Re-imagining Humane Science, Design and Technology

In response to ecological and social well-being crises


This synthesis is gently offered as a possible input for de-centralized policy-making dialog at community level. The contents and ideas proposed here are intended for use in a formal program approach rooted in the dialogical tradition of problem solving rather than based on a method of imposition of solutions, no matter how well-intentioned. Users of these ideas (be it civil society organizations, government organizations, or funding agencies etc.) must see themselves as interlocutors with community members rather than solution ‘providers’. Program designers and implementers must display acute awareness of their situatedness in the application context and are most useful when playing an empowering role by including the beneficiaries as equal partners, rather than passive recipients of benefits, and whose agency is catalyzed to actively influence the process of envisioning, implementing and maintaining the goal of altering the trajectory of Science, Design and Technology in India. These are thoughtful propositions which take cognizance of the deleterious effects of the dominant development discourse in India which often display a glaring lack of inclusive visioning, disregard of the desire of marginalized communities (excluded by Science, Design and Technology institutions), to be ‘whole beings’ living dignified fulfilling lives, and a proclivity for centralized decision making by a privileged ‘few’ for the ‘betterment’ of the many, regardless of the presumed righteousness or benevolent intent of the intervenors.

These ideas have meaning only when considered, critically debated by, and only then adapted to suit local contexts retaining their pluralities. They are not to be practiced or brought into public affairs through the politics of ‘outsourcing’ responsibility to experts which inevitably leads to oversimplification, the search for big-bang solutions driven by haste, and statistical reduction of human issues essentially dehumanizing our ways and means of relating to our community members.

Farmer, Writer and Environmental Activist Wendell Berry’s views seem vitally pertinent here when he proposes “We can’t hope to solve these problems (emerging from reckless science, design, and technology) without an increase of public awareness and concern. But in an age burdened with “publicity,” we have to be aware also that as issues rise into popularity they rise also into the danger of oversimplification. To speak of this danger is especially necessary in confronting the destructiveness of our relationship to nature, which is the result, in the first place, of gross oversimplification. The “environmental crisis” has happened because the human household or economy is in conflict at almost every point with the household of nature. We have built our household on the assumption that the natural household is simple and can be simply used. We have assumed increasingly over the last five hundred years that nature is merely a supply of “raw materials,” and that we may safely possess those materials merely by taking them. This taking, as our technical means have increased, has involved always less reverence or respect, less gratitude, less local knowledge, and less skill….And so we will be wrong if we attempt to correct what we perceive as “environmental” problems (and others related to an excessively technologically dependent society) without correcting the economic oversimplification that caused them……..most people in the “developed” world, have given proxies to the corporations to produce and provide all of their food, clothing, and shelter. Moreover, they are rapidly increasing their proxies to corporations or governments to provide entertainment, education, child care, care of the sick and the elderly, and many other kinds of “service” that once were carried on informally and inexpensively by individuals or households or communities. Our major economic practice, in short, is to delegate the practice to others. The danger now is that those who are concerned will believe that the solution to the “environmental crisis” can be merely political—that the problems, being large, can be solved by large solutions generated by a few people to whom we will give our proxies to police the economic proxies that we have already given…….The “environmental crisis,” in fact, can be solved only if people, individually and in their communities, recover responsibility for their thoughtlessly given proxies. If people begin the effort to take back into their own power a significant portion of their economic responsibility, then their inevitable first discovery is that the “environmental crisis” is no such thing; it is not a crisis of our environs or surroundings; it is a crisis of our lives as individuals, as family members, as community members, and as citizens. We have an “environmental crisis” because we have consented to an economy in which by eating, drinking, working, resting, traveling, and enjoying ourselves we are destroying the natural world.”


