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                            Chapter 7

                     APPROPRIATE TECHNOLOGY

           Copyright (c) 1991, 1993 by David G. Hays  
                      (c) 1995 by Janet Hays




     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.


     7.1.1.  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

     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?


     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

     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.


     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.


     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-

     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

     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* ).

[Mind-Culture Coevolution Home] [Tech Evol Contents]
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