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Technology traps

James Burke with a relay like the one that caused the Northeast Blackout of 1965

We all live in a technology trap.

One of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen, back in the 1980s, was James Burke‘s Connections series. In one part of this series, he takes as his case study the Northeast Blackout of 1965 to show how we all live in a technology trap and how we’re all in denial about it. I’ve often thought about, and made reference to, this series over the years. I recently discovered that you can watch it on YouTube.

As you watch this documentary, keep in mind that the power grid today remains old and balkanized. And the power grid is just one of the technology traps that we depend on every day.

Everyone is nervous these days about the state of the economy. Obviously there’s not much we can do. But it’s good for one’s mental health to do something. One thing we can do is take a little time to look around us at our technology traps and think about where we can easily and cheaply provide ourselves some backup.

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