Better Off by Eric Brende
Flipping the Switch on Technology

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Synopsis

What happens when a graduate of MIT, the bastion of technological advancement, and his bride move to a community so primitive in its technology that even Amish groups consider it antiquated?

Eric Brende conceives a real-life experiment: to see if, in fact, all our cell phones, wide-screen TVs, and SUVs have made life easier and better -- or whether life would be preferable without them. By turns, the query narrows down to a single question: What is the least we need to achieve the most? With this in mind, the Brendes ditch their car, electric stove, refrigerator, running water, and everything else motorized or "hooked to the grid" and begin an eighteen-month trial run -- one that dramatically changes the way they live, and proves entertaining and surprising to readers.

Better OFF is a smart, often comedic, and always riveting book that also mingles scientific analysis with the human story, demonstrating how a world free of technological excess can shrink stress -- and waistlines -- and expand happiness, health, and leisure. Our notion that technophobes are backward gets turned on its head as the Brendes realize that the crucial technological decisions of their adopted Minimite community are made more soberly and deliberately than in the surrounding culture, and the result is greater -- not lesser -- mastery over the conditions of human existence.

 

About Eric Brende

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Eric Brende has degrees from Yale, Washburn University, aEric Brende has degrees from Yale, Washburn University, and MIT, and has received a Citation of Excellence from the Nnd MIT, and has received a Citation of Excellence from the National Science Foundation and a graduate fellowship from thational Science Foundation and a graduate fellowship from the Mellon Foundation in the Humanities. At the insistence of e Mellon Foundation in the Humanities. At the insistence of his editor, he now has an e-mail account at the local librarhis editor, he now has an e-mail account at the local library but continues to minimize modern technology for himself any but continues to minimize modern technology for himself and his family. Eric and Mary Brende have recently relocated td his family. Eric and Mary Brende have recently relocated to an old-town section in St. Louis, where Eric makes his livo an old-town section in St. Louis, where Eric makes his living as a rickshaw driver and a soap maker. ing as a rickshaw driver and a soap maker.
 
Published October 13, 2009 by HarperCollins e-books. 272 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Political & Social Sciences, Computers & Technology, Literature & Fiction, Science & Math. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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The members were a mix of Amish, Mennonite, and ordinary folk—“Minimites,” Brende plugs them, “in honor of both their Mennonite noncomformity and their current predilection to gain a maximum of ends from a minimum of technological means.” Although initially nervous, the author soon learned that a...

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Publishers Weekly

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(Details about the community, which Brende dubs the "Minimites" in recognition of their austerity, are left intentionally vague so as to preserve their privacy.) The pervasive back-to-basics sentiment will surprise few familiar with others who work this vein, like Bill McKibben and Kirkpatrick Sa...

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Project MUSE

I read Jonathan Coopersmith's review of my book, Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology, with a mixture of fascination and incredulity.

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Project MUSE

In the case of Eric Brende, a graduate student in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (some familiar names appear), his doubts about modern American society and its technologies became a quest "to ascertain more carefully how much—or how li...

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