Thursday, February 12, 2009

Interesting article on time versus money

Saw this at the Survival Blog on how little time it takes to acquire goods now than it did in our ancestor's time.

The author discusses how much less time and effort it takes to make the money to purchase some grain than it would if he had to grow it himself. He also talks about how dependent we are on powered tools and equipment to produce what we need and want.

I work in IT, and from where I stand, computers are the ultimate labor saving device. What it used to take an accountant days to do in ledgers is done in a spreadsheet in minutes. Timetables for shipping and trains used to be done by hand and took months to work out properly. Now we can schedule airlines and trains on-demand every day.

I watched some video on the news tonight about the economy, and they showed the line at an automobile factory. Even in the parts that aren't fully automated, they were using motorized tools to lift, place, and weld the cars together. Even 50 years ago, this would have mostly been done with hand tools and non-powered lifting equipment.

On the other side of the coin, when I was a child I watched our local newspaper in Smalltown, North Dakota, literally cranked out on a hand-powered press that used metal type that was set by hand. My grandmother's attic and garage were stuffed with 100 year old hand, garden, and farm tools. All she needed was a couple of horses or oxen, and she could have run a farm in the same way her father did at the turn of the 20th century.

I think we lose something when we fail to realize just how easy our life is today when compared to the past. A message to family in California is delivered instantly, where it would have taken over a week only 20 years ago. I can fly to San Fransisco in the space of an afternoon, where it took months to get there before the Trans-Continental Railroad was complete, and it still took a couple of weeks then.

If I want to construct something for the house, on the rare occasion that I don't just buy it, I use power tools and store bought lumber. The shelves I built in the baby's room would have taken a couple of weeks to make if I'd had to go out to the woods, select and fell a tree, make the lumber by hand, and then construct and trim the shelves using hand tools.

While I'm not planning on the economy or our society to collapse completely, I enjoy learning how to do things by hand. I just can't imagine trying to keep up our standard of living if I had to grow/trap/hunt all of our food and process it, then find time to gather materials and construct everything we need.

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