Schumacher uses an exercise in basic math to show that technology has allowed us to reduce the time spent on actual production of goods to such a tiny amount that it becomes insignificant. The prestige of being a producer, as a consequence, has greatly diminished. If we can rethink efficiency, says Schumacher, and increase the hours and workers involved in production, we could have enough time to “make a really good job of it, to enjoy oneself, to produce real quality, even to make things beautiful.”
For a young craftsman seeking encouragement in following a different path, these were powerful words.
Schumacher’s aim was to help developing nations by providing aid that employed the greatest number of people. For example, when a combine harvester is provided to a community that harvests grain with scythes, one man will be given the job of operating the machine while all the rest would be put out of work. Schumacher argued for an intermediate technology that would increase production and allow more people to enjoy meaningful employment. Although his use of the term “intermediate technology” was exclusively aimed at the developing world, his writings suggest that he felt an equal need for this concept to be applied to the developed world.
I, too, have felt the need to question the direction that technology is taking us – to take a stand against the ever-increasing use of machines (especially of robotics) that are designed to remove humans from creative and productive work.
–Harry Bryan, excerpt from “Intermediate Technology in the Shop: Inspiration from E.F. Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful,” in Issue Eight