the best of past and future technology options
is always a pleasant surprise and an inspirational
experience to run into a project that is not only
well grounded in philosophy as well as action. The
Tillers Project is one such combination of thought
and doing. I had the pleasure of a short visit in
the late summer of 2003. I encourage you to visit
their web site [link].
What follows are my impressions which are
comprehensive nor deeply analytical. I did not have
a great deal of time there; it was a casual visit
not a deep dive into the philosophy and means of
Tillers. Nevertheless, I was greatly impressed in
many ways. These thoughts are commingled with ideas
about the post
Project and how members of our ValueWeb could work
with Tillers to combine educational capabilities
and augment each other’s programs. An unique
educational experience with global reach can be the
result of such a collaboration.
has a few lots on their property that may be
ideal for a small community of postUsonian houses.
As I have noted elsewhere [link] it
is an open question if the full Usonian ideal can
be accomplished with
individual projects in isolation of their peers.
These lots are for sale but it might be more
to explore a community lease arrangement where the
houses can be stewarded appropriately over time and
Tillers can receive an ongoing revenue rather than
a one-time capital gain. A greater commons can be
created by defining build-able areas and “natural”
zones that will have minimal change to the indigenous
landscape. It may to possible to create a prototype
building aspects but also community and financial
options. Given the totality of the Tillers facilities,
this might be an ideal co-housing opportunity.
I visited Tillers a timber framed barn was under
construction. This is an example of the traditional
way of building using the simplest materials, hardware
and tools. Strong buildings can be made this way
that will last for decades.
the barn. The layout and structure naturally divides
the barn into different spaces useful for different
is way that structures used to be built. Eloquent
technology. We are told that it is too expensive
today - I wonder. Would it be if you accounted
all the costs and benefits? Architecture should
be a living tradition. This is living.
forge. Shaping metal this way is a visceral experience.
Nothing wrong with making tons of it by industrial
processes, however, the result is different and
useful in different situations and for different
purposes. In the hand forge, human energy is invested into
the result - it lives in the result. Creator and
material become one. Learning and design is direct
Roosenburg, Director of Tillers is on the right.
Terry Hluchyj, Dick’s wife and director of the
Borgess NavCenter on the left. Lisa Piazza VP
Taylor in the middle. The new Barn is the backdrop.
Lisa and I had just completed a DesignShop for
Motorola, at Terry’s facility, and my reward and
was getting to see the oxen.
main house on the property. It was built prior
to Tillers acquiring the property. It can be used
for a variety of purposes to support the project.
Well built, natural materials and many spaces of
with the Oxen. Very impressive animals. They have
a strong physical and mental presence.
The are a lot smarter than any tractor you are
likely to buy any time soon. They are clearly comfortable
with people and move at their own pace.
the Head Ox. He is has a good sense of self.
Plowing by oxen is at the heart of the Tillers’ program
- he keeps it on a straight track. He also has
an irresistible nose.
Plan of the project. A great deal of thinking has
gone into how this land will be developed and used
- it will, I am sure, will continue to evolve.
It is a conscious emergent process.
view of the project. Tillers has a very attractive
piece of land and seems determined to steward it
with great craft and care.
view of the pond. A peaceful place. A place to
let thoughts wonder and to reconnect with nature
- a place to live.
is by this pond that 4 lots are available. A perfect
place for a postUsonian prototype [link] and
perhaps a small community. Beavers live here. Beavers
have good judgment about livability.
brief photo tour, a visit to the Tillers web site
review of the postUsonian Project [link] and
some of the web sites that it connects to (including
SFIA [link] and
SDC [link])- as
a sum -
reveals a ValueWeb opportunity in regards developing
sustainable approaches to living on the land. From
the MG Taylor ValueWeb viewpoint it is easy to imagine
SFIA doing summer course at Tillers combining their
of green/organic architecture with Tillers knowledge
of green building, sustainable agriculture, timber
framing among other hands-on skills such as plowing
experience for any would be architect as Wright discovered
as a youth). Think of how Master’s Academy
could use Tillers as an experiential learning place
students while bringing Tillers their teaching methods
and PLS System which I believe would be useful for
systematically spreading the Tillers growing body-of-knowledge
around the world. Imagine SFIA-Master Builders developing
some postUsonian homes with SFIA and Tillers students
members doing the building and simultaneously developing
building and fabrication techniques for
the new Master’s Campus. Imagine SDC utilizing
Tillers for inner city students from their (coming)
School to bring them experiences not possible to
get in the city. MG Taylor, bring meta systems integration,
building [link] process.
