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technopeasantry

Postby SwordMaster » 09 Apr 2009 19:37

I wanted to open this topic up for discussion as I have started to mention it in other threads.... your thoughts for a pent?


1981: The Plowboy Interview //
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Mother Earth News: May/June 1981

The Plowboy Interview: Frank Herbert
By the Mother Earth News editors

SCIENCE FICTION'S "YELLOW JOURNALIST" IS A HOMESTEADING "TECHNOPEASANT"

PLOWBOY: What other factors do you think will influence this decentralization?

HERBERT: We've opened up the Pandora's box of violent technology. We're fast approaching a time when one person can make and employ instruments of violence equal to the ones formerly reserved only to massive governments.

Let's face it, our society has a tiger by the tail in technology. We can't let go. We can't all go back to the farm and be selfsufficient. There isn't enough land to do so, for one thing. Furthermore, people's expectations for their lifestyles have been raised . . . and you don't monkey around with human expectations. So what we need is a new way of relating to our society and its tools. And it was in an attempt to envision just such a change that, some 15 years ago, I coined the phrase "technopeasantry".

PLOWBOY: How would you define technopeasantry?

HERBERT: It involves drawing support from technology, but doing so imaginatively. We have to ask the question, "What elements of technology should I use and how should I use them?" A peasant knows, you see, when and why to grab a shovel or a hoe. In the same way, we have to think out our own relationship to the complete environment, our own values and technological options . . . and make decisions consciously.
Too often today people don't examine or question their basic assumptions. Let me give you an example. I once taught a course, at the University of Washington, that was called Utopia/Dystopia. It was billed as an examination of the current state of our country and our myths of the "better life" . . . only I had trouble getting my students to really investigate their own premises about technology and lifestyle.
So I hit on the idea of taking them out for along weekend hike in the Olympic mountains . . . in the early spring when I knew the weather was going to be cold and rainy. All I told my class was, "We'll be out in the Olympics for two nights. It's going to rain. Bring your gear, food, and paper and pencils for taking notes. I'll meet you at the trail's head."
Now, I'm a hedonist in the wilderness. I own a good down sleeping bag and a fine one-man tent with a fly, and carry a very light pack stocked with trail food and the like. Naturally, my gear is pretty much a product of high technology.

Once we all got up to our campsite—at a place called the Flats—I set up my tent, dug a drain trench, stashed some firewood under the canopy for the morning, and helped organize the evening meal. We ate and hit the sack . . . and then the rain came. Well, I was quite dry and comfortable in my tent, but a lot of my students weren't so well prepared: During the night, I heard voices crying, "My sleeping bag's all wet! " or "God, it's cold! " I simply rolled over and went back to sleep.

The next morning, I got up early and built a big fire. The shivering students soon gathered round, we scrounged together something to eat, and afterward I told them to get their note pads. Then I said, "OK, the bomb just dropped and we're all that's left. How much of our former technology do we try to reconstitute?" Well, let me tell you . . . those cold, wet people who had eaten an inadequate breakfast looked at society's technology a good bit more closely than they had when sitting in a comfortable university classroom. Students who'd been saying things like "Oh sure, I could do without all this stuff" began to ask some basic questions, and to comprehend that technology isn't bad in and of itself . . . everything depends on how we use it.

PLOWBOY: You're saying, then, that technopeasantry involves people's questioning their basic assumptions so they can make intelligent decisions about how to use technology?

HERBERT: Well, that's not all there is to it. There're other aspects to questioning how we use technology. For instance, most people today live in a "light switch" society where they have no actual connection to the tools they use. If the light goes off, they have to call the building superintendent to come repair it. Knowledge has become institutionalized into specialties, and individuals have continually less and less power over their lives.

We need to use technology differently so that people can understand their tools . . . and so they can be put back in touch with the natural world. In fact, one of the things our society needs desperately is a way for people to touch the earth personally and gain the restorative strength that comes with weeding or shoveling, from really getting their hands dirty. We need ways that men and women can see the direct results of their efforts.

PLOWBOY: Would it be correct to say that technopeasantry can help develop a sense of self-worth in the individual?

HERBERT: Yes, but there's more to it, yet. We have to learn to recognize that we're always going to make some mistakes, and—knowing that—we shouldn't tie our careers and self-esteem to decisions that could later prove to be the wrong ones. People must be able to say freely, "Hey, that turned out not to be such a good idea. I'd better not do that anymore."

