Get over yourselves! The world can’t handle more tech-hating hippie hermits

Mark Boyle
Mark Boyle
This weekend, if you find yourself washing clothes in a stream on a rocky mountain, surrounded by all the wonders of nature, you’d take a selfie, right? I would. Then I’d share it for lots of internet points. Soon, though, I’d probably be done with living it it up like it’s 1599, get in my car and drive back home.

Not Guardian journalist Mark Boyle. If he were by my side at the river, he’d no doubt shake his head at my devotion to such frivolous, modern distractions and conveniences. He wouldn’t follow me to my car either. You see, the mountain is his home, because he’s just started a crazy new lifestyle where he rejects technology to live like primitive man did. And oh boy, is he going all-out.

If the daily, constant flood of emails, Twitter notifications, SMS, and calls makes you want to throw your iPhone off the nearest tall building, it can be very tempting to embrace your inner Fred or Wilma Flintstone and disappear to live off the land, just like him. We’re here to urge you to think twice. It’s fine (although a bit weird) for one guy to do it, but if we all get the same idea, things could go very wrong, very quickly.

It’s simply not feasible, logical, or even responsible for us all to consider making a go of some hippy, tech-free lifestyle today.

Hardcore survivalist

It’s not the first time this type of experiment has been carried out. Many people have disconnected from the internet or lived without their phones for a week or two. There are even more of those crashing bores who chastise others for a perceived over-reliance on tech, after someone dared to use a phone in their presence. Boyle is different. His new life is no half-measure. He’s living in a cabin built from mud and rocks, with no electricity, no fixed water supply, no shower, no Netflix, no smartphone, no vehicle, no refrigerator, and one assumes, no sanitation.

I’m all for the responsible use of technology, but to shun it and the modern world, borders on madness.

He knows it’s not everyone’s idea of a good time, though, and isn’t saying everyone should rise up, overthrow oppressive virtual assistants, and run out into the fields laughing and smiling like extras from Little House on the Prairie. However, he paints a surprisingly attractive picture of a world without tech. You can almost hear the birds singing in the trees, and smell the fresh countryside in his words.

The spell breaks when you realize that life without technology, in Boyle’s view, means becoming a hermit. His brave old world seems to mean living like Obi-wan Kenobi in Star Wars: A New Hope. Just with the robots and lightsabers replaced by squirrels and branches. It’s this removal from society that is the most uncomfortable part of Boyle’s new lifestyle. It’s actually inevitable. Erasing oneself from both city and connected life today is the same as erasing oneself from the world. Even speaking as an introvert, this sounds pretty unpleasant.

It’s for the best he doesn’t make the whole thing too damn enticing, because as we’ll find out, that would be a very bad thing indeed.

What’s that hole for? Oh …

Let’s go back to me washing my clothes in that stream. I’m finished, and have loved it so much I’ve quickly constructed a hut, which I’ll call home from now on. What next? Food, probably. I’m not Ray Mears, so I have no idea what berries will be a nourishing meal and what berries will see me convulse on the ground in agony. Without the internet, I can’t check, either. Not to worry, my mate Boyle has left me some roots, so I’ll crunch those up. Soon after, I chuck him out so he can begin the long trudge back to his own cabin. It can’t be too close by because that would be convenient, and go against the hermit code.

Next on my list would be to dig a hole for you-know-what before bed, and because I don’t have a job, I have no money for things like toothpaste (I guess I’ll use some grass or something). Then I’ll sleep in close proximity to all the bugs humanity has worked hard to keep out of their houses for centuries. Sounds like camping, only permanently, and much, much worse.

It all sounds like turning back the clock to before the Industrial Revolution. What was that like, you might wonder? Apparently, it wasn’t much fun. “Life for the average person was difficult, as incomes were meager, and malnourishment and disease were common,” says history.com. Sounds lovely.

Boyle’s new off-the-grid lifestyle may sound fascinating, but for rational people, his reality must surely be unpalatable.

The collapse of civilization

No matter how much you despise technology, whether it’s a phone, a car, or a power station, living entirely without modern technology would be incredibly drastic. We imagine you’d have to be really unsatisfied with life, escaping from who-knows-what, or be driven by some grand passion to push boundaries like Boyle to consider it.

Worse, tech haters are dead wrong about life being better if tech didn’t exist.

Tech haters are dead wrong about life being better if tech didn’t exist.

Philosopher Clay Shirky told The Atlantic imagining the world without the internet alone is to imagine it without civilization. “The only credible post-internet visions are all tied to civilizational collapse,” he said. That means things like pandemics, nuclear war, and other apocalyptic scenarios.

Technologist Kevin Ashton, writing in response to those who think technology is bad, says without it and even the most basic tools, most of us would be dead in a few days. “Our bodies,” he argues, “are not configured to survive without the aid of technology.” The humans before us had stronger jaws, big teeth, a lot more hair on our bodies, and considerably more robust digestive systems. You, me, and Boyle aren’t made that way anymore and have evolved in-line with the technology we’ve invented.

