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This segment of this series is an exercise. The reader should think of all the ways they use technology in their daily lives. Just listing them is a useful exercise, and looking up a little about each one on wikipedia makes it that much more enlightening. So here's mine.

I wake up and I'm in a bed. It's comfortable and clean. There aren't any rats running across me or fleas sleeping with me. I have pillows, sheets, and nice blankets. I think about the history of the bed. I don't know that much about it, but I remember Heidi sleeping on straw piled under a thick cloth in the story. The unglazed window was open over her head so that she could see the stars. I bet that was an extremely cold and uncomfortable bedroom, up on that mountain, even though it sounded lovely in the story when I was a child. I'm so grateful for my soft comfortable bed, for the textiles that make it up, made in mills all over the world, and for the cleanliness of the linens. Already I can write paeans about all these things. Better move on.

I get up and bathe. The water is clean and filtered, and has chlorine to kill bacteria, and fluoridation so that when I drink it I get strong, sound teeth. I grew up before fluoridation was a thing, and when I open my mouth, you see fillings all around it. I had the typical one or two cavities per year as a kid for 10 years or so when I was growing up, ending up with a mouth full of fillings. Scientists noticed that in places with a little more fluoride in the water naturally, people grew up with zero cavities, or maybe one for their whole lives. I'm so grateful now that we all get this incredibly important benefit, in my city. Also, bathing frequently lets me not get all kinds of gross and painful skin diseases that people in other parts of the world commonly get. The water is warm from the hot water heater downstairs. It's lovely to relax and luxuriate in the bath. I worked in water and wastewater as an engineer, and to me those two things are the very most important areas of technology we have. Plumbing is the jewel in the crown of western technological civilization. I've written poems of praise for plumbing.

Of plumbing, sweet paeans I sing,
Above lights, heat, and telephone's ring,
Even garbage pickup
Can't hold a stick up
To the joys indoor toilets can bring.

I can see this exercise is going to take a long time. There's just so much to cover. I'll just hit a few of the high points from here on out. The rest is left as an exercise for the reader.

I dress and put the kettle on for a pot of tea. The whole natural gas utility, which I've also done work for, comes into giving me a nice stove top for that. My house is a comfortable temperature inside despite the cold outside. I have glazed windows that give me a beautiful view of my deck and woods. Glass making has a long history and is a fascinating art. The roof of the house doesn't have to be rethatched every year due to superior materials and techniques. I'm so lucky. It's dry inside (mostly).

I make an egg and toast for breakfast. Here we have great stainless steel copper bottom pans, a toaster oven I bought in college for $20 that has lasted for 30 something years. My fridge which keeps my food cold so that it doesn't rot. Refrigeration technology has a whole interesting history. I have a furnace that keeps my house warm and comfortable. Having a hearth with a fire burning is lots more dangerous, lots less comfortable, and more smoky and bad for your lungs, and a lot harder to cook well on. And even that is far superior to a campfire. A dishwasher sterilizes the lovely, inexpensive dishes. Only very wealthy people had dishes and silverware in medieval times.

The food is grown, shipped, and stocked in my local store through all kinds of technology in the agriculture business, the transportation sector, and retail sales. The cheapness of all this stuff is much of the miracle. We're able to afford so much that even the most wealthy in the time of the Egyptian Pharoahs didn't have! I glance at the clock on the wall and realize I need to get going. Timekeeping technology transformed human life. It has a long and storied history.

I get in my car and drive to a doctor appointment. We'll skip over the automotive industry entirely and talk about doctors. Our health care infrastructure comes into play here. The fact that doctors can actually have some clue what's wrong with you and maybe even be able to fix it is a testament to a great swath of technology in that sector. In the 19th c. they would come and bleed you, maybe, or decide your humors were out of balance, but they really could fix almost nothing. We're so lucky, those of us who have access to good health care. It's a right we need to extend to everyone as soon as possible.

I can go on and on, of course. There's not any part of my life that hasn't been transformed for the better by technology. From the time one of our ancestors picked up a stick to whack a prey animal with, or a rock to throw, we've made tools of increasing complexity and sophistication which have helped us to survive and thrive as a species.

There are obviously problems, too. We're changing the planet in ways that we can't seem to stop. Many humans don't have access to the life saving and life extending benefits of technology. All these things are vital for humanity to address, but we can't address them properly until we understand how they work and how we benefit. We can't make the best choices if we're just so unaware. So learning more is the first and maybe the most important step.

How do you use technology in your life? In what ways would even more tech be helpful to you? How about less? What do you think about the Amish, who use only a certain level of technology but no more? Is that a good idea? How do we decide what is the right level? Can we choose not to use technology if we judge that it doesn't enhance our lives? Can we just turn off the TV? Have you ever tried it for a while? What's your experience?

We go camping to get back to the basics, which is fun. In what ways do we take technology with us when we camp? In what ways do we abandon it? Wilderness survival skills are kind of cool. I used to read about them a lot. Every book I read, though, assumed you had a modern steel hunting knife along. They thought we should keep them with us at all times, even on planes, in case of a plane wreck in a remote location. That's not acceptable since 9/11. Is survivalism a good idea? Could we live with no technology at all, starting with sticks and rocks? Would we know what to do? If civilization fell completely, how much of it would you be able to reconstruct personally from what you know?
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June 2015

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