PLOWBOY: The more you describe this concept, the more it encompasses! You're proposing that people learn to consciously judge what tools they use . . . to employ technologies that they control and not those that control there . . . and to evaluate and reevaluate all the ramifications of using each specific technology. Frankly, the thought that humans may someday be able to make so many carefully thought—out value decisions has the ring of an idealistic dream.

HERBERT: Well, it's not going to happen overnight . . . unless we have a cataclysmic disaster-like some very traumatic natural phenomenon or an enormously destructive atomic war—which requires that we take such new directions in order to survive.

PLOWBOY: Assuming that we won't be forced into new behavior patterns by a catastrophe, how do you envision the change taking place?

HERBERT: As a result of social evolution. When individuals start making technopeasant choices—such as converting an inner city attic into a greenhouse—and demonstrating that doing so can be both personally rewarding and quite effective, more and more people will be drawn to such actions.

PLOWBOY: So you see the individual drive to achieve self-sufficiency as a catalyst of the movement toward what you call technopeasantry?

HERBERT: Hold on there! Yes, individuals will lead the way to a technopeasant society, but I've never said that people should strive for absolute self-reliance. I think relative freedom from dependency ought to be our goal. We all, of course, must be wary of systems—such as the whole ripcord welfare state—that systematize increasing dependence, but we must also remember a basic truth about human beings: We are interdependent. I myself am not attempting to live on a completely selfsufficient farm. I never have . . . isolation is not part of my basic philosophy. The point is that we don't necessarily have to be dependent in some of the ways that we've chosen to be. I do, though, believe that a person's ties should be strongest to his or her local community, with looser bonds connecting him or her to larger communities.

In fact, there isn't a doubt in my mind that the average North American's life would improve if our society became more community based . . . if, say, cities like Seattle or little Port Townsend here developed symbiotic relationships with the surrounding farmland, so thatfor example—the effluent of an urban community could become a tool for keeping the land around the city fertile. Such an interlocked region would be able to establish a self-sustaining cycle and not have to waste energy trucking fertilizers and food over long distances.

PLOWBOY: And do you see increased local autonomy as an inevitable part of our future?

HERBERT: Small areas are definitely going to have to become more independent. Look at energy, for instance. There's a growing shift to alternative fuels, and there's no way in the world the OPEC nations can stop it. Now the most attractive of the new power sources that I see on the horizon is hydrogen. Hydrogen burns cleanly—the by—product of its combustion is water-and has about a six-to-one energy-to-weight advantage compared to the best conventional jet fuel. In addition, we already have the technology to make hydrogen, in a hydride form, safer to handle than gasoline.

PLOWBOY: Where would we get the energy to produce hydrogen fuel?

HERBERT: We have wind, the tides, the temperature differential in the ocean . . . there's an enormous amount of untapped energy. And the real importance of such diversified power resources will be the fact that communities will be able to make their own fuel.

Now you must recognize that any change which makes small areas more independent will have both good and bad aspects. After all, there is something to be said for the glue that holds us together as a society.
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Postby Eyes High » 09 Apr 2009 19:54

Interesting. Thanks for posting it. I like some of the points he seemed to try to be making. I liked the way he got the point across to his students. :twisted:

Others have expressed like views.
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Postby SadisticCynic » 09 Apr 2009 20:05

I like what Frank says about specialisation, it comes up a few times in Dune, that specialists can only see a small detailed part of the picture whereas generalists are more likely to see a larger picture. This is clearly bad for human society as a whole, I can't help but think of Douglas Adam's character Arthur Dent, whose only useful talent was sandwich making. Sandwiches are really good :) , but not necessarily something I'd think of as being at the top end of modern society.

How many of us could survive just one nasty winter without all our conveniences. Hell, I went camping in August and I hadn't (and still haven't) a clue what I was doing. No matter how much I like to be alone, I'm screwed without support.

Also interesting is the idea of less power over our own lives. I hear one of the causes of suicide is not hatred of life but of a sense of helplessness. Everything seems to just happen around us and we take no notice.

Seems we should have every right to despair. :(
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Postby orald » 09 Apr 2009 23:35

SadisticCynic wrote:Seems we should have every right to despair. :(

Ah, now you're making sense! :D
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Postby SandRider » 10 Apr 2009 03:52

I love this interview for the wind-energy stuff .....
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Re: technopeasantry

Postby SwordMaster » 14 Apr 2009 09:34

I wish I could live such a pure life as to know the inner workings of any tool I used. I can see the logic and wisdom in this idea. I think it is one that is not really possible without some kind of technology wipe. We are all too addicted to our toys. Our little electronic devices that help us get through the day. I saw someone on TV saying they could not drive some place without GPS and not just GPS but VOICE direct GPS. Cell phones? I am one of those rare few that refuses to use a cell phone. If I had to use it for work, I would. But I have no use for a cell phone so why would I get one? But the motivation is not technopeasantry. I just cant afford one. I would have to sacrafice my internet at home to budget cell phone bills.

