Some friends of mine are planning a self-sufficient commune. They are saving up a lot of money to make it happen. While what they plan is very interesting, when you look at the numbers it is no where near as radical a choice as it might first appear.
Couples are richer for saving together. If a group of people could save together, and plan together, they might become very comfortable indeed. Why then is it so unusual? We must be very comfortable living with partners, or else as an individual in complete control of their own destiny.
I have a friend with a unique idea of destiny. Not many people pine for the 1930s. My great uncle was born in that decade: he worked as a ploughman. He pulled a plough around a field using only his hands and back. Even in the 8th and final decade of his life he was a very strong man. I admire him, but can’t imagine any of my contemporaries volunteering for such a life.
Apart from my friend. He is a communist. He was taken aback by my thoughts on group-saving in order to discover a better life. I thought this was quite weird. That ordinary people might work together to help one another sounds quite a left-wing point of view.
The problem is of course that many of us have a romantic conception of our ideal situation. For some, saving to live on a commune and become comfortable is dreadful: their idea of a commune is a place where a lot of weaving takes place, and charasmatic figures are involved.
For my friend, the very idea of improving your own personal circumstances is the problem. What difference does it make that you could make your life better? Well, it does make a difference to me, but I see his point. It is not global communism. (Long may we resist such a force.)
I have my own romantic conceptions of a simple life, and they lie on the many razor edges of scientific history. I don’t see why a drive toward self-sufficiency should end with growing potatoes. Surely we could do better!
I’m very interested in computers, so naturally I wondered if we could build a computer in such an environment. It has been done!. Of course, these attempts are far form the capabilities of a modern computer.
It begs the question of what would be the best possible computer that could be created in home or workshop conditions? I believe the answer might be something like the BBC Micro.
Now I suggest those who approach this impressive achievement are walking on one of those razorblades. There are many such razorblades, for technology in many areas has progressed to a point where it would be impossible to replicate in a modest workshop. Just as you could not build a hard-drive without clean-room, there are certain chemical and biological procedures which would be impossible without a fitted modern laboratory.
If we are ever forced by war or disaster into a simpler existence, I hope that we can push the boundaries of the possible with the remains of our society. For I’d rather play Pacman than carve his face into a potato.
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