Ivan Illich poses that human problems must be solved by the impressment of still more "energy slaves' to meet the expanding demand of human masters. The two solutions consist of securing the current source of the drug, or finding a different, more secure pusher. In this essay, Illich examines the question of whether or not humans need any more energy than is their natural birthright. Along the way he gives a startling analysis of the marginal disutility of tools. After a certain point, that is, more energy gives negative returns. For example, moving around causes loss of time proportional to the amount of energy which is poured into the transport system, so that the speed of the fastest traveller correlates inversely to the equality as well as freedom of the median traveller.
The Energy Crisis
The Industrialization of Traffic
Net Transfer of Lifetime
The Ineffectiveness of Acceleration
The Radical Monopoly of Industry
The Elusive Threshold
Degrees of Self-Powered Mobility
Dominant versus Subsidiary Motors
Underuquipment, Overdevelopment, and Mature Technology
Ivan Illich was born in Vienna in 1926, and became a parish priest in New York in 1951. He was appointed vice-rector of the Catholic University in Puerto Rico in 1956, and in 1961 he founded CIDOC (Centro Intercultural de Documentación) at Cuernavaca in Mexico where he developed many of the ideas in his books.
He is the author of Celebration of Awareness, Tools for Conviviality, The Right to Useful Unemployment, Energy and Equity, Limits to Medicine, Shadow Work, Gender, H2O and the Waters of Forgetfulness, ABC: The Alphabetization of the Popular Mind, Disabling Professions, Deschooling Society and In the Mirror of the Past: Lectures and Addresses 1978-1990. He died in 2002.
Using the example of the transportation industry, Illich attests that energy and equity can grow concurrently only to a point. Above a certain quantifiable threshold, energy and equity are negatively correlated (Illich, 3). Writing in a period in which the automobile had become the utmost priority in transportation planning and urban design, Illich saw the endorsement of speedier and more energy-intensive modes of transport as involving the homogenization of landscapes and the annihilation of “commons into unlimited thoroughfares … for the production of passenger miles” (18). Landscapes of Energy by George Rahi.