Monday, September 22, 2008

Eric Brende the author of the best-selling book Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology, in which he considers the state of modern technology and how to use it, or perhaps avoid it as much as possible. His reflections on the effects of technology on the family, the community, and the larger society, have gained the attention of no less than NPR and The New York Times. A couple of years ago, he was interviewed by Godspy.

Brende was a student at Pearson College of Kansas University, where he was first tutored by the great revivalist of classical liberal arts, Professor John Senior. He went on to study at the very nexus of technological achievement, MIT. Obviously this Brende fellow is not your ordinary Luddite.

I first heard of Brende when he was writing in the mid-1990s for the now-defunct Caelum et Terra magazine, under the editorship of Daniel Nichols. At that time, Brende went to live among the Amish in eastern Kentucky, in the hopes of establishing a Catholic "Plain" settlement there. It didn't work out that way. Most recently, he has been living in St Louis, making his living as a soap-maker and (!!!) rickshaw driver.

Having heard much of the pro and con about technology, the evils of television, and (until certain Catholic agrarian types discovered blogging) the dangers of personal computing, I would generally dismiss most of it out of hand. Whether it's cell phones, computers and the internet, or even television itself, today's technology is like a much earlier form of technology, namely fire. It is a good servant, but a bad master.

Eric Brende, on the other hand, cannot be ignored, and won't be tomorrow night, when he appears tomorrow evening from six to seven, at the Fall for the Book Festival at George Mason University. To be more precise (as the University has grown to be a pretty big place), Brende will be at the Provident Bank Tent, outside the Johnson Center, at GMU.

More information on the festival can be found at

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