wiresThis article caught my attention yesterday – our hunger for electricity to power our “personal electronics” has grown so insatiable that very soon the United States will need to build “the equivalent of 560 coal-fired power plants, or 230 nuclear plants,” according to the International Energy Agency.  Since 1980 – when, on average, there were three “personal electronic” devices per house, that number has grown to about 25.  And – this one floored me – the amount of energy the nation uses to power “gaming systems” whose players are unwilling to turn them off at night (lest they “lose” the current game they are playing) is equivalent to the annual usage of the entire city of San Diego, the nation’s ninth largest city.

The move to electricity was once hailed as a near-miraculous liberation from “drudgery.”  Freeing humans from the need any longer to do the basic chores of the household that once required muscle, endless vistas of newly-won leisure were upon us.  We no longer had to cut our grass, mix the batter, sweep the floor, cut the turkey – any host of menial household tasks – using our muscles.   No longer did we have to snap our wrists to produce a breeze from the fan, or wind a clock, or look in the back of a closet in the search for the elusive tie, with the creation of devices that relieved us at every turn of the drudgery of employing our muscles.

It was thought that this new era of liberation from drudgery would free us for new pursuits which our grandparents might only have imagined.  Leisure to pursue crafts, hobbies, to read, write, learn, worship, spend ever better quality time with family and neighbors.   Instead, we have seen the exponential rise of the use of electronics for the use of “personal entertainment” devices, ones that largely exist to distract us during the relatively more ample leisure time that we now enjoy as a result of our electronic liberation.  The very source of our liberation – electricity – became the conduit for a kind of mindless servitude, the bread-and-circus programming intended to keep us occupied and distracted from anything resembling actual thought about the implications of what we were doing.

Those acts of drudgery that we overcame were inherently educative:  they taught us about the natural rhythms  of life and nature, the circularity of time and lifespan, the basic needs of life and their connections to all the matters of the created world.  In tilling the soil and preparing our food, in working to preserve what was available now what we knew might not be present in the future, we learned virtues of thrift and foresight, prudence and moderation.  Yes – we were taught in the first pages of the Bible that to work by the sweat of our brow was a consequence of the Fall, a burden that had been laid upon man for transgression in our first state.   Yet, to recognize the fact of such work as a basic and inescapable condition of humanity was to reconcile ourselves to the conditions of the world, to make us prone to satisfaction with what is, rather than dissatisfied with what is not.  It taught us to appreciate blessings small and large, a piece of ripe fruit, an evening of leisure in song and story, a small bed of flowers that pointed to our love of beauty that transcended mere utility.

Our liberation, and current forms leisure through electronic distraction and stimulation, also contains inherent lessons.   Many of those forms of electronic distraction are meant solely to stimulate our senses, to offer an incessant cascade of colors and images and sounds that are intended to excite the basic hedonistic centers of our cortex.   Further – in offering us an ever-escalating intensity of stimulation, this form of sensory distraction stimulates a kind of stimulation addiction.  Like a heroin addict, we need ever more and purer highs to achieve the satiation that was once available to us with less.  Not only do we now have over 20 new gadgets in our houses than thirty years ago, but hundreds of channels, countless games, ever-present tools of “communication.”   A colleague begins his course by accusing his students of addiction to their electronics.  When they deny this is the case, he passes around a box and asks for volunteers to give up their cellphones for the semester.  The box always returns empty.

Furthermore, our leisure is no longer leisured.  Leisure at its best is a time and space apart from the world of necessity.  Today, much of our electronically primed “leisure” is largely another opportunity for commerce, specifically advertising.  In our “retreat” from drudgery we are inundated with images and sounds and temptations that urge us to want more, to crave more deeply, to ache more longingly for that possession that finally will fulfill us.  Our leisure is a boot camp for consumerism, a training-ground for , an incitement to conditions of indebtedness and spendthriftiness.  As the historian Lendol Carter has written (Jason Peters’ colleague at Augustana), “The original promise of industrialism was that it bring people more time not for leisure, not more money for goods.  Goods we now have, but little time for leisure….  To be sure, credit-driven consumerism offers moments of indulgence and excess.  But the apparatus of credit ensures that consumerism is also a goad for more work.  This has made American middle-class life today less a playground for hedonists than an extension of Max Weber’s ‘iron cage’ of disciplined rationality.”