Avoiding ‘false binaries’ of ‘for-progress vs. against-progress’, ‘for growth vs. against growth’

Economist E.F. Schumacher offers an incisive deconstruction of these false binaries that often muzzle debate and seek to circumvent the hard work of re-directing science, design, and technology trajectories. “On the one side, I see the people who think they can cope with our threefold (social, ecological and cultural crisis) by the methods current, only more so; I call them the people of the forward stampede. On the other side, there are people in search of a new life-style, who seek to return to certain basic truths about man and his world; I call them home-comers. Let us admit that the people of the forward stampede, like the devil, have all the best tunes or at least the most popular and familiar tunes. You cannot stand still, they say; standing still means going down; you must go forward; there is nothing wrong with modem technology except that it is as yet incomplete; let us complete it. "More, further, quicker, richer, are the watchwords, we must help people to adapt, "for there is no alternative." This is the authentic voice of the forward stampede… If people start protesting and revolting, we shall have to have more pólice and have them better equipped. If there is trouble with the environment, we shall need more stringent laws against pollution, and faster economic growth to pay for antipollution measures. If there are problems about natural resources, we shall tum to synthetics…there are no insoluble problems…a breakthrough a day keeps the crisis at bay." And what about the other side? This is made up of people who are deeply convinced that technological development has taken a wrong tum and needs to be redirected….It would be very superficial to say that the latter believe in "growth" while the former do not. In a sense, everybody believes in growth, and rightly so, because growth is an essential feature of life. The whole point, however, is to give to the idea of growth a qualitative determination; for there are always many things that ought to be growing and many things that ought to be diminishing.

Equally, it would be very superficial to say that the home-comers do not believe in progress, which also can be said to be an essential feature of all life. The whole point is to determine what constitutes progress. And the homecomers believe that the direction which modem technology has taken and is continuing to pursue—towards ever-greater size, ever-higher speeds, and ever-increased violence, in defiance of all laws of natural harmony—is the opposite of progress”. Calling out for a radical reform, “to give a new direction to technological development, a direction that shall lead it back to the real needs of man, and that also means: to the actual size of man. Man is small, and, therefore, small is beautiful. To go for giantism is to go for self-destruction. We must instead redirect science and technology so that it serves man instead of destroying him”.


1. Science, Design, and Technology are mere means. They must be harnessed, and held in ‘check’ to serve social purposes.

Unfettered pursuit of Science, Design, and Technology by impatient, over-confident cultures fixated by short-termism, are dangerous for all life forms when: embraced as ends in themselves, exploited for short-term human gratifications, or when pursued as social fetishes.

Since they, as all devices, are essentially vacant of intrinsic purpose, it is for human societies to assign to them, a ‘purpose’. It is for us, as creators of these systems and artifacts, to determine the ‘ends’ they must serve. Hence, a discourse about reorientation on Science, Design, and Technology cannot deal with ‘mean’ and ‘ends’ reductively and separately. It cannot proceed in ignorance of their mutuality, nor discount the implicit relative hierarchy of the ‘ends’ (which are of primary importance) and then ‘means’ which must follow once the ‘ends’ are collectively clarified through inclusive, participatory, democratic processes rooted in equality and dignity of all human beings and their communities, who are in turn enmeshed in regenerative life-affirming relationships with our commons, our ecology.

1.1 Its orientation

E.F. Schumacher posits that the direction of scientific research needs the most careful consideration. Contrary to common sense however, we cannot leave this to the scientists alone.  As Einstein himself said "almost all scientists are economically completely dependent" and "the number of scientists who possess a sense of social responsibility is so small" that they cannot determine the direction of research.

A civilization, once its and committed to sustained health, harmony, and well-being of all life forms, and when confronted with the definitive pervasive social and ecological crises that now dominate our private and public lives, has the blessing of its Science, Design, and Technology aspirations being distilled to essentially one profound mission: to orient scientific research and technology development towards, in the words of Schumacher: “non-violence rather than violence; towards an harmonious cooperation with nature rather than a warfare against nature; towards the noiseless, low-energy, elegant, and economical solutions normally applied in nature rather than the noisy, high-energy, brutal, wasteful, and clumsy solutions of our present-day sciences”. The continuation of scientific advancement in the direction of ever-increasing violence, taking us to the precipice of climate collapse, and culminating in nuclear disasters, “is a prospect of terror threatening the abolition of man”.

Wendell Berry expresses “I am not “against technology” so much as I am for community. When the choice is between the health of a community and technological innovation, I choose the health of the community. I would unhesitatingly destroy a machine before I would allow the machine to destroy my community.”

