Technology

What about technology? Does living simply mean that we have to give up technology? Absolutely Not! But it does involve thinking carefully about the role technology plays in our lives, because it is not always positive.

  • Social Media: We live in the Age of Social Media. While there is certainly great potential to social media, it can also consume an alarming amount of our time, often in ways that seem rather wasteful and uninspired. For example, from April 2008 to April 2009, total time spent on Facebook in the US was 232 million hours, and total time spent on MySpace was 83 million hours. What activities are people substituting for these hundreds of millions of hours spent in cyberspace? What would life be like – what could life be like – if the vast amounts of time dedicated to social media were directed toward real life conversation with friends or family, or spent being engaged in practical, creative activity, or spent volunteering in some organization of interest, etc.
  • Nevertheless… Social media, as noted, does have the potential to impact positively on our lives, if used with caution. Living simply in a consumer society can at times be socially isolating, so consider joining a Simple Living social network and connect with others who are also exploring the Simpler Way. For example, see the Simplicity Collective or Aussies Living Simply.
  • If an appliance stops working, try not to replace it for one month: It is easy to think of appliances as ‘necessary’ when in fact they are, at best, ‘conveniences’ only. If an appliance you currently own stops working, try not to replace it for one month. See what life is like without it. Perhaps you will discover that you don’t actually need to go out and buy another one or pay to have it fixed. This will save money and energy.
  • Think carefully about what is appropriate technology: If it turns out that an appliance really does contribute positively to your life, then embrace it. Living simply is not about being a Luddite. Appropriate technology will need to play a vital role in any transition to a just and sustainable world. Solar panels and wind turbines, for example, should not be rejected. But we must not think technology is going to solve all our problems. It is just as likely to exacerbate them.
  • Beware of the ‘Rebound Effect’: Technology can help us consume more efficiently, but if we are not careful such efficiency gains can be lost through the ‘rebound effect.’ For example, a more fuel-efficient car can mean that we just drive further or more often; insulating our houses can save money that is then spent on air travel, etc. Efficiency is without sufficiency is easily lost.
  • Keep technology as simple as possible: Our modern technocratic societies may one day come to see that there is a sophistication and an elegance to the clothes line, the bicycle, and the water tank, that the dryer, the automobile, and the desalination plant, decidedly lack. On a similar note, perhaps it will one day be widely accepted that there is a certain primitiveness to technological gimmicks or that a blind faith in science can itself be ‘anti-progress.’ In the words of the great Leonardo da Vinci, ‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.’

2 Comments

  1. Special attention should be given to the real challenges faced by consumers in the computing and communication arenas. For example, upgrades and changes in mobile networks can necessitate the replacement of a perfectly OK mobile phone with another; and, I’ve now been advised that my current mobile phone is only compatible with the GSM network … and cannot be used with 3G Networks. In the computing world, the constant “upgrading” of “system” software in both the Apple and Wintel platforms can make perfectly usable computers obsolescent. If virus protection software “demands” a particular version of system software, and this system software cannot be installed on your hardware … this reduces the life of your hardware. And again, some Government Departments [notably the Australian Tax Office] REQUIRE clients to use the Wintel platform if they wish to complete taxation returns online … amazing!

  2. My vacuum cleaner just broke down and I was thinking of getting another one. But then I thought about how silly it was that there was 20 vacuum cleaners on my small street, all of which presumably sat idle all week, only to be used for half an hour. Surely one or two vacuum cleaners would be sufficient for us all? (I leave aside the issue of whether vacuum cleaners are actually necessary at all.)

    Anyway, yesterday I borrowed my neighbours vacuum and returned it half an hour later. I’ll do that once a week from now on, rather than buy my own. They don’t mind, and it gives me another excuse to see my neighbours.

    The interesting question is how far this type of arrangement could go? Life would probably begin to look something like the ‘simpler’ world described by Ted Trainer in the pdf booklet (which I have only skim read at this stage…).

    Yeah for the Simpler Way.

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