Chapter 7 APPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGY Copyright (c) 1991, 1993 by David G. Hays (c) 1995 by Janet Hays 7.1. ATTRIBUTES OF TECHNOLOGIES 7.2. APPROPRIATE FOR US 7.3. CHANGE 7.4. DEVELOPMENT Technology must be compatible with human needs and with their environment, the Earth itself, but the needs of sapients and of nonsapient nature are partly unknown. "Development" is in consequence hard to define. 7.1. ATTRIBUTES OF TECHNOLOGIES 7.1.1. Ecology 7.1.2. Psychology 7.1.3. Sociology 7.1.4. Demography 7.1.5. Morality A technology can be called "appopriate" only if it passes tests based on a long list of diverse criteria. It must be good enough in every respect; to accept a technology because it scores very high on one criterion, when its score is below threshold on others, must in the long run have intol- erable consequences. Of the making of new technologies, there is no end. We could not stop the inventors and innovators if we wished; evolution of culture is a natural process, and although it behooves us to do the right thing on every occasion we cannot foresee the long-term consequences well enough to select anti- innovation measures short of blowing ourselves back into the stone age. But likewise the diversity of technological innovation gives us a surfeit. We can pick and choose, no beggars we. Choice among technologies is a political process, and whoever wants to influence technological choice must learn political action. Here and now, the problem is to analyze appropriateness. What attributes of technologies make them more or less appropri- ate? We have already seen many attributes; let us recapitulate, and perhaps add a few. 7.1.1. Ecology Energy: Does the technology use resources that, if not con- sumed, are lost forever (e.g. sunlight)? Or energy that costs something to create, but can be renewed (e.g. biomass--wood, other plant materials)? Or energy that exists but in finite amount, not to be renewed in the foreseeable future (e.g. coal, gas, oil)? Is the source of energy widespread or localized (sun- light on most of the planet, but much more nearer the equator; coal in China; gas in eastern Europe; oil in the Near East)? Material: Are the raw materials waste or by-products of other technologies that, if not used, must be managed at a cost? Are they renewable, like vegetable matter? Or do they exist in finite, non-increasable amounts? If finite, what is the ratio between supply and demand? Are the raw materials widespread or localized? How disruptive is the process of extracting them? Is there any political issue (keeping on good terms with South Africa while it practiced apartheid in order to obtain wolfram)? Waste: What kinds and amounts of waste does the technology generate? Are the wastes controllable (ash) or not (gases that cannot be trapped, such as propellants in spray cans)? Do the wastes cause damage, inevitably or controllably? What kinds and degrees of damage? Are the wastes generated in production or in consumption? What are the costs of collection, treatment, and transportation in managing the wastes? What are the political issues? See ECOLBIBL* 7.1.2. Psychology Anxiety: Does the technology serve defensive mechanisms, and thus tend to restrict the self, or does it promote growth? Does it produce anxiety? Elicit fears? Challenge: Does the technology impose routine activity on the producers or consumers that is below the level customarily found in society, and so bore or stultify those who practice it? Does it pose demands beyond the level customarily found, putting challenges to many persons that they cannot meet? Or does it pose challenges that are suitable to many, holding their atten- tion without threatening them? Knowledge: Does adoption of the technology tend to enhance or diminish the diffusion of knowledge? To promote or block the creation of new knowledge? 7.1.3. Sociology Justice: Does the technology tend to promote an acceptable correspondence between contributions and rewards? Does it work against such correspondence? Love: Does the technology tend to promote loving relation- ships within families? Between families in communities? Among all people? Roles: Does the technology tend to promote a firm but flexible system of positions in society, so that individuals can know who and what they are without being fixed inescapably in their positions? Growth: Does the technology foster socialization, lifelong development toward a mature wisdom that provides a frame of reference for the young? 7.1.4. Demography Does the technology promote growth or reduction of popula- tion, or neither? Does it encourage concentration of population in urban centers or wide distribution across large territories? Does it tend make barriers higher and stronger or lower and weaker? Between communities? Between districts? Between na- tions? Between global regions? 7.1.5. Morality Does the technology serve human freedom and dignity, or attack them? 7.2. APPROPRIATE FOR US The sapient may reasonably be called the most complex entity in the known universe. Each one of us needs many different kinds of substances, activities, and relationships. A technology is appropriate for us if it tends to promote the satisfaction of a broad range of needs. What makes us so interesting an object of study, at least for me, is that we are so complicated. Deciding on technologies that are appropriate for us is a complex business. Over the years I have ruminated a lot on the question of what we need, and the lists get longer and longer. I hold to a principle of non-substitutability in budgets: One kind of need is not satisfied by satisfactions of another kind. On the animal level, we need security, sustenance, sex, and sociality. To that list, William Lam (correct spelling) adds orientation; he was thinking about interior illumination. That may be a subheading under security; sustenance certainly has a lot of