What we learn in our leisure flows without obstacle into our political selves, manifested particularly in our dissatisfaction with current conditions and our expectation for constant “product improvement.”  So we find ourselves unjustly burdened and inconvenienced by any discomfort or obstacle to our happiness, and hold the government accountable for our dissatisfaction.  We come to demand government activity in all spheres of life to relieve what might otherwise have been accepted as basic conditions of life (e.g., our right to constant MRIs), no matter the cost to future generations.

Of course, this last is the ultimate lesson of our electronic binge:  for, at its root, it is a power that has been given to us by geologic time, the inheritance of ages that preceded us in the millions of years.  In the burning of coal, the firing of natural gas, the half-lives of uranium, we use this inheritance constantly without replenishment, claiming for ours what no generation can truly own, but which our generation has usurped without permission.  We draw down this eon-old inheritance in the belief that we alone are entitled (first) to liberation from drudgery, and (second) to a right to distraction from attentiveness.  Ours is a right to sloth, paid for by debts to be paid by our children and theirs.  For, certainly, eventually we will build those 560 coal powered plants or 230 nuclear power stations, because to do otherwise would be to deprive ourselves of the right to press a button and have our will be done.  Wendell Berry has written that if we could invent a steam shovel to pick up a dime we had dropped on the street, we would do it.  What we are doing is inventing an endless string of devices to obscure from ourselves the viciousness of our actions.   The first thing we’ll do when the power goes off is to blame the government at the same time we demand it fix the problem.  We are truly, in every sense of the word, a nation of addicts.

30 COMMENTS

  1. This is a thought-provoking post as usual, but also as usual, it is long on fulminations and short on concrete suggestions. The two questions that, as far as I know, Dr. Deneen has never answered are:

    1. When (i.e., in what approximate year) should the development of technology have been halted?

    2. How could this halting have been brought about?

    It seems to me that even we accept the premise that a halt to technology would have been desirable, it would have been impossible to carry out. There have always (maybe not since antiquity, but certainly for the last several centuries, and especially in America) been boys (and sometimes girls) who enjoy tinkering and experimenting and fixing things, and while most of them grow up to become carpenters and plumbers and other profesions Dr. Deneeen would consider honorable, there will always be some that grow up to be Edisons and Marconis and Teslas and Farnsworths and Berners-Lees. I don’t see how anything short of government coercion could have stopped these men once they were determined to apply themselves to making new inventions.

  2. Two of your passages caught my attention:

    (1) “The very source of our liberation – electricity – became the conduit for a kind of mindless servitude, the bread-and-circus programming intended to keep us occupied and distracted from anything resembling actual thought about the implications of what we were doing.”

    (2) “Further – in offering us an ever-escalating intensity of stimulation, this form of sensory distraction stimulates a kind of stimulation addiction. Like a heroin addict, we need ever more and purer highs to achieve the satiation that was once available to us with less.”

    On (2), well, there’s a reason why Blackberries have been facetiously renamed Crackberries. As a people, we truly do, at times, seem to be seeking ever new ways amuse ourselves until death.

    On (1), while I agree generally with your moral extensions of our use of electricity (i.e. not using labor saving devices for true leisure, but for amusement/entertainment), I disagree with your practical, natural resource pessimism. There is general consensus among a great many in the world about the need to conserve energy and explore renewable energy resources. This gives me some optimism that we will avoid the natural resource depletion you fear. We should avoid Malthusian underestimations of the human ability to adapt.

    But even those material adaptions won’t save us from the moral extensions you note. I believe that we’ll innovate to ends of our ability in order to maintain the status quo on amusements. Why? Humans have long sought to avoid thinking through big questions about truth, analysis of our inner turmoil and failings, and trying to understand our place among our brethren. In other words, never underestimate the work we’ll do on material and less important things to avoid real engagement with the things that matter. This is how we create hell on earth—how we become mere caged rats running circles in our very own wheels of amusement. – TL

  3. “A colleague begins his course by accusing his students of addiction to their electronics. When they deny this is the case, he passes around a box and asks for volunteers to give up their cellphones for the semester. The box always returns empty.”

    I don’t think the cell phone should be classed with the video game or the 500-channel television, since it can be genuinely useful in an emergency. The remarkable thing about the cell phone is that it has made so many of the stock situations of second-rate thrillers and third-rate sitcoms close to obsolete – searching frantically for a phone after an accident or crime, being cut off from the outside world by a snowstorm, being stuck in a locked (and sometimes flooding) cellar, being stuck in an elevator – although I suppose a technophobe could say this last would always have been obsolete if people only took the stairs!