Its not really clear on how much you need to understand a technology to use it. Many of us know how a TV works, in basic theroy but could we rebuild one witrh the parts? You might know how a car engine works but could you take one apart and build it again?

I just really have had some fun trying to look at this idea in depth. Can one even acheive this sort of lifestyle? Just posting on this MB would require me to understand HTML + PHP - computer networking in the web, a dozon other things aboout computer programing and software + operating system etc. The question becomes to what level must we understand the technology we are using?
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Re: technopeasantry

Postby TheDukester » 14 Apr 2009 10:35

SwordMaster wrote:I wish I could live such a pure life as to know the inner workings of any tool I used.

Interesting ... that's one of the thoughts explored in my current read, Silverberg's Shadrach in the Furnace.
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Re: technopeasantry

Postby Seraphan » 14 Apr 2009 10:49

SwordMaster wrote:I wish I could live such a pure life as to know the inner workings of any tool I used. I can see the logic and wisdom in this idea. I think it is one that is not really possible without some kind of technology wipe. We are all too addicted to our toys. Our little electronic devices that help us get through the day. I saw someone on TV saying they could not drive some place without GPS and not just GPS but VOICE direct GPS. Cell phones? I am one of those rare few that refuses to use a cell phone. If I had to use it for work, I would. But I have no use for a cell phone so why would I get one? But the motivation is not technopeasantry. I just cant afford one. I would have to sacrafice my internet at home to budget cell phone bills.

Its not really clear on how much you need to understand a technology to use it. Many of us know how a TV works, in basic theroy but could we rebuild one witrh the parts? You might know how a car engine works but could you take one apart and build it again?

I just really have had some fun trying to look at this idea in depth. Can one even acheive this sort of lifestyle? Just posting on this MB would require me to understand HTML + PHP - computer networking in the web, a dozon other things aboout computer programing and software + operating system etc. The question becomes to what level must we understand the technology we are using?

I think that we should understand it, at least, to the level where each one of us can consciously decide it's uses. Understanding improves the way we use our tools.
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Re: technopeasantry

Postby Freakzilla » 14 Apr 2009 10:56

It is understanding which makes it possible for people like us to tollerate a person such as yourself.

:P
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Re: technopeasantry

Postby GamePlayer » 14 Apr 2009 12:03

"Snooty!" :D
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Re: technopeasantry

Postby A Thing of Eternity » 14 Apr 2009 15:14

Good interview, I'd heard of it but never seen it. Thanks SM.
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Re: technopeasantry

Postby SwordMaster » 14 Apr 2009 19:11

Spelling Alet.

Ok, so did anyone notice the fact the Fremen are technopeasantry heavy?

How about all of Dune? With the forbidden thinking machines, technology was limited to faily low-tech means, by science fiction standards, almost low tech. The guild are another example of a focus away from technology. The theme is highly ecological and acually similer to enviromentalist groups like green peace. But still as Frank continues to expand on it, clearly he has this theme close to his own heart. I wonder then if ou might even use this sort of theme in Dune 7? The idea is more about avoiding the "crutch" of technology then the actuall effects of the tech... As Ployboy says this idea of " evaluate and reevaluate all the ramifications of using each specific technology" now that is the really hard one to get into because it clearly means looking at the effect of the technology on your enviroment...

I have just been thinking about this a lot and it seems to me that to do this one would have really consider the use of a CAR for example, or a eco friendly car that is of high cost. I could not give up my car. But I would never own an Iphone! Still, the idea really sits in my head. Thought it might do the same with some of you.
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Re: technopeasantry

Postby SandChigger » 14 Apr 2009 22:51

The dinosaurs lived in harmony with their environment and look how well it worked out for them. :roll:

And speaking of the Duniverse, look how well the limitations on technology worked out for everyone. Getting rid of computers/AI resulted in a transportation monopoly that made it possible to establish and maintain a rigid social system, with the ultimate result that humankind was headed for extinction through stagnation. The Butlerian Jihad was by no means an unequivocally good thing.

All rather much of a muchness, IMHO.

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Re: technopeasantry

Postby Dune Nerd » 14 Apr 2009 23:04

:text-goodpost:

(I am just gonna go with SRs policy for the night)

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Re: technopeasantry

Postby inhuien » 15 Apr 2009 07:19

SandChigger wrote:The dinosaurs lived in harmony with their environment and look how well it worked out for them. :roll:.

