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Limits to Technology: Explore the Ecological Boundaries of the Information Age!

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  • Paul Mobbs
    ... Hash: SHA256 New Free Range Network workshop -- now on-line! Limits to Technology: Explore the Ecological Boundaries of the Information Age! Workshop index
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 1, 2010
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      New Free Range Network workshop -- now on-line!

      Limits to Technology:
      Explore the Ecological Boundaries of the Information Age!


      Workshop index --
      http://www.fraw.org.uk/workshops/limits_to_technology/index.shtml
      information about the new workshop and its related resources

      Workshop virtual presentation --
      http://www.fraw.org.uk/workshops/limits_to_technology/virtual_presentation.shtml
      the on-line version of the presentation, allowing you to navigate through the
      slides, read a summary of what each slide is about, and access the original
      source material and related information on the topics covered;

      Annotated slide pack --
      http://www.fraw.org.uk/publications/projects/limits_to_tech-
      annotated_slides-2011.pdf
      a PDF of the slides, with the text of the virtual presentation, and clickable
      links to all the resources accessible from the virtual presentation.


      Limits to Technology examines the role of resource depletion and the
      ecological limits to human society's future use of "technological systems" --
      a broad term covering not only our use of computers and mobile technologies,
      but also the electronics, metals and chemical components of everyday goods and
      products, and the latest "green technologies". Like the human system in
      general, our use of technology is subject to certain resource specific limits;
      by understanding these limits, and how they affect us all, we can address our
      minds to devising new ways to live our lives in an inevitably more resource-
      constrained future.

      Much of the debate about environmental capacity relates to issues such as
      climate change, or peak oil. In reality the whole issue of human ecology, or
      the related study of economic anthropology, throws up many more issues related
      to the capcity of the Earth to support the continued demands of the human
      species. Most importantly, the issue of complexity.

      Each increase in technological sophistication in turn generates the emergence
      of new and increasingly complex patterns of activity in society. The difficulty
      is that each increase in complexity also brings with it the potential for
      increasing instability due to the over-dependence upon disparate resources,
      and the need to co-ordinate the production and transport of these resources
      over longer distances. Therefore, whilst society might worry about the "big"
      problems such as fuel prices or climate change, what may ultimately create the
      greatest insecurity within our technologyically developed exitence is the
      availability and supply of seemingly innocuous commodities, such as certain
      rare metals which infuse much of the gadgetry around us.

      Ultimately, the aim of the workshop is to allow people to stand back and look
      at society not as a collection of 'objects', but as a network of related
      systems -- and how the resource dimension affects those systems. it doesn't
      matter whether it's a stone hand axe or a mobile phone, human society exists
      in a particular form due to the tools we manufacture to make our lives easier.
      However, as those tools have become ore complex, so the systems that support
      them have increased in complexity too. Undertanding these relationships, and
      planning to adopt alternative options to support ourselves if those systems
      become problematic to sustain, is our best way of creating a more resilient
      and sustainable pattern within the operation of modern society.

      Modern technology is just "there" -- whether you use it or choose not to, and
      irrespective of whether you object to it or not; in affluent societies
      technological systems surrounds us and guide our lives. For this reason they
      are seldom questioned. Given the concepts of economic growth and technological
      progress that dominate the media and political agenda, we don't have time to
      reflect on what the future of technology may be -- often because many people
      have so many difficulties handling the implications of the technologies that
      they must master today.

      In practical terms technological systems are dependent upon the electricity
      grid (much of it stops working in a power cut!) and on the system of retailers
      and service operatives who maintain it. We seldom consider the ecological
      limits of technology; the dependence of human technologies upon the systems,
      and upon the natural resources, that enable it to function. Even with the
      recent concern about carbon emissions, whilst we might focus on the amount of
      electricity all our gadgets use we seldom give a thought to the impacts of
      creating all these systems, and how changing trends in energy and resource
      production might adversely affect our continued "enjoyment" of modern
      technology.

      "Limits to Technology" has been developed by Paul Mobbs and the Free Range
      Network's 'Salvage Server' Project in order to highlight, and to allow a
      discussion to take place on, the "ecological boundaries" of modern technology.

      Technology is just a tool -- on its own it is neither good not bad. Whether
      technological systems create a future for the better, or the worse, depends
      upon our ability to make them sustainable in the longer-term. Otherwise our
      unseen dependency on these systems has the potential to create a human crisis
      in the future if we cannot sustain their operation. This, given the available
      information on the ecological dependencies of technology, is the question that
      we should all be posing to those who guide our Technological Society today.


      - - --

      "We are not for names, nor men, nor titles of Government,
      nor are we for this party nor against the other but we are
      for justice and mercy and truth and peace and true freedom,
      that these may be exalted in our nation, and that goodness,
      righteousness, meekness, temperance, peace and unity with
      God, and with one another, that these things may abound."
      (Edward Burrough, 1659 - from 'Quaker Faith and Practice')

      Paul's book, "Energy Beyond Oil", is out now!
      For details see http://www.fraw.org.uk/ebo/

      Read my message board, "Ecolonomics", at:
      http://www.fraw.org.uk/mei/ecolonomics/

      Paul Mobbs, Mobbs' Environmental Investigations
      3 Grosvenor Road, Banbury OX16 5HN, England
      tel./fax (+44/0)1295 261864
      email - mobbsey@...
      website - http://www.fraw.org.uk/mei/index.shtml
      public key - http://www.fraw.org.uk/mei/mobbsey-2010.asc

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