Off Topic #16: DIY

Oct 7, 2013

If you want something done right, there's an app for that! With each passing day we draw nearer to the realization of Total Technological Convenience, to a time in the not so distant future when there is no problem that can't be solved with the tap of a screen or the barking of a "voice command." It seems inevitable. But whose idea of progress is that, anyway? 

America is supposed to be a country of entrepreneurial amateurs, enterprising tinkerers, and freethinking inventors--home to the Wright Brothers, the Frontier, The Great Experiment. At what point did we collectively agree that it was OK to rely on handheld gadgets to perform such basic tasks for us as preparing a grocery list or finding directions to the doctor's office? In this episode of Off Topic, we set out in search of the great American ideals of self-reliance and DIY prowess. We ask, in our technological age, our age of credentialed expertise, PhDs, and professional specialization, is there anything left for us to do ourselves?

In this episode...

Jack Hitt is the author of A Bunch of Amateurs: A Search for the American Character. He is also a contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine and an occasional contributor to This American Life.

Davy Rothbart is the founder and editor of FOUND Magazine, author of My Heart is and Idiotand contributor to This American Life.

Michael Myers is the owner and distiller at Distillery 291 in Colorado Springs, CO.

Michelle Blessing is a realtor with ERA Shields Realty in Colorado Springs, CO.

Amy Fusselman is the author of the forthcoming book, Savage Park.

Piers Bizony is the author of How to Build Your Own Spaceship: The Science of Personal Space Travel. 

Mike Lapham is co-author of The Self-Made Myth: And the Truth About How Government Helps Individuals and Businesses Succeed. He is also the founding director of Responsible Wealth, a project of United for a Fair Economy.