  4. Kabala,
    Yes, the example was imperfect. To extend its basic pedagogical ambition, how many today would agree to have their cell phones modified so it only provided the most basic forms of essential communication? How much of the “communication” that takes place using these devices is actually necessary? How much of it extends our form of electronic distraction as a joint and ongoing activity, a collective distraction that, to a great extent, permits us to be absent as we lead the course of our lives? When told that a Morse telegraph connection existed between Maine and Texas, Thoreau replied, “but what if Maine has nothing to say to Texas”? Before long, we find things to say for the sake of being able to use the technology.

    As to your first comment: these sort of arguments appear to be powerful, but they are actually an argument for our weakness and abdication. If all “developments” are inevitable, what does this say for the vaunted freedom that modernity appears to offer us in ever more perfect form? Margaret Thatcher once famously said (responding in much the same way you have done here) “There is No Alternative.” This is a remarkable statement from someone who otherwise praised our capacity for human freedom. What it actually states is that we are subject to ungovernable processes. If that’s so, then conservatives and liberals alike should get out of the business of commending certain kinds of moral codes, restraints and limits. We are simply creations of, and creatures made by, inevitable historical processes and there is no choice or capacity for judgment available to us.

    Clearly, I don’t agree with this view. Part of exercising our innate capacity for judgment requires us to turn off the screen for awhile (yes, I’m one to talk, typing here like this). It’s true that certain discoveries were inevitable, but whether they must be employed in the ways that we now typically employ them is subject to our own judgment. This certainly true for the individual and the family. It may be true for society, though that will take the form of customs, habits, and law (all three of which must be mutually reinforcing). Putting the genie back in the bottle is a bear, but to assume it can’t be done is to acquiesce to a life that masquerades to offer us freedom but in fact is precisely the “iron cage” of which Weber wrote.

  5. Your reply doesn’t really answer my question, though. Which technologies, specifically, would you abolish? What is the ideal year beyond which nothing should have moved – 1950, 1850, 1750, 1650, even earlier?

    If you actually came out and said, “I believe cell phones (or video games, or big-screen TVs, or whichever invention you prefer) should be made illegal, or at least that all good Christians should cease to use them,” I might not agree but I would respect your opinion. But I don’t see how denunciations without specifics will get us any further toward a better society.

    Finally, I don’t think what I said diminishes human freedom. If I said, “It was inevitable that the human race would produce great poets” or “It was inevitable that the human race would produce great artists,” would anyone say, “You don’t believe in free will; you are diminishing our sacred freedom not to create poetry or art if we so choose?” I can’t imagine that anyone would. I don’t see why “It was inevitable that the human race would produce great inventors” should be regarded as a different kind of statement, unless one just has a kneejerk disdain for scientists. (Science was never my favorite subject either, for what it’s worth.)

  6. “Before long, we find things to say for the sake of being able to use the technology.”

    This is a hillarious sentence to find on a blog. Of course that’s a total cheap shot, as I’m as fully implicated as anyone … but ya gotta laugh at our predicament.

    Putting this particular genie back in the bottle can be done:

    Kill your website.

    But who wants to do that?

    Fiddle fiddle burn burn.

  7. Kabala,
    I don’t recall calling for the abolition or banning of electricity. I do recall having said something critical about how wrong its proponents were about the salutary leisure that it would afford us, and asking for reflection about what is to be done about our tendency to using it badly. It’s actually rather typical for people to hear the former (you’re trying to BAN it!!!) when someone says something along the lines of the latter (can we be thoughtful??). Again, what I am calling for is space for judgment, including whether we are using any particular innovation well (further, to consider the unintended consequences of our actions). Short of calling for its abolition (as you want to caricature my position), is there space to discuss limits – particularly those that are self-imposed?

    Caleb – Thoreau wrote those words using pen and paper (I assume) which were sent off to a printing press. Perhaps the message always needs to be, turn this infernal device off (or, insert appropriate alienating technology) and talk to your neighbors!

  8. Patrick, yes, I think that would be good advice. But we by and large won’t take it. We may recognize the virtue of the radicalism of the Bruderhof, but like I said, who wants to live like that? We’re all Thatcherites on that level.

    I never trust an addict who tells me he can have just two drinks, or just lose $100 at the tables, or whatever.