subheadings--air, water, food of many kinds. On the highest level I know about, we need freedom and dignity. Naroll attacked me on the freedom issue; he expected the world order of the future to allow cultures a great deal of latitude, and the Muscovite culture, among others, does not value freedom. But one afternoon as we were walking along we saw a mother grab a 3-year-old child who was about to do something she objected to, and the child screamed. Naroll said, in the persona of the child, "That wasn't what I had in mind at all!" And I pointed out that even at age 3 we need freedom. (Usually I lost arguments with Naroll, but not that one.) Just below the highest level, we need beauty, truth, love, and justice. Those, as I understand it, are the cybernetic goals of the four quadrants of the human cortex. Now, Benzon and I suspect that the modes of successive ranks grow more refined in their cortical layout. Rank 1 modes are whole-brain affairs, rank 2 modes achieve hemispherical specialization, and rank 3 gets to quadrants. Rank 4? Who knows? But this story is really more difficult, and I don't intend to tell it now. Note that reading is not a 1-hemisphere mode, but maybe a left-hemisphere dominated mode. I only bring this up to make you aware that four goals for four quadrants need not be an eternal law, maybe only a rank-3 situation. And, in general, psychic needs can change from rank to rank. Just above the bottom, I think, there are activity needs. We need to execute all the maneuvers we are genetically programmed to perform: Ripping a root out of the ground and gnawing on it, clawing into a chunk of meat, and so on. Not very attractive, impolite, downright rude. But Freud wrote a book called _Civili- zation and its Discontents_, so I have a predecessor here. My position is probably a little more extreme than Freud's. Now, some of our genetic programs are less taboo than gnawing on raw steak. Singing and dancing are counted as rather nice in high cultures, and they are probably built in at the same low level. And yet another analysis of need came to my attention recently: Flow. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi* of the University of Chicago has been studying happiness, and concludes that activity with just enough challenge to keep skill growing is the happiest kind. Too much challenge produces anxiety, too little produces boredom, and none produces apathy. At the right level, you get into the flow. In parentheses: If you were bored in school, there was a real reason. So what's wrong with assembly-line work? Too little chal- lenge; no freedom; constant threat to dignity; no sociality--you are bound to the machine's rhythm and can't get into a social rhythm with those near you. In the end there is nothing to hope for but justice, and that leads to exorbitant demands from unions which try to get money sufficient to compensate for losses in all other categories. But satisfaction of one kind cannot compensate for deprivation of another kind, and so the union members are insatiable. Note that dehumanization is not a mystery, just a problem that has to be solved. The assembly line need not be thought of as contrary to the mystic ideal of human personality, just a system badly made in terms of psychobiological criteria. The challenge of creating technologies that will meet the world's needs for security and sustenance without interfering with the satisfaction of other needs is a great challenge, going far beyond the elimination of toxic materials from the workplace. We may not be ready for this challenge, but I think we can do a lot in the near future. Making shoes by hand is better for the workers than making them by machine, but doesn't deliver enough shoes. Making machines that work to human rhythms is difficult but not impossible, even today, and such machines might deliver the goods without dehumanizing the workers. Rhythm is only one point, and many have to be addressed. 7.3. CHANGE The acceleration of change from rank to rank has required new generations to live with rates of change that their ancestors could not tolerate. In rank 1, it seems, change occurred without intent or even awareness. Doing as one's ancestors did was taken for granted, analysis and questioning were almost entirely absent, but the most effective methods of control (writing, most importantly) were absent and so change occurred in spite of cultural intent. In rank 2, awareness of change developed, and active resis- tance to change appeared. Thus, the guilds intended and acted to keep their crafts constant. Innovators were punished. The Catholic Church forbade competition. Remember that legitimacy stemmed from special access to occult sources. God inspired the writing of the Bible. Aristotle was in better touch with reali- ty, the real reality, than we could be, and not through his ordinary senses. A change that was not thus _inspired_ could not be accepted. Psychologically, rank 2 character structure is not sufficiently flexible to handle much change; in part, all this explicit apparatus to legitimize constancy is rationaliza- tion. In rank 3, for the first time, changes became part of the life experience of many persons. Invention was invented, and change came to be welcomed. Even so, a certain framework was taken as eternal and universal. Science tried to reveal that framework, and political thinkers tried to make government consistent with it. Clearly, rank 3 character structure had to deal with change, and succeeded rather well. As we move toward rank 4, we have given up the universal and eternal framework. Bertrand Russell, early in the 20th century, could ask how we know, but he was the last serious philosopher to believe that we do know. The answer to his question, since Popper ( SCIBIBL* ), is that we don't know, we only have a plausible framework and, within it, some tentative facts. The framework may be replaced at any time when someone