Jordan Koschei jordan koschei

New ≠ Better

Here’s a video of a grass mowing competition in which a scythe beats a modern, powered lawnmower:

Our society fetishizes newness. We want new technology, new entertainment, new thinking, new solutions. Sometimes, our desire for newness prevents us from seeing the value in what already exists.

Modern industrial farms have no place for horses, even though horses can handle some types of terrain better than our most advanced industrial farming machinery. There’s land that modern farms let return to wilderness, even though it could be productive and fruitful if we used technology that was commonplace two generations ago.

Of course there are always tradeoffs. A scythe may be faster than a lawnmower, but it uses more human energy — it’s harder for someone who’s out-of-shape to use it, and it’s harder to use over long distances. If an industrial farm started supplementing their machinery with horses, they’d damage their economies of scale. (There’s a case to be made that a farm that can’t be managed by a team of horses is too large, but I’ll leave that to Wendell Berry and Michael Pollan to argue.)

I’m not a Luddite — I don’t think that new things are necessarily worse than old things. I just don’t think they’re necessarily better.

It’s really hard to break out of the new-is-better pattern of thinking; it’s so pervasive that we’re immersed in it. It’s like asking a fish to describe what it means to be wet.