When I was working for a web company, during a lunch discussion a colleague had argued that “Since there is internet we are smarter because there is no need to know everything anymore, if you want to know something just look on Google.” What he meant was it is not necessary to have the knowledge, you just have to know how to search. I’ve been a philosophy student, I could not help telling me that there was an error in this system of thought.
Because if we think about it, it is the sum of knowledge and experiences that we have that allows us to reflect and evolve. How could we evolve or advance in our thinking, if we take an information simply when we need it and then forget about it? If there is no coherence in the acquisition of knowledge; I could know a complex mathematical formula, if I do not know the basis of operations I would not go far with it.
Yet, our urban daily life is closer to the thought of my colleague. On all the machines we use every day, how many could we build on our own? Man has made tools to make his work easier, but now we use technological tools that replace work. This shift in the use of the technique causes a loss of knowledge in the realization of our daily activities.
For a few years now a new term has appeared; low-technology, the principle is to relearn how to do things by yourself with simple and economical techniques to replace the high-tech tools we use. Learn to use the environment and nature without damaging them, try to get out of fossil fuels and be able to control the manufacturing process. Low-tech does not mean less efficient, but rather simple and recyclable. Having simpler everyday objects is not a neo-Luddite desire (anti-technology) but rather an economic and environmental necessity.
Do we really know how much time we spend working to pay for these objects that fill our lives? And when the time has come to fix them and we can not do it, how much does it cost? Having the ability to do it yourself is an economic benefit, it costs much less. Making yourself requires more time than just buying, but it is also a choice by spending less time working for a salary.
The companies that manufacture the objects have a need for profits in order to continue their activity, it does not follow the needs of nature. Even if it allows us to have cheaper items, what we pay does not reflect the ecological damage we can cause. Having a return to ways of doing things easier with local products makes it possible to go around the wheel of the use-decomposition cycle. Instead of using plastic it can be wood, while it would not be economical for a company to use this material, do it by ourselves can be immediately more advantageous. Then the wood, may one day return to the ground or find another use.
When we make something ourselves we do not think about when we will replace it, we do it to last, the programmed obsolescence of technological objects is an economic plague for the consumer and an environmental scourge for all.
There is a French association that has a project called Low-tech Lab (website in english also), which is a website sharing tutorials and know about ways to do otherwise. In parallel, they launched a project called Nomad of the Seas, a boat built by their care that navigates the seas to meet projects in this movement. If you need to learn how to do something there is also the superb Instrucables.
The different makerspace we visited are also a good example of what the spirit of low-tech can look like. A lot of mutual help and knowledge sharing so you can learn to do it yourself. So yes, some makerspaces are also places where 3D printers and electronic gadgets can flourish, but it’s also up to us to ask ourselves questions about what we want to do with these new technologies. They may be needed, but maybe not 7 billion times. We need to have a reflection on the new innovations that appear in our daily life and the use we make of them before it is generalized to every household, the economic market must not settle this for us.
Just like the idea my colleague had with the internet, the technological tools of our daily life are a shackle to our thinking. While they are useful for some tasks they have come to replace actions where we did not need a tool at the beginning. Because we are in a hurry, we have no time, we do not know how to do, etc. Is working 35h for a salary really necessary? It is important to remember that it is the sum of the experiences and knowledge that we have that are advancing us in our reflection, how could we reflect our daily life, on a more harmonious life if we make a dead end on some of information that we would be supposed to hold?
Also published on Medium.