By Bill Bonner
Bill Bonner returns to his farmhouse in rural Maryland, only a couple miles from where he was born. His house has just been remodelled. It is so completely improved that it is almost unbearable.
Turn it off, Howard!…
“Howard, I couldn’t figure out how to turn it off. All I got was menu after menu. But there’s no ‘off’ switch.”
Today’s beef is with today’s world. It is a world of so many labour saving devices that we must work night and day to keep up with them. They must be purchased. Then, serviced. Then, repaired. And then, replaced with something more up-to-date, which is to say, something that is an even bigger nuisance.
It is a complex world... with a solution for every problem (even problems that didn’t really exist). And every solution comes with more new problems. Joseph Tainter was right. Society becomes more and more complex... complexity takes resources... and eventually the society goes broke.
Howard, the builder, attempts to explain:
“Yes, it is a little more sophisticated than what you had before.”
“I don’t understand why the air conditioning system can’t have a simple ‘off’ switch.”
“Well, you should never turn it off altogether.”
“Because, this house has a lot of fine woodwork and carpeting and so forth. You can’t let it get too humid or the wood will swell up and crack and you’ll get mould.”
“Can’t we just open the windows?”
“You don’t have to open the windows anymore.”
“Because this is a very energy efficient house. It’s state-of-the-art. We replaced all the insulation with foam. And the windows are super tight. And the temperature and humidity are automatically regulated.”
“But if it is so energy efficient, why is the AC system on all the time?”
“That’s probably not the AC you hear.”
The ‘problem’ solvers…
“Then, what is it?”
“It’s the air-exchanger.”
“Air exchanger? What’s that?”
“Well, the house is so tight that it doesn’t get enough fresh air. So, we have an air-exchanger to bring in air from the outside.”
“Then, why go to the trouble of insulating so much? Why not just leave the leaky windows?”
“Well, the air exchanger doesn’t use much energy.”
“How about the humidifier?”
“No, that doesn’t use much either.”
“And the de-humidifier?”
“Same thing. Very low energy use. All of this uses less energy than standard AC.”
“Sounds like they will use a lot more of MY energy... more bother... more machines... another control system... another thing that I have to figure out... manuals and service contracts that I have to keep.. another thing that will break down... ”
“Hold on... these are very efficient and reliable systems. They shouldn’t need too much maintenance.”
Who needs windows…
“I just want to turn them off and open the window. But I can’t open the window, not with the AC running.”
“You don’t need to open the window. This system allows you to control the flow of air.”
“But that’s just the point. I can’t control anything. It’s all automatic. I can’t even turn it off.”
“Well, your air temperature and humidity are controlled for you. And you also get fresh air when you need it. It’s the state-of-the-art in home interior climate control. When it is too cold outside, the system keeps you warm. When it is hot outside, it keeps you cool. When your humidity rises above 60%, the dehumidifier comes into service. When the humidity falls below 40%, the humidifier is activated. And when the air gets stale, the air-exchanger turns on.”
“Why not just open the window?”
You just don’t get it, Mr Bonner… complex… and more!
“Mr Bonner, I’m afraid you’re out of touch with modern home technology.”
[Complicated gizmos… strange instruments… mind-boggling terminology…
The Daily Reckoning
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