Wendell Berry’s Standards for Technological Innovation

by Wendell Berry

This piece was originally published in Perspectives in Bioregional Education, edited by Frank Traina and Susan Darley-Hill, North American Association for Environmental Education, copyright 1995.

  1. The new tool 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.

Source: “Why I Am Not Going to Buy a Computer” from What Are People For?, Wendell Berry, North Point Press, 1990.

Wendell Berry (b. 1934) is a writer, activist, and farmer. Born to fifth-generation Kentucky farmers, he bought his own homestead in 1965, where he still lives. He published his first book in 1960 and has published many books of nonfiction, fiction, and poetry since, much of it dealing with the importance of connection to place. He’s participated in activism movements dealing with issues ranging from peace to environmentalism to farmer’s rights from the 1960s to the present day. His many awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship and a National Humanities Medal.

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