Suppose it becomes the acknowledged purpose of inventors and engineers, observed Aldous Huxley, to provide ordinary people with the means of "doing profitable and intrinsically significant work, of helping men and women to achieve independence from bosses, so that they may become their own employers, or members of a self-governing, cooperative group working for subsistence and a local market . . . this differently orientated technological progress [would result in] a progressive decentralization of population, of accessibility of land, of ownership of the means of production, of political and economic power. Other advantages, said Huxley, would be "a more humanly satisfying life for more people, a greater measure of genuine self-governing democracy and a blessed freedom from the silly or pernicious adult education provided by the mass producers of consumer goods through the medium of advertisements.

1.2 Its scale

It can only be safe if it emulates the size and scale of its creators. We being small on the cosmic scale, our timespan being infinitesimal on the earthly scale, and our intelligence being finite, can only be trusted with technology that is in proportion to these limits; a recognition that can only be repudiated by megalomaniacal thinking. 

Schumacher posits “technology, although of course the product of man, tends to develop by its own laws and principles, and these are very different from those of human nature or of living nature in general. Nature knows where and when to stop, greater even than the mystery of natural growth is the mystery of the natural cessation of growth. There is measure in all natural things—in their size, speed, or violence. As a result, the system of nature, of which man is a part, tends to be self-balancing, self-adjusting, self-cleansing, Not so with man dominated by technology and specialization. Technology recognizes no self-limiting principle—in terms, for instance, of size, speed, or violence. It therefore does not possess the virtues of being self-balancing, self-adjusting, and self-cleansing”. If a people’s enslave the science, design and technology to the master of single-minded pursuit of wealth and economic growth, then such a civilization must necessarily run into decisive bottlenecks when viewed from the point of view of the source of all life, our ecological cycles and the regenerative capacity of our commons. An endeavor in which science is made to serve the goals of uninhibited materialism is incompatible with this world, because such a anthropocentric program of contains within itself no limiting principle, while the environment in which it is placed is strictly limited.

Furthermore, Schumacher states  “Small-scale operations, no matter how numerous, are always less likely to be harmful to the natural environment than large-scale ones, simply because their individual force is small in relation to the recuperative forces of nature. There is wisdom in smallness if only on account of the smallness and patchiness of human knowledge, which relies on experiment far more than on understanding. The greatest danger invariably arises from the ruthless application, on a vast scale, of partial knowledge such as we are currently witnessing in the application of nuclear energy, of the new chemistry in agriculture, of transportation technology, and countless other things. The third requirement is perhaps the most important of all—that methods and equipment should be such as to leave ample room for human creativity…what becomes of man if the process of production "takes away from work any hint of humanity, making of it a merely mechanical activity"? The worker himself is turned into a perversion of a free being.”

1.3 Its tone

​​​​​​​Wendell Berry suggests that Industrial technology “built according to the single standard of productivity, has dealt with nature, has dealt with nature, including human nature, in the manner of a monologist or an orator. It has not asked for anything, or waited to hear any response. It has told nature what it wanted, and in various clever ways has taken what it wanted. And since it proposed no limit on its wants, exhaustion has been its inevitable and foreseeable result. This, clearly, is a dictatorial or totalitarian form of behavior, and it is as totalitarian in its use of people as it is in its use of nature. Its connections to the world and to humans and other creatures become more and more abstract, at its economy, its authority, and its power become more and more centralized.

On the other hand, a more humane manifestation of science and technology, using nature, including human nature, as its measure would approach the world in the manner of a conversationalist. It would not impose its vision and its demands upon a world that it conceives of as a stockpile of raw material, inert and indifferent to any use that may be made of it. It would not proceed directly or soon to some supposedly ideal state of things. It would proceed directly and soon to serious thought about our condition and our predicament”. We would ‘consult the genius of the place’, we would ask what nature would be doing there if no one were there. We would ask what nature would permit us to do there, and what we could do there with the least harm to the place, and to our natural and human neighbors. And we would ask what nature would help us to do there. And after each asking, knowing that nature will respond, we would attend carefully to her response.​​​​​​​

1.4 Its governance

Its governance must be within the control of citizens and communities that permit its proliferation, and the dominance of the military-industrial complex and other opaque supra-national institutions in their functioning must be radically dismantled. 