  9. Dr. [note use of prefix] Deneen:

    Talking about limits is actually the kind of conversation I would want to have. I have much more respect for your position than for the standard “conservative” position of no limits and constantly having more (“Even a socialist wants the biggest house he can afford” as a conservative I used to read a lot once put it). My personal posessions and spending habits should not be disclosed on the Internet, but I think they are such that I could compete favorably with other readers of this site in any abstemiousness competition. Therefore, I am glad that a site like this exists.

    However, your rhetoric is so grandiloquent and denunciatory (and you’re a minor leaguer compared to Mr. Steagall) that the idea that you wish technological development had been frozen at some time in the distant past is an easy misconception for one to form. Less Moses from the mountaintop, more “space to discuss” (and more reliance on hard empirical evidence) would, in my opinion, make your posts more useful toward helping your readers form a proper theory of life.

    Finally, since you chose not to engage with my clarification of my position on the inevitability of invention, let me clarify it further. I think human creativity, not just artistic but also scientific, is indeed inevitable. If that somehow means that I don’t believe in human freedom, then I guess I don’t, but I don’t think it means that.

  10. I’m shootin’ for 1900 for the cut off. You got the telephone with hand crank, infernal combustion engine but little or no autos, you need horses so you got manure for the garden, dirt roads are easier to maintain than chip and seal, you walk just about everywhere unless you take the horse and buggy or electric train or coal fired train, heat with wood, and on and on…and, oh yes, we can all carry concealed without the gummint demanding a permit. We don’t need no stinkin’ modernity!

  11. Mr. James Kabala,

    My apologies. I like your surname – I was using it like I might be tempted to do if we were debating over a beer.

    We all rely on Caleb for grandiloquence. As for facts and figures – I did supply a few, as well as a link, to the article in the NYTimes. Based on that article I provided some reflections. That’s about all I can do at my pay grade. If you need a philosophy of life, you may need to look elsewhere, but we promise that you get what you pay for here.

    Inventions may be inevitable, or such an argument may be adopting a Whig theory of history, demonstrating inevitability by dint of their existence. We don’t know the inventions that weren’t inevitable, after all – even those that some not-quite-so evil genius on his deathbed had committed to the flames.

    I was more interested in the question of what one does with one’s inventions, and how the intentions that animated their adoption can prove to be quite fallacious. The irony is at once sad and comforting – we don’t know all that we think we do. To be reminded of that is a pretty modest aspiration – maybe no more ambitious than Moses.

    Caleb’s closing words about the inevitability of the addict are less comforting, because I suspect that they are correct. The doubts I have about that near-certainty are enough to keep me writing. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be much point.

  12. I think if we want to understand where all this excessive electro-technology stems from, we have to look at the effects that electricity reliability regulations have had on bringing about these developments. As part of their monopolistic deals with states, quid pro quo for guaranteed returns on equity, power companies are required to “keep the lights on” 24 X 7. If states and the federal government eliminated reliability requirements, and allowed power companies to cut power during unprofitable times, I wonder if we’d see a reversal in electro-tech use. We’d probably see less air conditioning proliferation, as well as less Nintendo (Atari, Internet, etc) use. Of course the rejoinder against eliminating such regulations is the effect unreliable electric power delivery has on hospitals, and the like.

    In any case, I think electric reliability regulations play a substantial role in subsidizing the dramatic technological innovations we’ve seen among electro-tech products.

  13. I must have been in a cranky mood earlier today (or technically yesterday by now). I don’t necessarily take back the substance of what I said, but I apologize for much of the tone of it. And I agree that addressing someone by surname alone is common among close friends, especially in a British context (e.g., “Holmes” and “Watson”), but it seems weird in print. You can call me “James” if you like, but “Mr. Kabala” is preferable to just “Kabala.”

    The one question I still have, though, is how a desire to make use of something, and even the extreme reluctance to give it up, necessarily constitutes an addiction. I apologize in advance for the coarse example, but it is the one that most easily springs to mind – most people could not endure a celibate life (I mean for an entire life, not just before marriage), but it would be inappropriate to call them addicted to non-celibacy. Or perhaps a better example – diabetics or others who have to go on restricted diets are usually highly disappointed by having to do so and would not do so if it were not a serious health matter. Surely they are not addicted to the foods they had to give up.

