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Low technology (low tech; adjective forms: low-technology, low-tech, lo-tech) is simple technology, opposed to high technology.[1] They often refer to a traditional or non-mechanical kind, such as crafts and tools that pre-date the Industrial Revolution.[2]

Low technology can simply be practiced or fabricated with a minimum of capital investment by an individual or small group of individuals. Also, the knowledge of the practice can be completely comprehended by a single individual, free from increasing specialization and compartmentalization. In some definition, low-tech techniques and designs may fall into disuse due to changing socio-economic conditions or priorities. Overall, these technologies are easily fabricable, adaptable and reparable, and use little energy and resources (that all come from local sources) to stay on the whole eco-friendly.[1]

Low-techs are present in everyday life. For example, biking to work or repairing your own devices instead of throwing them away corresponds to the low-tech philosophy.

History

Historical origin

Primitive technologies such as bushcraft, tools that use wood, stone, whool, etc. can be seen as low-tech, as the pre-industrial revolution machines such as windmills or sailboats. [3]

Low technology can simply be practiced or fabricated with a minimum of capital investment by an individual or small group of individuals. Also, the knowledge of the practice can be completely comprehended by a single individual, free from increasing specialization and compartmentalization. In some definition, low-tech techniques and designs may fall into disuse due to changing socio-economic conditions or priorities. Overall, these technologies are easily fabricable, adaptable and reparable, and use little energy and resources (that all come from local sources) to stay on the whole eco-friendly.[1]

Low-techs are present in everyday life. For example, biking to work or repairing your own devices instead of throwing them away corresponds to the low-tech philosophy.

Primitive technologies such as bushcraft, tools that use wood, stone, whool, etc. can be seen as low-tech, as the pre-industrial revolution machines such as windmills or sailboats. [3]

In the 70s

The economic boom after the war resulted in a doubt on progress, technology and infinite growth at the beginning of the 70s, notably with through the report The Limits to Growth (1972). Many have sought to define what soft technologies are, leading to the low-tech movement. Such technologies have been described as "intermediaries" (E.F. Schumacher) [4], "liberating" (M. Bookchin) [5], or even democratic. Thus, a philosophy of advocating a widespread use of soft technologies was developed in the United States, and many studies were carried out in those years, in particular by researchers like Langdon Winner [6].

2000s and later

"Low-tech" has been more and more employed in the scientific writings, in particular in the analyzes of the work from some authors of the 1970s: see for example Hirsch ‐ Kreinsen [7], the book "High tech, low tech, no tech" [3] or Gordon [8].

More recently, the perspective of resource scarcity [9] - especially minerals - lead to an increasingly severe criticism on high-techs and technology.

Since 2007, the Dutch Kris de Decker has published (with his collaborators) some reflections on low-tech solutions, the problem of high-techs, and the updating of technologies supposedly "obsolete" via the "Low <-tech Magazine". The header is: "Doubts on progress and technology", and specifies that the lowtechs "refuse to assume that each problem has a high-tech solution" [10] , with a progressive translation of the articles in other languages since recently.

In 2014, the french engineer Philippe Bihouix published "L'âge des low tech" (The age of low-techs) where he presents how a european nation like France, with little mineral and energy resources, could become a "low-tech" nation (instead of a "start-up" nation) to better correspond to the sustainable development goals of such nation [11]. He cites various examples of low-techs initiative and describe the low-tech philosophy and principles. In 2015, the Low-tech Lab project opened, consisting in a low-tech web platform for documentation and free sharing ('wiki' type) of inventions, and to put forward reflections on the low-tech philosophy.

economic boom after the war resulted in a doubt on progress, technology and infinite growth at the beginning of the 70s, notably with through the report The Limits to Growth (1972). Many have sought to define what soft technologies are, leading to the low-tech movement. Such technologies have been described as "intermediaries" (E.F. Schumacher) [4], "liberating" (M. Bookchin) [5], or even democratic. Thus, a philosophy of advocating a widespread use of soft technologies was developed in the United States, and many studies were carried out in those years, in particular by researchers like Langdon Winner [6].

2000s and later

Low-tech is sometimes described as an "anti high-tech" movement, as a deliberate renunciation of a complicated and expensive technology. This kind of protest movement criticizes any disproportionate technology: a comparison with the neo-luddic or technocritical movements, which appeared since the Industrial Revolution, is then possible. This critical part of the low-tech movement can be called "no-tech", see for instance "No-tech magazine".

Recently: a wider and more balanced approach

A second, more nuanced definition of low-tech may appear. This definition takes into account the philosophical, environmental and social aspects. Low-tech are no longer restricted to old techniques, but also extended to new, future-oriented techniques, more ecological and intended to recreate social bounds. A low-tech innovation is then possible [11].

Contrary to the first definition, this one is much more optimistic and has a positive connotation. It would then oppose the planned obsolescence of objects (often “high-tech”) and question the consumer society, as well as the materialist principles underneath. With this definition, the concept of low-tech thus implies that anyone could make objects using their intelligence, and share their know-how to popularize their creations. A low-tech must therefore be accessible to all, and could therefore help in

Also, with this definition, the "high-tech" (ex: the telegraph) of a certain era becomes the "low-tech" of the one after (ex: compared to the telephone).

Low-tech is sometimes described as an "anti high-tech" movement, as a deliberate renunciation of a complicated and expensive technology. This kind of protest movement criticizes any disproportionate technology: a comparison with the neo-luddic or technocritical movements, which appeared since the Industrial Revolution, is then possible. This critical part of the low-tech movement can be called "no-tech", see for instance "No-tech magazine".

Recently: a wider and more balanced approach

A second, more nuanced definition of low-tech may appear. This defin

A second, more nuanced definition of low-tech may appear. This definition takes into account the philosophical, environmental and social aspects. Low-tech are no longer restricted to old techniques, but also extended to new, future-oriented techniques, more ecological and intended to recreate social bounds. A low-tech innovation is then possible [11].

Contrary to the first definition, this one is much more optimistic and has a positive connotation. It would then oppose the planned obsolescence of objects (often “optimistic and has a positive connotation. It would then oppose the planned obsolescence of objects (often “high-tech”) and question the consumer society, as well as the materialist principles underneath. With this definition, the concept of low-tech thus implies that anyone could make objects using their intelligence, and share their know-how to popularize their creations. A low-tech must therefore be accessible to all, and could therefore help in reduction of inequalities [11].

Furthermore, some reduce the definition of low-tech to meet basic needs (eating, drinking, housing, heating ...), which disqualifies many technologies from the definition of low-techs, but this definition does not is not always accepted [18] . Finally, considering that the definition of low-tech is relative, some prefer to use lower tech [11], to emphasize a higher sobriety compared to high-tech, without claiming to be perfectly "low".

Note: almost all of the entries in this section should be prefixed by the word traditional.

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(Wright is the agent form of the word wrought, which itself is the original past passive participle of the word work, now superseded by the weak verb forms worker and worked respectively.)