Their environment changed, for which I for one am glad, or we'd all be speaking Lizard (Hail to our ever lasting Overlords).
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Re: technopeasantry

Postby SwordMaster » 15 Apr 2009 08:59

SandChigger wrote:The dinosaurs lived in harmony with their environment and look how well it worked out for them. :roll:

And speaking of the Duniverse, look how well the limitations on technology worked out for everyone. Getting rid of computers/AI resulted in a transportation monopoly that made it possible to establish and maintain a rigid social system, with the ultimate result that humankind was headed for extinction through stagnation. The Butlerian Jihad was by no means an unequivocally good thing.

All rather much of a muchness, IMHO.


Dude, do you just not like me? Or do you just not agree with this bit of FH's ideas? Or are you mad about me calling you skylock? what is it?

Your Dino comment was a joke right? I know your smart so it has to be a joke. No doubt Dune did not try to say "hey get rid of technology and all will be well"
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Re: technopeasantry

Postby Seraphan » 15 Apr 2009 10:51

SandChigger wrote:The dinosaurs lived in harmony with their environment and look how well it worked out for them. :roll:

Many were extinct and some survived.

SandChigger wrote:And speaking of the Duniverse, look how well the limitations on technology worked out for everyone. Getting rid of computers/AI resulted in a transportation monopoly that made it possible to establish and maintain a rigid social system, with the ultimate result that humankind was headed for extinction through stagnation. The Butlerian Jihad was by no means an unequivocally good thing.

All rather much of a muchness, IMHO.

But the dependency on technology that led to the BJ was taking mankind down the tubes as well.
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Re: technopeasantry

Postby Freakzilla » 15 Apr 2009 17:16

All things in moderation. :wink:

I believe one of FH's messages was that nothing is black and white, good or evil. It depends on how you use it.
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Re: technopeasantry

Postby SandChigger » 15 Apr 2009 19:41

SwordMaster wrote:Dude, do you just not like me?

Haven't reached a definitive final summation on that yet, so nah, it isn't that.

Or do you just not agree with this bit of FH's ideas?

I must say I'm not particularly blown away with this one, no.

Or are you mad about me calling you skylock?

Wouldn't even have thought of it here if you hadn't brought it up.

Seraphan wrote:But the dependency on technology that led to the BJ was taking mankind down the tubes as well.

Maybe. We have only limited information about the Jihad and who caused it and why. And you remember who writes the history books. ;)

Basically the Jihad freed humanity from some degree of control by "men with machines" and replaced it with ... control by men with mutants and machines. ;)

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Re: technopeasantry

Postby Freakzilla » 15 Apr 2009 20:46

As long as we want more than hunting and gathering we will be dependant on technology to some extent, regardless of whether that tech is mechanical or biological.

How many of us would be able to live without our power and water infrastructure?
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Re: technopeasantry

Postby Eyes High » 15 Apr 2009 22:36

Freakzilla wrote:As long as we want more than hunting and gathering we will be dependant on technology to some extent, regardless of whether that tech is mechanical or biological.

How many of us would be able to live without our power and water infrastructure?


How many would even want to try?
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Re: technopeasantry

Postby SandChigger » 16 Apr 2009 02:53

Not me. If civilization falls, I'll go out quietly with it. Let the Brave New World be reclaimed by those stupid enough to hang around.

If some people want to mistransmorphapply "Don't eat anything bigger than your head!" to "Don't use any tool your brain can't digest!" and live by it, become a technopheasant (after all, it is all rather a bit of show, no?), that's fine by me. As long as they don't expect me to live by the same rules.

I will leave behind no issue. From me shall spring no future generations. That's why I feel no compunction whatsoever about tromping around in stomp-ass iron-clad boots and leaving a muthuh of a carbon footprint.

Fuck the Earth. :)

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Re: technopeasantry

Postby chanilover » 16 Apr 2009 04:05

Didn't some dinosaurs evovle into birds, or did I dream that?
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Re: technopeasantry

Postby SandChigger » 16 Apr 2009 05:02

Actually, I caught part of something on Discovery the other night that suggested no, birds aren't the remnant dinosaurs we've been told all these years. Something about divergence of an earlier parallel line? Only caught bits of it, so grain of salt it. ;)

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Re: technopeasantry

Postby Freakzilla » 16 Apr 2009 06:26

Yeah, they didn't evolve from dinosaurs, they ARE dinosaurs.
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