Even the residents of Green Bank, West Virginia — the National Radio Quiet Zone, where no connected or electrical devices are allowed — don’t exist in some time warp. They have modern homes, toilets, jobs, stores, vehicles, and, well, civilization. If you’re looking for a way to escape city life, and the pressures it sometimes brings, then arguably Green Bank and its surrounding towns is the right place to go.

Dead by dawn

Why would it be bad if we all headed out into the wilderness? One last time, let’s imagine I’m happy in my hut, have worked out what food makes me vomit, got myself a prime bit of grass and a little stream, and am slowly but surely converting others to mine and Boyle’s way of life. The cities are emptying, and the countryside is filling up, as we revert back to the way we were before. What a wonderful new world.

Well, perhaps not. Ashton says even if we do master the basic art of survival without technology, and everyone else wants the same thing, the world won’t be a better place. “Imagine doing all these things in competition with other people and species, all trying to find natural shelter, naturally potable water, digestible food, and to keep their families alive.’ He asks, “How long could you survive?”

Mark Boyle
Mark Boyle
Mark Boyle

I’ve seen enough episodes of The Walking Dead to know it probably wouldn’t be very long. The idyllic days of washing my clothes in that mountain stream would get a lot less idyllic if I’m constantly watching out for someone sneaking up behind me, ready to bash in my brains in for the seeds in my pocket.

I’m all for the responsible use of technology, but to shun it and the modern world, borders on madness. Boyle’s experiment is fascinating, but one I’ll watch from afar. It seems the rest of humanity would be wise to do the same.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: DIY smartphones and zip-on bike tires

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Gaming

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.
Mobile

Huawei is working on a 5G foldable phone, the Mate 20 X may be its template

Huawei is working on a folding 5G smartphone, according to the company's CEO, Richard Yu. He also provoked speculation the phone may have something in common with the massive Mate 20 X and its 7.2-inch screen.
Product Review

The Oculus Rift is cheaper, the Vive Pro is better. Is the original Vive still worth it?

The Oculus Rift may have brought virtual reality into the public eye, but HTC’s Vive, built in partnership with Valve, does it better. Does the Vive still represent the true future of virtual reality, or are there better competitors on…
Mobile

Pixel 3 XL vs. Pixel 2 XL vs. Pixel XL: Which XL is best for you?

A Google Pixel XL is the best phone to get if you want the perfect Android experience on a big screen. However, with the release of the Pixel 3 XL, you have more choices then ever. Which Pixel XL should you buy?
Mobile

LG V40 ThinQ vs. Samsung Galaxy Note 9: Can the V40 unseat the king?

The LG V40 ThinQ is packing a massive display and an incredible five lenses, making it a unique offering in the market. But is it better than the Galaxy Note 9, another phone with a huge display and great cameras?
Mobile

There are four versions of the Mate 20, but which one is the best?

Huawei revealed its full range of Mate 20 handsets, and it seems that there is a device that fits everyone's needs. We've compared all the options, including the Huawei Mate 20 Pro, the Mate 20 X, the Mate 20, and the Mate 20 Lite.
Mobile

Keep your new Google phone pixel perfect with the best Pixel 3 cases

If you want your new Google phone to stay pixel perfect, then you should snag one of the best Pixel 3 cases. We've scoped out some of your best options so far based on different styles, levels of protection, and budgets.
Mobile

Apple sends out invites for October hardware event, new iPad Pro expected

The new iPhone XS, iPhone XR, and Apple Watch aren't the last devices we'll see from Apple in 2018. There are plenty of rumors about a new iPad coming this year too, and it may share some design similarities with the new phones.
Mobile

Number not recognized? Here's why you're receiving calls from 'Scam Likely'

While it may seem like a bold marketing move to tag your calls "Scam Likely," these alerts are actually your carrier's way of helping you identify scams. Here, we'll walk you through what exactly these markers mean and how you can turn them…
Music

How much is Spotify Premium, and how can you get it at a discount?

Having access to millions of songs comes at a price -- albeit, a pretty small one. Before you figure out how much is Spotify Premium going to cost you, you will want to see if you qualify for a discounted (or even free) subscription.
Mobile

Master your new Google phone with these handy Pixel 3 and 3 XL tips

If you’re hunting for some Pixel 3 tips to help you get more from your Google phone, then you’ll find them right here. We’ve got tips for shortcuts, camera controls, and more. All these tips will also work for the Pixel 3 XL.
Product Review

We can’t find a reason to buy the Porsche Design Mate 20 RS over the Mate 20 Pro

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro looks like an exceptional phone, so can a version with Porsche Design’s involvement be worth spending twice as much on? We’ve taken the phone for a test drive.
Mobile

The Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are now available for purchase

Google's latest flagships, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, are now official and we have all the details from the October 9 event in New York City and Paris. Here's everything we know about the Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL.