Man shakes fist at firewood

In the US, a cord of firewood is generally equivalent to 128 cubic feet. Basically 4 feet wide, 4 feet tall, and 8 feet deep. Buying “green” firewood is more work than buying split firewood — you’ll need to split it and then store it for drying. The drying of firewood is called “seasoning”, because it usually takes one season of the year for freshly split firewood to be ready for burning.

I’m picking my way through the early sections of a book about the grimmer side of technology: “Artificial Unintelligence” by Meredith Broussard. The premise of the grimness being that technology is not at all the savior we hoped it would be. In fact, our over-reliance on technology solutions to human problems has exacerbated many those selfsame problems. Remember elections? In our effort to have Silicon Valley fix everything wrong with the human condition, we have taken humanity backwards in time about 100 years.

It brings to mind the 1843 Nathaniel Hawthorne essay “Fire-worship”. Those of you born in the early 19th century may remember the piece.

It’s easy to look back to the 1840’s and picture a crazy old man cursing his iron stove for not being the fireplace of his grandfather. But a slightly longer look at this fist-shaker and we begin to see threads of truths in his nostalgia. An open fireplace might not be as thermodynamically efficient as a cast iron, sealed stove, but it’s certainly a lot more pleasant to sit in front of an open fire the-a metal plate.

Innovations in technology are not the same as innovations of humanity.

Ostensibly, we have a telephone in our pocket to be connected instantly to our loved ones and our friends. How often do we use it as a “telephone” and not a “messaging” tool? Rarely, it would seem. It’s a common trope on social media to feel anxious about talking on the phone.

We’ve become excellent thumb typists and terrible conversationalists. The pandemic has only furthered our linguistic atrophy.

Hawthorne believed that there was something beautiful and important about the state of being in front of a fireplace. There was a communal and familial aspect to spending time there, something that tugged at what it meant to be alive. He perceived the advent of the stove as a needless and harmful invention, because it short-circuited all of that.

I also read that he was being facetious when he wrote the essay, so I probably just got taken for a ride by a guy who has been dead for nearly 157 years.

What do you think? Are stoves good or bad?

Peanut butter first, code second.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store