The Magic Washing Machine

If you have never seen or listened to any TED Talks, you should think about doing it. TED talks are amazing ways to learn about a myriad of topics such as global issues, science, politics, culture, business, innovation, technology, art and design, education and so on. As their motto says they are actually “ideas worth spreading”.

Hans_Rosling_1Hans Rosling, a Swedish doctor and professor in the Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, has participated some times in TED conferences giving fantastic and very motivational talks. One of his most popular, and my favourite one, is The Magic Washing Machine. It points out the benefits that industrialisation and technology have brought. Rosling gives us the example of the washing machine’s effectiveness for our lives. Washing machines freed up a lot of time and energy that people would have otherwise spent hand-washing their clothes. Check something. Ask to any senior person living in developed countries when was the last time they washed their clothes or sheets by hand. They might say you that it was a long long time ago, when there weren’t washing machines at home. In the case of young people, the answer will most likely be never. However, if you ask this question in sub developed countries their answer will be totally different.

Rosling roughly separates the world population by people who doesn’t have access to electricity (poor line), people who has washing machines (wash line), and people who has any normal technology gadget which can be found in a lot of homes in developed countries (air line). For most of us, our families’ generations crossed the “wash line” long ago. Therefore, it is difficult to realise the significant impact that such a simple machine can make in the lives of the less fortunate. The talker then states “if you have democracy, people will vote for washing machines”.  A woman from a Brazilian’ favelas neighbourhood will surely vote for it. Therefore, in a few years, because of population and economic growth, people will be able to cross the mentioned division lines. This growth and more technology adoption will mean more energy consumption. Most people would think that it’s not plausible, “not every one in the world can have cars and washing machines” if we want to preserve the planet! However, do we have the right to deprive people of innovation and better standard of living? I believe the answer it’s no.
Mali_-_Women_at_workRosling’s mother said to his son the first day they got it “ ‘Now Hans, we have loaded the laundry, the machine will make the work, and now we can go to the library.’ This is the magic, we loaded the laundry. And what do you get out of the machine? You get books.” His point it’s very clear here. Is it no better to have time for education and reading instead of doing manual labour such as has to go to collect water many kilometres away every day? After agreeing about this, we can start arguing about who and what should and should not consume energy

Balancing and adopting energy efficiency and producing more green energy are the main solutions here. There’s no need to deprive people of development and quality of life. Sustainable development is the key. It’s hip to be green! Modern technology has brought many benefits to our world and we can carry on innovating provided the technology operates within balanced limits. I consider myself an advocate of green policies but I believe that we need to recall Rosling’s closing statement: “Thank you industrialization, thank you steel mill, thank you power station, and thank you chemical processing industry that gave us time to read books.”

If you have time I totally recommend you watching the talk. Enjoy!

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