Traditionalism and Technology

The article How to Build a Small Town in Texas went viral. His site promotes “Traditionalism, sustainability, localism, urbanism,” but his article went viral on Hacker News.

I have observed that among the biggest defenders and advocates of traditionalism are people in tech (and probably other STEM fields), on either side of the aisle, not historians, mainstream conservatives, or humanities professors. Likewise, normies don’t care that much about traditionalism or aesthetics. If the TV works, they are content.


Traditionalists look to a future that borrows and learns from the past, instead of seeing the past as just merely a stepping stone. Contrast this to the left, which seeks to rewrite or erase history. This is one of the big myths about traditionalism, which is that it is stuck in the past or that it rejects technology. Traditionalists understand that there are roles which are filled perfectly by technology , such as dentistry or curing disease, but other roles where it may not work that well or even be counter-productive, such as finding purposeful relationships or forging an identity, so the key is understanding this distinction, as opposed to treating technology as a fix-all.

Technology makes things ‘faster and better’ (trucks vs horse-drawn wagons), but many long-standing problems that predate modernity, such as war, loneliness, alienation, etc., don’t necessarily yield to a technological fix. Even Facebook, which is supposed to bring people together, only leads to anxiety and anger for many users.

There is a love-hate relationship with modernity in the sense that, on one hand, modernity raises living standards, such as enabling the cheap production of food, but it does not answer the ‘bigger questions’ of what the meaning or purpose in life is (or in the words of George Bush, ‘the vision thing’), and there is the belief that modernity is a contributing factor for social decay, as people turn to technology as a replacement or substitute for civic institutions and values that worked well for hundreds or even thousands of years but have only recently been eclipsed by the latest I-gizmo or the latest productivity hack.

[1] The same also for the humanities in general, in which the biggest defenders, again, tend to be people in technology. I described this observation earlier, but if someone posts on a philosophy forum that philosophy is useless or pointless, rather than rebuke, the response will be apologetic along the lines that philosophers need to do a better job conveying the usefulness of their field to the general public. But it you make the same argument on a STEM-centric community, you’ll get an earful about how important and useful philosophy is (same also for history, literature, and even gender studies). But this works the other way too, in which you got politicians who have never even passed a calculus 1 course or have written a singe line of code, saying we need more women in STEM and praising STEM as the answer to all of society’s problems, while actual people in STEM are much more humble or self-critical.

I am not sure why this is. I think no one wants to be perceived as too closed-minded or too tribal to their preferred field. There is always a lot of borrowing from unrelated fields: Economists are always trying to find ways to add physics-like rigor to their models. Computer scientists are looking for ways to make computers act more human-like. Gender studies and sociology has created its own sort of taxonomy and lingo, much like biology, but as applied to sexuality.

In regard to who should inhabit such a town, no mention of IQ, which, second to moral character, is probably the most important criterion:

Obviously the town will need to generate a working income, so lots will be sold to the highest bidder, but you will also want to reserve lots for the people who matter to the town itself. I.e., you need things like a parish house, a dentist (save an excellent spot in the town center to offer at low cost to whomever decides to practice dentistry there), a schoolmaster, a clinic, a grocery store (at least) etc. Your first and most obvious potential clientele will be the builders, plasterers, masons, well drillers, cistern makers, ditch diggers, hod carriers, carpenters, plumbers, glaziers, electricians, wifi technicians, who are actually building the town, so you will want to offer them a chance to live there, affordable, within their means. Let the people who contribute and have skin in the game have a first go at acquiring land. The surveyor who surveys his own home will work twice as accurately, the carpenter who builds are food for his cousin or boss will work twice as hard.

It’s remarkable how simply by raising mean IQ, all sort of problems just go away.

1 comment

  1. The existence of white collar crime goes to show moral rectitude and High IQ don’t always go together.

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