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NO-TECH: sometimes it can be wasteful

Technology is a double-edged sword but some of it has improved my life so much that I wouldn’t want to be without it.

Most of you are probably quite fond of high-tech stuff as well and some of you may even be playing with some as you read this, but my favourite developments have nothing to do with the internet, smart phones or communications.

Yes, I used a cell phone to run my business in Francistown and I still use email to file this column, but my favourite advances are the ones that allowed surgeons to put a fake disc in my back.

Without those incredibly complex procedures, tools and instruments, I would be living a much less active life.

The reason I’ve decided to write on this topic today, however, is because I heard a storylast week that I would like to share about a much less complicated kind of technology.

When an old man in a small villagewas askedto identify his favourite technological development, he came up with something that has been around for 125 years. It was avacuum flask.

His reasoning was that before he got one, he had to keep a fire going all day long to boil water for tea, but after he got his thermos he just needed to boil water once.

It saved time and work, and it allowed him to go into the bush or visit friends far from home and still have a hot drink when he wanted one.

The low-tech addition also cut back on the amount of wood he and other villagers with flasks had to burn and it didn’t carry any obvious threats to the environment or anything else.

I like that. It should be noted, however, that doesn’t mean simple developments always improve our lives.They can be double edged swords as well.

I’m reminded of another story that came from a village near Tonota. When a woman who worked in that town had saved enough money, she decided to pay for a water line to be laid to her 70-year-old mother’s home so she wouldn’t need to carry water from the village well.

It was a well-intended gesture and it took the daughter years of saving to pull it off, but after using her tap for a few days, the mother went back to carrying buckets from the well.

There was nothing wrong with the piped water, it was just that the old lady didn’t see going to the well as hard work.

She saw it as a chance to meet and talk to her neighbours and she got lonely when she didn’t go.

I find these stories very interesting because in the first case the old man liked his flask because it allowed him to visit friends, and in the second the old lady didn’t like her waterline because it made her social life worse.

The point I’m hoping to make is that both low-tech and high-tech advances can be good.

The trick is to limit their use to areas where they improve our lives and not let them get in the way of face-to-face contact with other people.