What if the results could be advantageously presented
and demonstrated at the World Economic Forum in 2006?
And, does this have a connection with what Andy Stricker
is proposing for New harmony [link]? What
are the synergistic opportunities that would emerge
out of this mix of communities and programs?
this a fanciful dream or a practical potential reality?
Fair question. It may, from the perspective of
a decade or two in the future, be seen as an early
example of how a systemic ValueWeb process facilitated
several good-by-themselves efforts to achieve something
that none had the resources (money, expertise, time)
to do by themselves. It might be seen as an effort
when a sum greater
than the parts actually emerged without
compromising the parts themselves. It might be seen
as a demonstration that there are ways to
positively engage with and steer intrinsic, deeply
systemic problems toward a better outcome without
pain and violence to human freedom and individual
nor to the planet itself. It just might be.
Comment on Technology and Culture
question the validity of preserving, enhancing and
spreading the use of “old” technologies. They often
miss several points:
and culture are closely linked. No
technology is cognitively neutral.
Each has embedded in it an entire view
the word, a set of values and a philosophy
of work and leisure. There are experiences
that cannot be had without plowing
with an animal trained to do it, building
a traditional timber frame building,
experiencing a productive partnership
with nature directly.
is a default position that modern
technologies are better and more economical
traditional methods. This simply is
not always true. The true costs of
accounted. The game is to transfer
to some other, and usually hidden ledger,
costs not directly related to production,
distribution and immediate use. Destruction
of the soil, pollution, the consequences
of out of balance energy systems are
not “priced” in the cost
of the food you
and bad health are not accounted as
a consequence of many of our labor
saving technologies nor is the expense
of medicines to sooth the disquiet
of the modern lifestyle. Hours of action
films may titillate but not substitute
for real physical experience. We separate
work and leisure. We work to earn and
then spend great sums on sports and
vacations to get back what is missing
from our life. We see animals in zoos
and pamper our
your local Ox. He is alive and makes
a comfortable work companion.
economies are often encouraged to jump
to so-called advanced means. We forget
that the Western world evolved their
technologies over a few hundred years.
Culture, until the last 50 years, has
had the opportunity to co-evolve with
measure of balance. Even then, there
were often brutal circumstances and
wrenching dislocations. Even now,
it is not a given that we, in the “advanced”
societies have achieved a sustainable
nor ecologically. Yet we push our way
on others with an arrogance that is
matched only by our own ignorance.
It has been found time and again that
small steps made with cultural sensitivity
can yield quantum improvements with
little cost or social disruption.
It is also true that personal distributed
computing - the most advanced possible
- can have startling benefits. This
is an example of an advanced tool that
has, so far, delivered more benefit
more than it has taken away. The key
works here and now” not
the imposition of some sweeping, blanket
solution from several thousand miles
away. This is a design issue - not
a propaganda opportunity. Look where
and to whom most foreign aid really goes.
have a social memory of the “old days”
of brutal labor, early death and intransigent
poverty. These are not exaggerations.
However, to blame these conditions
solely on the technologies of a time
is to ignore the impact of other circumstances
such as the political context and
state of knowledge of the times. Life
on a 15th to 18th Century warship was
and dangerous. The death rate on a
long voyage was often 30 percent or
more. Today, traditional sailing ships
combined with modern
social attitudes, nutrition and knowledge
is seen as a once in a lifetime experience
great value. Wooden sailing ships even
competed in niche markets well into
the 20th Century. My subtitle for this
article is “Integrating the
Future Technology Options.” This is
not a Tillers slogan, it is my response
to what I saw them doing. Tillers is
not a retro damn all modern technolgy
movement. An ox, a timber frame structure
and a hand forge, combined with modern
knowledge and the correct integration
of new technologies in the right circumstances,
IS both new and approrpriate.
technologies are far more “advanced”
than usually credited. Modern solutions
are often hyped - remember, someone
is trying to sell you this stuff. I
have had crews of traditionally trained
carpenters using only hand tools blow
away “modern” crews with electric “labor
saving” tools of every kind. Anthropologists
have spent extended stays in the wilderness
employing stone age tools and have
found that it takes about two to three
hours a day to “earn a living” - and
a good one. Look at the building built
in the past and judge the veracity
of their means [link].