Wendell Berry observes: “There is a sort of scientific faith that is legitimate….But under various suasions of profession and personality, this legitimate faith in scientific methodology seems to veer off into a kind of religious faith in the power of science to know all things and solve all problems, whereupon the scientist may become an evangelist and go forth to save the world. This religification and evangelizing of science, in defiance of scientific principles, is now commonplace and is widely accepted or tolerated by people who are not scientists. We really seem to have conceded to scientists, to the extent of their own regrettable willingness to occupy it, the place once occupied by the prophets and priests of religion. This can have happened only because of a general abdication of our responsibility to be critical and, above all, self-critical. Why is there not a robust, profoundly questioning criticism of science within the scientific disciplines? One reason, I assume, is that such selfcriticism, especially in public, would be considered “unprofessional.” Another reason is that the modern sciences, working always in such proximity to “application,” are simply too lucrative or too potentially lucrative to be self-critical. The professions increasingly have adopted the standards and thought patterns of business: If you’re making money, what can be wrong?”

During the period in our civilizational history when pure science predominated scientific enquiry: “at that time, maybe, one could reasonably suppose that “pure” science, safely withdrawn from application, might by its own processes of experimentation and proof more or less automatically correct itself. By now we know that the applied sciences are subject to no such corrective. The scale of experimentation has become too greatly enlarged, for now science may be said to be conducting many of its experiments on the scale of the world. Among the results are Chernobyl, the ozone hole, the acceleration of species extinction, climate change, and universal pollution…..I know that there are some scientists who are speaking and writing sound criticism of science or of scientific abuses of science, but these people seem to have the status of dissidents or heretics; they are not accepted as partners in a necessary dialogue. Typically, their criticisms and objections are not even answered. (If you are making money and have power, why debate?) In short, the scientific critics of science are not effective. That there has been no effective criticism of science is demonstrated, for instance, by science’s failure to attend to the possibility of small-scale or cheap or low-energy or ecologically benign technologies. Most applications of science to our problems result in large payments to large corporations and in damages to ecosystems and communities.”

Elsewhere, Berry remarks “scientists work with everybody’s proxy, whether or not that proxy has been given. A good many people, presumably, would have chosen to “stay out of the nuclei (i.e. pursue nuclear power)” but that was a choice they did not have. When a few scientists decided to go in, they decided for everybody. This “freedom of scientific inquiry” was immediately transformed into the freedom of corporate and/or governmental exploitation. And so the freedom of the originators and exploiters has become, in effect, the abduction and imprisonment of all the rest of us.”


2. Some principles: modernity’s problems are not the consequences of incidental failure of it technology but of it technological success.

A pause: science, design and technology discourse which is contemptuous of ‘limits’ on human potential for scientific and technical innovation often refer to the infinite resources that are truly available to us if only we unrelentingly ‘expand our horizons’ – into the renewable realm, the nuclear realm, the space realm etc.  To that swaggering interpretation of mankind’s potential and capabilities, Wendell Berry’s remarks are illuminating: “By our abuse of our finite sources, our lives and all life are already in danger. What might we bring into danger by the abuse of “infinite” sources?”

2.1 No ‘problem shifting’

Scientific and technological institutions are chronically compelled by entrenched power structures in our economy to demonstrate success in ‘solving’ a problem by merely displacing the root cause to other ‘worlds’, other geographies, or to other generations; something which a fragmented economy, adept at ‘externalizing’ dependencies and consequences, and an atomized, individualized society with diminished economic and political agency readily assimilates. Politically passive consumer-societies rapidly reorganize their mental construct to accommodate this questionable scaffolding and is trained into submissively legitimizing it with little hope for an authentic resistance to this ‘deception’. For instance, a normalized practice of waste-management in most urban areas is transporting and dumping of its waste to a region outside city limits with whom it might setup arrangements for ‘sanitary landfilling’. The city’s waste management apparatus, buttressed by scientific authority, can claim victory over city waste management concerns. Yet, the ‘problem’ of waste has been left safely intact. The same applies to our general political consensus around nuclear power; shifting its problems to leave a grotesque inheritance for future generations, or outsourcing of industrial production, power generation, resource extraction by colonizing governments to poorer regions and marginalized communities, either within the country or globally, that are easier to exploit.

