Love throws a line

The electric dryer hasn’t just changed the way most of us dry our laundry; it’s also changed the broader cultural expectations of how laundry ought to work: that it should be something we can do without having to figure out what the weather’s going to be like, and—here’s what makes things difficult for the solution offered below—changed how we feel about seeing our own (and our neighbors’) clothes strung out to dry in in semi-public.

Friedman is locked into reverence for technology, sometimes at the expense of common sense. He conjures up a house so “smart” that its room lights are triggered by motion sensors; a central monitoring device is in constant contact with the local public utility, automatically reducing consumption at peak times; the house generates its own energy from wind and the sun; and “when the sun is shining brightly and the wind is howling” the house’s energy-brain will turn on your dryer, finishing up your laundry.

McKibben asks: “Does it ever occur to him, in the grip of a fantasia like this, that if the sun is shining brightly, or the breeze is blowing steadily, you could dry your clothes on a $14 piece of rope strung off your back deck, or for that matter on a foldable rack in the apartment hallway?” Friedman’s smart house is more benign version of the much-hyped hydrogen car, in other words: They’re both sexy and a long way off, while there are other, simpler solutions already at hand.

from “Hot, flat, and blinded by science,” by Christopher Shea, Boston Globe/Brainiac, 30 October 2008

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