    Of course, the latter is a necessity and the former is often regarded as nearly so, but one could similarly find people who extremely enjoy books, art, music, sports, etc., but (except in cases of extremely aberrant and compulsive behavior) could never be said to be addicted. Of course technological pleasures are usually on a lower intellectual level than the previously mentioned pleasures(except maybe for sports), but do we really have evidence rather than just intuition to back up the statement “ardent enjoyment of the Internet/video games/cable TV/cell phone texting is an addiction” rather than just the statement “ardent enjoyment of these things is something of which I disapprove, therefore I call ardent enjoyment of them an addiction when it fact scientifically it is no such thing.”

  14. A few thoughts:

    Many personal devices are battery powered. While it takes some energy to produce a battery, it takes rather little energy to recharge one.

    Batteries are smaller and more efficient nowadays. The pen light of a generation ago, for example, now uses a smaller and more efficient battery and light, and runs forever. I have a hair trimmer I use several times a month. It runs on one AA Duracell battery. In more than a decade of use, I have never replaced the battery. Of course the problem with batteries is proper disposal, especially of lithium types and car batteries. However, technically, this is a minor task for civilization to accomplish.

    Personal devices today, such as the iPhone, can perform thousands of functions. It is already possible to combine the phone, computer and Internet in one handheld device. These devices will work better and become cheaper and more efficient in the very near future; one result being fewer devices per household.

    The real energy guzzler will be over-population, which, I estimate, will outstrip the techno-efficiencies of the green-aware middle class.

  15. Great essay. It was Lenin, I believe, who suggested that the common Russian peasant should transfer his worship of God to the worship of electricity.

    “The very source of our liberation – electricity – became the conduit for a kind of mindless servitude, the bread-and-circus programming intended to keep us occupied and distracted from anything resembling actual thought about the implications of what we were doing.”

    A quote from Thomas Merton also comes to mind:

    “Compare our monastery and the General Electric plant in Louisville. Which one is the more serious and more ‘religious’ institution? One might be tempted to say, ‘the monastery,’ out of sheer habit.

    But, in fact, the religious seriousness of the monastery is like sandlot baseball compared with the big-league seriousness of General Electric. It may in fact occur to many, including the monks, to doubt the monastery and what it represents.

    Who doubts G.E.?”

  16. As to addicts and their trustworthiness…yes, Caleb, you are right to suspect the veracity of an addict who claims he’ll stop at 2 or maybe begin the morrow on a fresh slate of abstinence….after the evenings pleasures are out of the way of course. Worse yet though, is the addict that fears the poison pill he either quit or is about to quit. One has to embrace ones compulsions….love them for what they are or better yet were…to find freedom from them. Actually, “freedom” is the wrong word. They have yet to invent the right one.

    I always enjoy the petulant rhetoric of those who oppose any surrender to the consumer product mosh pit by asserting that we “luddites” must chose an era to “cease technological advancement”. One might normally enjoy such triumphal sophism but frankly Scarlet…I’d just as soon not listen to it for anything beyond the mere pleasures of disgust. Picking a point of technological development and freezing ourselves there is the kind of conceit only made possible by this era of “lifestyle empowerment”. If I may, might the proponent of such puny moralizing pull their fat head out of their narrow arse and understand that it is not about choosing technology but choosing life and that our biological abilities include a technological urge and so it is incumbent upon us to develop an understanding of our existence and our environment that informs this technological urge…checks it and balances it with an integrating instinct to make sure that the answer is never Technology vs. Nature but Technology IN Nature. I don’t know quite why such a leap of imagination is required for the proud modern man but it is . Wankers.

    Maybe such nitwits would be happy adopting the fashions of the Victorianized “Steampunk” whilst they prestidigitate upon the little screen in their hot stubby little hands, attempting to be in two places at once while never being anyplace at all.

    Yes ye stubborn Front Porchers, if ye are to be dignified in your positions, true to the grand forces of logic then you must wear hairshirts and chase mastodons over the hoary plains. I just hope the point of technological development we are forced to choose includes the era of Samuel Colt so I can put a cap in these ijits knees.

  17. Stegall, …might I call you that? Or, if finer sensibilities are at risk, we shall resort to the traditional honorific, Herr Farmer Stegall esq…..but, it was apparently Orwell who asserted that ye alte shtinker Rabelais was a perverse fellow, morbid and a “case for psychoanalysis”. I believe he meant this as an insult but it would bounce like encyclopedias off a trailer park because as the arch Edward Abbey asserted “only the half mad are wholly alive”. A round of applause here for madness.

