February 12, 2009

Wendell Berry's Standards for Technological Innovation

Both Waxy and Kottke pointed to this interesting piece by Kevin Kelly entitled Amish Hackers.  It reminded me of a short essay by Wendell Berry published, amongst other places, in Harper's back in the late 80's (originally?) entitled Against PC's (the Harper's version is gated but here's the essay as well as subsequently published letters between Berry and readers.).  He ends with this list of "standards for technological innovation:"
To make myself as plain as I can, I should give my standards for technological innovation in my own work. They are as follows:-

1. The new tool should be cheaper than the one it replaces.
2. It should be at least as small in scale as the one it replaces.
3. It should do work that is clearly and demonstrably better than the one it replaces.
4. It should use less energy than the one it replaces.
5. If possible, it should use some form of solar energy, such as that of the body.
6. It should be repairable by a person of ordinary intelligence, provided that he or she has the necessary tools.
7. It should be purchasable and repairable as near to home as possible.
8. It should come from a small, privately owned shop or store that will take it back for maintenance and repair.
9. It should not replace or disrupt anything good that already exists, and this includes family and community relationships.

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