov 19 2011
Posts: 10
Same Old Song

What is it that makes us welcome and abhor technolgical change?  It's so predictable  - we accept what we use and like - AC, heaters, medical advancements, smart materials, ease of global communication, online help for problems, lights, sewage, etc.  Yet virtually all of these has encountered fierce opposition.  Whether anaesthesia, alternative energy, machine-made clothes, radio, tv, computers - it's all been denounced as dangers for the immortal soul or (now) our community.  After all, we are constantly told that suffering, starving, freezing, pain and toil are a "natural" part of the human experience.

Peak Prosperity readers are diverse - not all have farms (like myself).  My life is infinitely richer and easier than that of my parents.  Using animals vs machines for transport, plowing, picking and preparing food, unremitting heat and cold, spending Fridays washing & drying, endless pain from cavities, early needless deaths, inability to get instant help - these are the "good old days"? Technology should enrich - not control - our lives. Like the long list above, when the allure wears off and it becomes ubiquitous, concerns diminish or vanish.  I firmly believe that almost all global problems (except debt) - climate change, bad water, fossil fuels, lack of food or access to knowledge - are at heart technological problems.  

ruki444's picture
ruki444
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 9 2013
Posts: 1
Returning

All I can say right now is, I couldn't have said it better. Thank you.

treebeard's picture
treebeard
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 18 2010
Posts: 393
I'm for action

Having a discussion either pro or anti "technology" without any qualification is equivalent to having a discussion about whether you are pro or anti action.  Are you talking about the kind of action that involves kicking dogs or rescuing babies from burning buildings to take it to an obvious and rediculous extreme to make an obvious point.  We have been doing the "technology" thing for quite some time. The early technological promise was that our biggest future problem was going to be what to do with all the free time that we were going to have. Things have not panned out that way.  Does that mean all technology is bad, of course not.  It does appear that an indiscriminate use and thoughtless adoption of anything technological is probably not a good thing.  What we do need is a nuanced discussion about what kind of technologies we want to pursue.

Indiscriminate use of antibiotics both in animal feed and on humans is on the verge of creating a class of super bugs that our medical community is afraid that they will not be able to combat.  Does that mean that the invention of antibiocs was bad thing, of course not.  Unfortunately the mindless technology boosters answer is build more both quantitatively more and qualitatively mpre powerful drugs.  This is the same mindless projection of our past limited understanding of agriculture into the future that has turned it into toxic and soil destroying monster that it has become.

Research and science is taking us in a different direction.  We are beginning to understand that the human body is ecosystem with more DNA within from outside organisms than our own and that balance within the human microbiome is critical to human health.  The question of whether to plow with an oxen or with the latest tractor is no longer the question, it's whether we need to plow at all.  The old duality between environmentalist and technologists is fading as our understanding of ourselves and the natural world and the relationship between the two evolves.

Unfortunately the old technology boosters are fighting change holding on to an outdated newtonian science resisting the current changes afoot.  I guess I would agree, the same old story, change is hard to take.

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