Wendell Berry remarks “To the problems of our time, there appear to be three kinds of solutions. There is, first, the solution that causes a ramifying series of new problems, the only limiting criterion being, apparently, that the new problems should arise beyond the purview of the expertise that produced the solution—as, in agriculture, industrial solutions to the problem of production have invariably caused problems of maintenance, conservation, economics, community health, etc., etc. The second kind of solution is that which immediately worsens the problem it is intended to solve, causing a hellish symbiosis in which problem and solution reciprocally enlarge each other in a sequence that, so far as its own logic is concerned, is limitless—as when the problem of soil compaction is “solved” by a bigger tractor, which further compacts the soil, which makes a need for a still bigger tractor, and so on and on. These two kinds of solutions are obviously bad. Such solutions always involve a definition of the problem that is either false or so narrow as to be virtually false. To define an agricultural problem as if it were solely a problem of agriculture—or solely a problem of production or technology or economics—is simply to misunderstand the problem, either inadvertently or deliberately, either for profit or because of a prevalent fashion of thought. The whole problem must be solved, not just some handily identifiable and simplifiable aspect of it. Both kinds of bad solutions leave their problems unsolved. Bigger tractors do not solve the problem of soil compaction any more than air conditioners solve the problem of air pollution. A real solution to that problem will therefore be ecologically, agriculturally, and culturally healthful. Perhaps it is not until health is set down as the aim that we come in sight of the third kind of solution: that which causes a ramifying series of solution.”

Addressing our cultural tendencies to glorify ‘hard measures’ in the present, or exceptional suffering for the already oppressed, in service to a shimmering ‘future’ which will arrive as a mark of the triumph of science and technology; Wendell Berry astutely observes “The higher aims of “technological progress” are money and ease.  And this exalted greed for money and ease is disguised and justified by an obscure, cultish faith in “the future.”  We do as we do, we say, “for the sake of the future” or “to make a better future for our children.”  How we can hope to make a good future by doing badly in the present, we do not say.  We cannot think about the future, of course, for the future does not exist:  the existence of the future is an article of faith.  We can be assured only that, if there is to be a future, the good of it is already implicit in the good things of the present.  We do not need to plan or devise a “world of the future”; if we take care of the world of the present, the future will have received full justice from us.  A good future is implicit in the soils, forests, grasslands, marshes, deserts, mountains, rivers, lakes, and oceans that we have now, and in the good things of human culture that we have now; the only valid “futurology” available to us is to take care of those things.”

2.2 Harmonious patterns

According to Wendell Berry “A bad solution is bad, then, because it acts destructively upon the larger patterns in which it is contained. It acts destructively upon those patterns, most likely, because it is formed in ignorance or disregard of them. A bad solution solves for a single purpose or goal, such as increased production. And it is typical of such solutions that they achieve stupendous increases in production at exorbitant biological and social costs. A good solution is good because it is in harmony with those larger patterns —and this harmony will, I think, be found to have the nature of analogy. A bad solution acts within the larger pattern the way a disease or addiction acts within the body. A good solution acts within the larger pattern the way a healthy organ acts within the body”.

2.3 Dignity of labor: wholesome, creative work for all

In speaking of the unopposed strident ‘march’ of technology for technology’s sake, or for maximizing corporate profit by cutting labor costs, Schumacher and Wendell Berry provide guidance about setting decision making criteria for communities to safely and deliberately integrate technology into the local economies. They resoundingly repudiate the widely propagated inevitability and merits of reducing labor intensive functions in society.

Schumacher remarks “The type of work which modem technology is most successful in reducing or even eliminating is skilful, productive work of human hands, in touch with real materials of one kind or another. In an advanced industrial society, such work has become exceedingly rare, and to make a decent living by doing such work has become virtually impossible. A great part of the modem neurosis may be due to this very fact; for the human being, enjoys nothing more than to be creatively, usefully, productively engaged with both his hands and his brains. Today, a person has to be wealthy to be able to enjoy this simple thing, this very great luxury: he has to be able to afford space and good tools; he has to be lucky enough to find a good teacher and plenty of free time to learn and practice. He really has to be rich enough not to need a Job; for the number of jobs that would be satisfactory in these respects is very small indeed. We may say, therefore, that modern technology has deprived man of the kind of work that he enjoys most, Creative, useful work with hands and brains, and given him plenty of work of a fragmented kind, most of which he does not enjoy at all. It has multiplied the number of people who are exceedingly busy doing kinds of work which, if it is productive at all, is so only in an indirect or “roundabout way”

