So I’m hanging out at the horse barn as Santiago Wonder Pony Burrowes finishes up a session with his physical therapist. Santa is looking like he just scored a hit of the best stuff off the biggest doobie…
Madame PT says something to the effect of, “I wish people still regularly curry-combed their horses. It would make such a difference.”
“You mean,” says me, “because we have super tech rocket science fly sheets now, and rain sheets, and sun sheets, and horse vacuums, and all that stuff so the horses don’t get muddy, and now all we have to do before tacking up is a lick and a promise with the dandy brush, and off we go?”
“Exactly. Carrying for the horse’s coat takes half the time but ten times the gear, and when we skip the currying, the horse loses so much that was beneficial.”
The benefit to the horse of a head-to-tail currying starts with the obvious: It feels good. He learns to associate the beginning of his work day with pleasure. The curry comb (a soft rubber device, usually) also get his subcutaneous circulation going, and begins to warm up those great big horsy muscles that will soon be supporting my un-dainty weight in addition to his. If I’m half-way paying attention when I curry my beast, I’ll notice any areas of soreness or swelling before I plop into the saddle and make those ouchies worse (or get a free lesson in how to imitate a lawn dart).
The PT’s remark about currying reminded me of this talk, by the late Dr. Neil Postman, Ph.D, given in 1997. (Big creds to Austin Kleon for the link.) Postman was something of a canary in the brave new digital coal mine, though he described himself as tech skeptic rather than a tech critic. I hope you watch the talk. His remarks are 52 minutes of substantive thinking wrapped in exquisitely skilled delivery and communication.
One question Postman encouraged his audience to raise when considering any new technology is: What pressing problem is the new technology needed to solve, whose problem is it, and who will pay for the solution? Like 99% of equestrians out there, I saw the new, lightweight, affordable, washable, blah, blah, blah flysheets coming out and thought: Roll in the mud all you want, Big Guy, but first we’ll just buckle you into this horsey-fashion-burrito, and I will no longer spend half the morning in the wash stall with you and the other half grooming you back into recognizable condition.
The problem–lack of time to groom–was mine, not Santa’s, and I’d shell out money at the tack store to solve it–but the horse would pay for my decision in many ways.
Postman refers once or twice in his talk to the Luddites, and of course, my Regency author ears pricked up. The Luddites were labor activists who generally came from the cottage weaving tradition. They saw exactly where factory production was leading–not to good quality cheap goods for the masses, but to starvation wages, child labor, work place deaths, and an enormous increase in demand for the dangerous and health-wrecking mining jobs. Factory production led to destruction of craftsmanship, villages, ecosystems, and families that had thrived for centuries under a different “less productive” manufacturing model.
The Luddites were hanged, shot, banished, and otherwise convinced to get out of the way of “progress,” as slums multiplied, the environment was ravaged, and enslavement in the New World and colonization generally got a second wind thanks to that progress.
Being a skeptic of innovation can challenge well-funded and powerful interests who stand to benefit from the new mousetrap, however pointless or even harmful the updated model is. As artificial intelligence is starting to write books, and Ring technology is reporting to law enforcement with out meaningful customer consent, I think Postman’s question deserves more attention than ever, and you can bet I’m going to be regularly currying my darling pony.
Is there innovation you regret? Have a lover’s quarrel with? Wish you’d had access to sooner? I’ll add three commenters to my Yuletide Wishes ARC list!