imagines a better one, and any or all of the facts may vanish because they cannot be attached to the new framework. Character structures that can cope with that situation are still very rare. If I ever manage to build one, my ability to think will be released from a bondage that I find irksome--or so I have felt for ten or fifteen years. Persons born later than I may be much better off. Technologies appropriate to rank 1 people must not trigger their defenses against change. For rank 2, the problem is to avoid institutional defenses. Rank 3 will accept anything new, often to its detriment. Rank 4 could apply skeptical, thoughtful judgment: Appropriateness need not be measured by whose ox is gored, and how deeply, but by criteria that I have suggested in this chapter, and other criteria that I don't know about, includ- ing of course the criteria that will be seen as crucial once a better framework is offered. As rankshifts accelerate (from 0 to 1 50,000 years ago, from 1 to 2 5000 years ago, from 2 to 3 500 years ago, from 3 to 4 50 years ago? ... go on to 5 years, 0.5 years, etc.), the problem of generations comes up. If a person's major paradigm is internal- ized in growing up, can a rankshift take place in less time than a human being needs to reach adulthood? For this I have no answer. The crystalization of rank 4 thought seems tardy to me, but perhaps I just can't see that it has happened. The beginnings of rank 5 may be evident by now, but not to me. So we may be holding back, we may be up against the minimum interval for a generation to mature, or the random nature of the process that leads to crystalization of new paradigms may be responsible. 7.4. DEVELOPMENT The regions of Earth at the end of the twentieth century vary greatly in the cognitive rank of their people and in the amount of investment in place. Education is the solu- tion to the first problem. Developing countries have the opportunity to invest in technologies of the future; they have often chosen instead to invest in those of the past. As late as the 17th century, Britain was an underdeveloped country, producing wool for export to manufacturing countries. In the 18th century it developed, and in the 19th it was "the world's workshop". Until after 1800, America was an under-devel- oped country, and Britain wanted very much to keep it so, a source of raw materials and agricultural products and a market for manufactures. The beginning of industry in the USA depended on illegal migration of experts from Britain and theft of blue- prints. For as long as Europe regarded the rest of the world as "the colonies", the anti-development policy continued--until after World War II. Remember the example of Malta: Little education before independence, rapid progress in 30 years or so after in- dependence. Various versions of this story can be told about Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Europe got its start into rank 3 by borrowing from antiquity and Islamic culture, which in turn had borrowed widely. Britain got its start toward industrial growth by borrowing from conti- nental Europe. America borrowed from Britain and elsewhere. Up to now, growth has been accomplished in part by exploit- ing the less developed. Americans took the Indians' land, not knowing and not caring that the Indians needed all the land they had to support themselves in their own way. But rank 3 culture has taken from all the world and given as little as possible in return. Within nations, those with wealth and power have exploited those with neither. Marxist thought is, in my view, a blind alley that has no access to rank 4. But class exploitation is a fact. Did the upper classes give the lower classes anything in return for wealth and power? On the whole, I think, they gave as little as possible. The nations that have not yet developed industrially are clamoring for help. The poor people in rich countries are, at present, quiet; but they could again present their demands as forcefully as they have sometimes done. You already know that rankshift is my prescription for de- velopment. Education is the only effective policy. To provide enough to go around, the world will have to control population and use sophisticated methods of production, getting more goods for less energy and raw materials. Most of the technology has to diffuse from countries that are now advanced, just as technology has always diffused. But sophisticated systems cannot diffuse into an uneducated population. Education threatens political structures and old ways of living. The resistance of fundamentalist Christians in America to the teaching of evolution is one example. China's recent decision to reduce the number of students who can go abroad for graduate study is another. The US government's resistance to teaching about birth control is a third. So the first problem in development is how to get enough education going, against political and traditionalist opposition. The second problem is how to get developing countries to choose the technology of the future rather than that of the past. The goal of catching up is easy to understand, and that is the goal that most developing countries choose. Thus they get our problems along with our successes. Eastern Europe has pushed for development on the path that Britain and America followed between 1750 and 1950; one consequence is devastating pollution from East Germany to Russia--but then, West Germany allowed itself to suffer from bad pollution also. If only we knew how to move forward to non-polluting, minimum-energy, minimum-raw-material technology, and could persuade the Third World to move with us, the world's future would be more hopeful. Steep and narrow as that path seems, however, it may be open. One recent book about this complex of problems is _Preparing for the Twenty-first Century_, by Paul Kennedy ( PREP21* ).
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