Add up the total cost of your automobile
costs [link] including
foreign policy and military involvements
divide by your hourly earning rate
per hour of travel [link].
Am I saying we should give up cars
or live in the wilderness using stone
age tools? No. I am saying we need
to account the full cots of every technology
and create the mix that works. I am
saying we should continually bring
solutions from the past “forward” into
the present context and design sustainable,
fun, healthy tools to support really
productive work and physiologically
and psychologically fulfilling experience.
is about common sense and good design.
It is about balance. It is about taking
the best technologies available and
combining them to fit specific local
circumstances in the most productive
and integrated way. It is not about
a clash between old and new. The term
“appropriate technology” once had meaning.
I think it still does and that this
meaning needs to be reinvested into
our thinking and design efforts. This
requires a mature understanding of
of the term “appropriate [link].”
These things are not understood by
intellectual distinctions made in a
vacuum. A media show of what it means
to till the earth informs but does
educate means “to lead out.” To distort
or ignore the past; to over glorify the present;
to preempt future solutions by stigmatizing certain
is not to educate - it is to engage in propaganda.
It is to distort and destroy the design process.
To remove the physical
aspects of work and life in the misapplied attempt
to save labor to be “efficient” is the attempt to
remove the visceral from life. This “experience”
too often produces overly trained, technically
technocrats who - well meaning as they may be - produce
one social, economic, ecological disaster after another.
need places where life and work can be experienced another
way. It is not that the common way of our Western
advanced economies is “wrong.” It is
incomplete - a work in progress. And, it is not
sustainable as it is.
Tillers is one place where practices from the
past can be combined with present solutions
to create options for the future. We need many such
programs to better inform our present social process.
We must find ways to combine many of these projects
offers our youth, working designers and decision
makers with a far more robust knowledge base than
they have and employ today.
my viewpoint, the future is largely being designed
by default. This is the point of the ReBuilding
the Future Course [link].
We, as a society, are not addressing what I call Worthy
The future cannot be predicted nor controlled.
we can, however, engage in the process of designing
far better future outcomes than we are now. This
process must anticipate: Weak Signal Research [link];
it has to be collaborative: DesignShops [link] and
PatchWorks Processes [link];
is has to be conducted in neutral environments
tooled to support design through implementation: NavCenters [link];
the Planet, and all of its inhabitants, has to
be engaged as a single entity: The Gaia
and, the design of human infrastructure and habitats
has to be organic and local, as well
as, global and systemic: The Master Planning
For this to happen a new organizational structure
has to be put in place: ValueWebs [link].
1973 through 1975 [link],
as I looked at a civilization adrift, I determined
so that an alternative agenda to the default mode
of that time - and now - would be practical and
open to the full and Creative participation of
this has been the work of MG Taylor since 1979.
in iteration6 [link] of
this process - this is the transition from building
the tool to employing it for the purposes for which
it was built [link].
This is designed to be an Appropriate Response [link] to
a systemic condition. It is not thought to be the
only response. It is the result of visioning a
different world and setting out to build an example
Many other approaches will be necessary for
the success of all humanity and life on this planet.
What distinguishes the MG Taylor process is that
is a meta-process.
is a systems
method. The idea of it is to assist and connect
other methods and agendas. It is designed to deal
with the true requisite variety of the challenge [link].
are many opportunities to employ our growing ValueWeb
in works that meet local conditions and also have
global impact. Tillers, combined with other projects
such as suggested above, is one such opportunity.
It will prove out as a reality only if the autonomy
and integrity of each potential payer is protected.
If this can be done, and if the natural synergies
between the various projects can be developed, one
example of this this approach can be realized.
actually stands in the way?
of usonianOne - september 15, 2004
To postUsonian Project Index
in flight: Chicago to Calgary
August 29, 2004
voice of this document:
VISION PHILOSOPHY PROGRAM
September 17, 2004
• 20040829.660141.mt • 20040831.003410.mt •
• 20040903.672312.mt • 20040904.410749.mt •
• 20040917.561211.mt •
this document is about 95% finished)
Taylor 615 525 7053
Taylor 2003, 2004