Humans can’t help but invent things. But, to paraphrase G. K. Chesterton, just because something has been invented, it does not mean we have to use it. However more efficient and productive a chainsaw is, we have no moral obligation to use one rather than an axe if the axe makes us happier. That’s what technology is for isn’t it? To make us happier? Or maybe I have got it backwards. Maybe humans were put on this earth to improve technology.
I sometimes feel guilty for walking to the store when I could drive instead and save fifteen minutes. But if I turn a fifteen minute walk that I would have enjoyed into a three minute drive that I don’t enjoy, I’m not really saving fifteen minutes – I’m losing three minutes.
Often, I reckon that using a piece of technology in order to be more efficient and productive does add to my overall happiness. (Instant water heaters are awesome.) But sometimes it doesn’t and I have to remember to ask the question before I fire up a given contraption and rupture the little bit of tranquility I’ve gained between uses.
So far we’re assuming that a chainsaw really is more efficient than an axe. It’s obvious isn’t it? Well, let’s really look at the chainsaw. It is obviously faster and louder than an axe. But as magnificent as the chainsaw is, it has it’s drawbacks:
- It’s more expensive (how many man-hours and parts go into one chainsaw?)
- It’s heavier
- It’s harder to sharpen
- It can kill the operator (so can an axe – but it takes a little more skill)
- It is harder to fix
- It takes more storage space
- When you really need it, it won’t start
- All it can do is cut wood
- You can’t pound, or pull nails with it
- It’s not good at splitting rounds
- It’s smelly
- It’s loud
- It requires gas and oil
- It’s hard to carry up trees
- When you’re using one and someone yells at you to “WATCH OUT!” – you can’t hear them.
Also, one of the drawbacks of complexity is that it makes things really hard to fix. My 1970 Datsun pickup was easy to fix, even for a non-mechanic like myself. If something broke, you could see what it was and you could probably fix it with a used guitar string. If a $30,000 Lexus breaks it becomes instantly useless to the owner. There is nothing to be done but call the magician, I mean mechanic, and pay him a lot of money to make it work again.
Technology can be great. Technology can be fun. Technology can be a stupid idea. You can list your favorite complicated piece of garbage here___________.