Wisdom of the Tools is a remarkable examination and critique of a central issue of our time: who controls the energy that powers modern urban-industrial societies?
This book was conceived and mostly written in the late 1960s, yet it is not only relevant to our modern day, but also eerily predictive of current trends. It draws on his experiences living close to nature as a boy and observing natural processes in the Pacific Northwest as a young adult.
In his witty and assertive style, Bill describes an unprecedented change, beginning in the 20th century, in which people connected to the land and to each other have transformed into a population separated from nature and wrapped increasingly in machine-space.
The ideas in Wisdom of the Tools evolved out of Bill's growing conviction, even in the 1960s, that far too little attention was being paid to the ways in which burgeoning industrial energy was being controlled and directed. Some potentially catastrophic and unforeseen consequences of our choices were already edging into view at that time.
He points to the relentless and reckless depletion of resources, the emergence of an increasingly vulnerable "mechanical-electronic monoculture", atmospheric changes that are altering retention and distribution of solar energy, evolution of new pathogens such as antibiotic-resistant staphylococcus, enforcement of unsustainable demands on finite fossil fuel supplies, and increasing capital attention to productivity, which Bill describes as "disemployment."
Bill also describes (predicts, actually) the arrival and tyranny of a corporate-military alliance that has enveloped 20th-century America, and explains how the societal grip and complexity of this alliance inhibit rational thought about our collective plight. Unbridled, he warns, it threatens all life on the planet.