Better Off?Posted: January 9, 2005
I've been reading a new book called “Better Off” – about an MIT graduate who decided to spend a year without electricity, living in an extra-strict Amish village. I'm only a few chapters in, but so far he makes a good argument that living low-tech can be far more fulfilling. Now bear in mind that one of my earliest posts was about how doctors were able to cure a paralyzed woman in South Korea. And of course, I'm posting this on an Internet Blog. So I'm certainly not a technophobe.
But the day after I started reading “Better Off”, a woman I met told me a horrible story. She had gone to the doctor because of a particularly nasty head cold, and the doctor prescribed some antibiotics. She had a very bad reaction (three days of vomitting), and needed to go to the Emergency Room, where they told her that it was because of the antibiotics. Their solution: more antibiotics. That didn't help, and she ended up going through medical tests that she described as “torture” that she “wouldn't wish on [her] worst enemy”. They then told her that she had Krohn's Disease, a chronic disease that requires intense treatment and an ultra-strict diet. At her parents' behest, she decided to go to one of the foremost experts on the disease. She was then told that it wasn't Krohn's at all (although the symptoms were similar), but simply that the antibiotics had killed off essential bacteria in her stomach necessary for digestion. His prescription was an over-the-counter probiotic: yogurt. She was better within days. This whole ordeal took three months, and would never have happened if she had decided to take extra vitamin C and some herbal tea instead of visiting the doctor for her cold.
Now, I'm not suggesting that we throw out all our hard-earned technology. But I think it definitely makes sense to take a hard, critical look at how different technology has changed our lives – the good and the bad – and at least start to consider that certain advances may be doing more harm than good. For starters, how much of our technology goes toward fixing something that other technology broke (like new cancer treatments to counter all the new carcinogens we've introduced into our environment).
It's always important to think critically, and this is an issue that affects everyone.