    To be labeled insane within an insane era is as good a proof as any for sanity.

    “Sincerely,
    Emily Post”

  18. Any Rablaisian madman spouting Ed Abbey like piss off a porch with an appreciation for Whitman like a finely aged pot-roast can call me whate’r he wills.

    “To be sane in a mad time is bad for the brain.” -WB

  19. A question: if natural resources such as coal and oil are common goods, is there anything we can praise or criticize about how they are appropriated and allotted and consumed?

  20. I suspect the proliferation of electronic devices might be halted by reality – a reality such as the Chinese recently announcing that they will no longer export rare earth metals/minerals – essential to the production of all those crackberries, i pods and video games.

    I do find that it is interesting while people bemoan the need to build zillions of new power plants – it never occurs to the same people to contemplate making the current grid more efficient. Isn’t it something like only half the power generated makes it to your light bulb?

    The development of new technologies changes human culture – and in the sense that we mindlessly embrace each new techie device without consideration of how it will alter the culture – we have become enslaved by our capacity to invent, by our technology. Or is it that we have become enslaved by our laziness – a mindless refusal to consider the consequences of our creative ingenuity?
    Since I enjoy most things electrical I have no answer to this problem other than turn those video games off!

    I engage in a mad resistance to new technology – I have no cell phone and and have not yet drowned in a flooded basement. I also have discovered whenever I give in and purchase a new device they invent something new and make the device just purchased obsolete.

  21. Isn’t it something like only half the power generated makes it to your light bulb?

    Decentralized electrical production would be more efficient, but I don’t know how much decentralization can be done at this point, once one takes into account all of the costs involved (for example, the inputs required to produce solar panels).

  22. “our biological abilities include a technological urge and so it is incumbent upon us to develop an understanding of our existence and our environment that informs this technological urge…checks it and balances it with an integrating instinct to make sure that the answer is never Technology vs. Nature but Technology IN Nature.”

    This is an excellent point brought up by Mr. Sabin, and highlights the weakness in the linear & binary thinking of most apologists for technology. (I’m speaking generally here, not to pick on Mr. Kabala.)

    I.e., most people act as if there is only one direction in which technological innovation can / could have taken.

    This seems to me to be a gross oversimplification. Personally I’m not a critic of Technology in the abstract (really, who is?) but of the particular types of technology we have. People think of technology as if it’s merely a question of having “more” or “less” — but it seems clear to me that technology is a vector, not a scalar.

    It’s not simply a matter of saying this culture over here has more or less technology than that culture over there, but of noting that one culture might choose to develop its technology in one direction while another could opt to develop its technology along a very different course guided by very different principles.

    As for the pomo West, the reason we have an inhumane technology, I suspect, is because we have no shared vision of the Good — hence the lowest common denominator of appetite determines the direction for development.

  23. Once again FPR is transformed from a generally conservative website into a gaggle of Rousseauan romantics expressing oligarchial contempt for improvement in the life the common working man and delight in the suppression of the natural creative power of the their fellow man.

    First we start off with this attempt at misdirection by quoting an article that provides no history or context for the situation.

    Quote from Dedeen: This article caught my attention yesterday – our hunger for electricity to power our “personal electronics” has grown so insatiable that very soon the United States will need to build “the equivalent of 560 coal-fired power plants, or 230 nuclear plants.

    We need actually closer to about 2000 nuclear power plants and they will be built (or we all die) but unlike the false impression given in the article reason for the need to build so many power plants is not because American are greedier consumer then they were in the 1950s it is because we haven’t built very many new power plants for the last 30 years and the population has grown. What the article fails to mention is that technology improvements allow us to run more electronics on less power so the increase in number of devices per household doesn’t mean that per capita power consumption has increase. It’s actually decreased globally since 1978.

    Quote from Dedeen: “The move to electricity was once hailed as a near-miraculous liberation from “drudgery.” Freeing humans from the need any longer to do the basic chores of the household that once required muscle, endless vistas of newly-won leisure were upon us. We no longer had to cut our grass, mix the batter, sweep the floor, cut the turkey – any host of menial household tasks – using our muscles. No longer did we have to snap our wrists to produce a breeze from the fan, or wind a clock, or look in the back of a closet in the search for the elusive tie, with the creation of devices that relieved us at every turn of the drudgery of employing our muscles.”