Wendell Berry avers that “Technological development’s most identifiable consequence has been the precipitation of mass unemployment, at community scale. It is often directed towards labor saving. Lets understand this a little bit further: we have allowed labor saving to be defined for us by corporations and the specialists in their employment, as if it involved no human considerations; as if the labor to be saved were not human labor. We decided, under the influence of some experts, to look on technology as a substitute for labor. Which means that we did not intend to ‘save’ labor at all, but to replace it, and to displace the people who once supplied it. We never asked what should be done with the ‘saved’ labor. We never asked the question of what values we should place on people and their development and fulfillment of potentialities that occurs when people pursue wholesome, meaningful work. It appears that we abandoned ourselves unquestionably to a course of technological evolution, which would value development of machines far above the development of people.

In thinking of technology, we must accept certain mechanical and economic limits. Technological refinement must be motivated not to displace workers and decrease care and skill, but to intensify production, improve maintenance, increase care and skill, an widen the margins of leisure, pleasure and community life. By limiting technology to a human or democratic scale, we can used the saved labor in the same places where we saved it.

The rule-of-thumb definition of a good tool: one that makes it possible to work faster and better than before, does not go far enough. Even such a tool can cause bad results if its use is not directed by a benign and healthy social purpose. People must choose between two possibilities – to become more intensive or more extensive; to use the tool for quality or quantity, for care or for speed.

2.4 Not mass-production technology, but technology to help the ‘masses’ become producers

In ‘Small is Beautiful’, E.F. Schumacher presents Gandhi’s view that “the poor of the world cannot be helped by mass production, only by production by the masses. The system of mass production, based on sophisticated, highly capital-intensive, high energy-input dependent, and human labor-saving technology, presupposes that you are already rich, for a great deal of capital investment is needed to establish one single workplace. The system of production by the masses mobilizes the priceless resources which are possessed by all human beings, their clever brains and skillful hands, and supports them with first-class tools. The technology of mass production is inherently violent, ecologically damaging, self-defeating in terms of non-renewable resources, and stultifying for the human person. The technology of production by the masses, making use of the best of modern knowledge and experience, is conducive to decentralization, compatible with the laws of ecology, gentle in its use of scarce resources, and designed to serve the human person instead of making him the servant of machines. I have named it intermediate technology to signify that it is vastly superior to the primitive technology of bygone ages but at the same time much simpler, cheaper, and freer than the super-technology of the rich. One can also call it self-help technology, or democratic or people*s technology— technology to which everybody can gain admittance and which is not reserved to those already rich and powerful.”


2.5 Balance between mechanical and biological aspects of technology; the principle of ‘return’

Wendell Berry suggests “We have two means of bringing energy to use: by living things (plants, animals, our own bodies) and by tools (machines, energy-harnesses). For the use

of these we have skills or techniques. All three together comprise our technology. Technology joins us to energy, to life. It is not, as many technologists would have us believe, a simple connection. Our technology is the practical aspect of our culture. By it we enact our morality, or our lack of it. The ideal seems to be that the living part of our technology should not be devalued or overpowered by the mechanical. Because the biological limits are probably narrower than the mechanical, this calls for restraint on the proliferation of machines.

At some point in history the balance between life and machinery was overthrown. I think this began to happen when people began to desire long-term stores or supplies of energy—that is, when they began to think of energy as volume as well as force—and when machines ceased to enhance or elaborate skill and began to replace it…….The moral order by which we use machine-derived energy is comparatively simple. Whatever uses this sort of energy works simply as a conduit that carries it beyond use: the energy goes in as “fuel” and comes out as “waste.” This principle sustains a highly simplified economy having only two functions: production and consumption. The moral order appropriate to the use of biological energy, on the other hand, requires the addition of a third term: production, consumption, and return. It is the principle of return that complicates matters, for it requires responsibility, care, of a different and higher order than that required by production and consumption alone, and it calls for methods and economies of a different kind”. When these two aspects of a technological system are in balance, “they do not consume in the sense of using up. They do not produce waste. What they take in they change, but they change it always into a form necessary for its use by a living body of another kind. And this exchange goes on and on, round and round, the Wheel of Life…”.


