Wendell Berry’s criteria for appropriate technology
POSTED: October 3, 2016
To make myself as plain as I can, I should give my standards for technological innovation in my own work. They are as follows:
- The new tool should be cheaper than the one it replaces.
- It should be at least as small in scale as the one it replaces.
- It should do work that is clearly and demonstrably better than the one it replaces.
- It should use less energy than the one it replaces.
- If possible, it should use some form of solar energy, such as that of the body.
- It should be repairable by a person of ordinary intelligence, provided that he or she has the necessary tools.
- It should be purchasable and repairable as near to home as possible.
- It should come from a small, privately owned shop or store that will take it back for maintenance and repair.
- It should not replace or disrupt anything good that already exists, and this includes family and community relationships.
Wendell Berry wrote the above at the beginning of an essay that he published in 1987 in Harper’s magazine. He titled the essay Why I Am Not Going To Buy A Computer. You can find a copy of the entire essay, readers’ comments, and Berry’s replies to them here.