OK: Y'all might get on me, but "Retrotopia" ain't my favorite screed delivered by the Archdruid.
Oh, all the thoughts are excellent, and the points that he strives to drive home in each of the posts is valid and thoughtful. But the overall prose and presentation seems a bit forced and stilted. Sorry John-Michael, but you get a C+/B- at best....excellent material, adequate presentation.
Mostly I have been thinking about your idea that the use of technology itself as having diminishing returns. Ehhmmm.........No.
I don't disagree with you that, in the sense which technology has been used in our current social setting emphasizing the capitalist worldview, technology is getting close to being counterproductive.
Done and done
But truthfully, it isn't the technologies themselves that are the problem. It is the Capitalist need for Henry Ford style mass-production and commodification of the technology that is the problem.
Each individual technology is value and cost neutral when sitting by itself. It is how the technology fits into the current politico-economic system, is picked up by capital and exploited using the vagaries of Madison Avenue and Hermann Goering to force them down the throats of a moderately clueless population.
Consider the medium we use for this discussion. A 56K modem and an 8088 can easily carry the text we read here each week and the data load. 3151 words in a text file around 18K. Even with a crappy dial up connection and a 14.4 modem, reading the Archdruid would allow you to get the file in around 7-8 seconds. But instead, we have a system where centralized capitalist corporations sell bandwidth to suppliers and consumers at all the traffic will bear to deliver access to a whole lot of nothing. It is Bruce Springsteen's song "57 Channels and Nothing's on" writ on a massive scale.
Commercial travel is the same thing. Used to be in the not-so-distant past that only the wealthy and the urgent got onto a plane for travel. Truthfully, I don't even see it as useful then, but I will allow that others have such a need and that, for an exorbitant price, such service should be allowed. But the airlines and Boeing have taken overproduction to to the extreme. Really, what use is it to have airliners as status symbols for Nations that can't even feed their own people.
The one overused technology is the internet. Mostly is is a means of peddling mass produced crap to unwary consumers. But at the end of the day, it is an always on phone line in your house that allows you to connect to just about anything/anywhere for a low monthly fee. But when you look at broadband usage, it would appear that around 70% of the bandwidth is eaten up by streaming media.
So an extraordinary resource and a huge capital expenditure is used to watch Britney Spears. Whew.
Nearly all of the resources that we abuse now will be around in a couple of hundred years. They will just be there in a manner that is compatible with the seriously reduced energy flows of the future. We are struggling forward into the future dragging the heavy weight of a bunch of very bad ideas. Technology, as seen and described by John Michael doesn't fit into the long-term future of humanity. But appropriate, usually very small uses of the very same technologies will play a part quite a ways into the future.
The best analogy that I can think of is that we are currently going through a phase where we sit down for a meal of around a quarter-pound of fresh Serrano peppers as an entree. Needless to say, the aftermath of such a gustatory overload is usually painful.
Technology, like the poor, will be with us always. But maybe, just maybe, we can reduce the use to a level where that, like a single serrano pepper cooked into a plate of rice and beans, it can be a welcome addition to the needs of humanity.