3. Criterion for Appropriate Technology

Wendell Berry’s criteria for appropriate technology

  1. The new technology should be cheaper than the one it replaces.
  2. It should be at least as small in scale as the one it replaces.
  3. It should do work that is clearly and demonstrably better than the one it replaces.
  4. It should use less energy than the one it replaces.
  5. If possible, it should use some form of solar energy, such as that of the body.
  6. It should be repairable by a person of ordinary intelligence, provided that he or she has the necessary tools.
  7. It should be purchasable and repairable as near to home as possible.
  8. It should come from a small, privately owned shop or store that will take it back for maintenance and repair.
  9. It should not replace or disrupt anything good that already exists, and this includes family and community relationships.
  10. A good technology accepts given limits, using so far as possible what is at hand. The farther-fetched the solution, the less it should be trusted.
  11. A good technology accepts also the limitation of discipline. Agricultural problems should receive solutions that are agricultural, not technological or economic.
  12. A good technology solves more than one problem, and it does not make new problems.
  13. Good technologies have wide margins, so that the failure of one solution does not imply the impossibility of another.
  14. A good technology always answers the question, How much is enough? Industrial solutions have always rested on the assumption that enough is all you can get.
  15. A good technology is usually cheap, and it should not enrich one person by the distress or impoverishment of another.
  16. Good technologies exist only in proof, and are not to be expected from absentee owners or absentee experts. Problems must be solved in work and in place, with particular knowledge, fidelity, and care, by people who will suffer the consequences of their mistakes.

E.F. Schumacher’s criteria for appropriate technology

  1. Technology-oriented workplaces have to be created in the áreas where the people are living now, and not primarily in metropolitan áreas into which they tend to migrate.
  2. These workplaces must be, on average, cheap enough so that they can be created in large numbers without this calling for an unattainable level of capital formation and imports
  3. The production methods employed must be relatively simple, so that the demands for high skills are minimized, not only in the production process itself but also in matters of organization, raw material supply, financing, marketing, and so forth.
  4. Production should be mainly from local materials and mainly for local use
  5. Intermediate technology will be "labour-intensive" and will lend itself to use in small-scale establishments. But neither "labour-intensity” “nor "small-scale" implies "intermediate technology."
  6. The intermediate technology would also fit much more smoothly into the relatively unsophisticated environment in which it is to be utilized. The equipment would be fairly simple and therefore understandable, suitable for maintenance and repair on the spot. Simple equipment is normally far less dependent on raw materials of great purity or exact specifications and much more adaptable to market fluctuations than highly sophisticated equipment. Men are more easily trained; supervision, control, and organization are simpler; and there is far less vulnerability to unforeseen difficulties.

cBalance’s criteria for appropriate technology

  1. avoiding technological utopianism (solving problems that don’t exist)
  2. basis technology choices on life-cycle impacts of technology across the biosphere
  3. its need must be justified throughs it rooting in understanding the historicity of problems, addressing the cause and not prescribing medicines that attempt to solve the problem with the ‘now’ as the starting point
  4. should not constitute ‘cultural invasion’ by the elite into the private and collective lives of non-elites
  5. must practice patience in an emergency, and rigorously study the problem an the proposed solution to avoid unintended consequences
  6. must promote local economy (not national, but local)
  7. peoples who must use a specific technology at a specific intersection of their history, must be able to opt out or reject it and be provided the enabling environment to exercise the agency of saying ‘no’ to the ‘development’ agenda.
  8. should not promote further atomization and de-politicising collective problems through private solutions
  9. should not be predicated on planned obsolescence or perceived obsolescence concepts
  10.  should not be ‘advertised’ as a solution for the human condition or elevator of human experience
  11.  should not be the result of the enclosure of commons or creation of intellectual property.
  12. resource use by technology should not constitute ‘data as property’ eg. energy used by a machine cannot be a piece of protected data


4. Pedagogy of Technology

  1. Must be taught through head, heart, hands approach, rooting it in the humanities and empathy for the peoples, communities, and ecology in the specific place where the teaching is occurring
  2. Technological education process must actually addresses a relevant community need
  3. The process must be learning centric
  4. Must promote slow observation of the problem over extensive time period (permaculture principles).