    And the result of that increase power over nature meant that less time was spent on non-productive work so we could build the major capital necessary for feeding the world and thus the populations grew following the Biblical commandment to go forth and multiply i.e. in biological terms it strengthened the species and you sit there mocking the good and natural course of human development.

    Quote from Dedeen: “Those acts of drudgery that we overcame were inherently educative: they taught us about the natural rhythms of life and nature, the circularity of time and lifespan, the basic needs of life and their connections to all the matters of the created world.”

    Pure Rousseau and totally insane because it is not true what great wisdom about nature was being gained by people sitting around in mud huts and starving to death until the “Evil Westerners” came and people the unnatural desire for economic and scientific progress.

    The facts are the disconnection to the basic needs of life is the results of a de-industrialized economy relying on imports because of free trade rather than working for internal improvements lead to a culture that believes that money and trade create wealth rather than work.

    Local industry is what allows the City do development natural relationship work of the rural communities and so went Carter raised interests rate and allowed usury to run wild and destroy industry we were forced to rely imports and thus we don’t how technology should related to rest of world because it just shows up from China at store in shiny plastic like mana from heaven rather something American can have because they build it themselves.

    Free Trade allows people to believe in “gains through trade” i.e. “wheeling and dealing” rather than necessary moral value that unless you work for it you don’t deserve to have it.

    Power and technology are merely tools and Patrick keeps blaming increased ability to do work represented by such improvements as the cause for social decay because the work being done by the digital culture is result of having productive work removed from the economy by de-industrial and environmentalist policy.

    Since we no longer allow the population to produce what it consumes then it will start creating non-productive economies of entertainment, games, drugs, gambling to hide the fact they living lives so disconnected from the natural human economy and real human progress.

    Mr. Dedeen’s romanticism and anti-humanism is actually created for him by the greedy Oligarchy which created the policies that caused the situation because it to is a form of escapism into a wonderful romantic past without the “Evils of Technology” but unfortunately such a time to no more real than the “World of Warcraft” which was actually was model off such Tolkien-like Romantic fantasies about pre-modern feudal societies.

    What a tragic irony that because of cultural pessimism and romanticism like Mr. Dedeen’s that are youth now waste their time, technology, and energy playing games about pre-modern fantasy feudal kingdoms while the our intellectually corrupt and bankrupt Elites are setting up a post-modern neo-feudalist society.

    So what is the solution? Rather than attacking the electrification which is something that represents American civilization perhaps more than any other technology we have to ask ourselves for what purposes are we going to create new power plants. Rather and attacking wonderful the privilege of being a creative humans who can unlike animals by will change our use of energy we should be asking what is kind of work that is moral and should be done with our technology.

    Should it be aimed our self amusement and pleasure or in uplifting mankind and extending civilization in the deserts and oceans and into space and clearing up the mess we have created in last 50 years?

    It is true our ability to mass produce has created a great mess and ruined much of our environment but unfortunately romantics like Mr. Dedeen and their hatred of technology will in fact increase the rate of that destruction as the any intelligent person know that it takes a lot of energy more to clean up a mess than to make one.

    If you are serious about the environment last thing you want to do is decrease power capacity and force people to rely on less dense energy sources like solar and wind. Trying to “green” things this way will is equivalent to not feeding your horses to save money while riding them to death.

  24. We’ve been down this road before. Edison wanted decentralized plants, Westinghouse proposed centralized system. Westinghouse outsmarted Edison, not an easy task.

    Decentralized production has to be sized for peak load over a much smaller geography. More overall capacity has to be built in order to meet demand. Creating this additional capacity is in of it self wasteful.

    Uranium will decay whether collected and concentrated or not. There is no way to save this ‘heritage’ fuel. For generating baseline demand, there is no better fuel, at least in France. (I do get a kick out of Obama defending Iran’s ‘desire’ to use nuclear power but won’t support nuclear power in the US.)

    ‘Free’ energy generally only works with massive subsidy. The distributed maintenance costs alone will make future distributed generators less desirable. Image waiting a week for the Power Tech to show up. Takes about that long for the satellite guys to show up.

    Distributed generation makes sense in a small number of applications and locations. Current government programs are like making everyone in Florida buy snow skis, everyone in Arizona buy scuba gear and Montana buy hurricane insurance.

    Oh and Edision did use the OFF switch.

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