The word is out that technology makes us stupid. I am in no position to argue, having recently spent a week blundering around Southern California in a rented S.U.V., surrendering my brain to a sultry-voiced G.P.S. unit. “When possible,” she kept telling me, “make a legal U-turn.”
Mental atrophy is all around us. It’s a big theme of “Wall-E,” that fierce indictment of the human race disguised as a family cartoon. Its human characters are supersized and infantilized by all-encompassing robotic care.
If our machines are coddling us into idiocy, the right reaction is to bristle. An insurgency has been brewing for a few years now, made up of the inventive, the curious and the technologically restless. It’s called the Maker movement, and it has brought the pre-1970s world of basement workshops and amateur tinkering into the digital age.
Through two magazines — Make and Craft — an array of blogs and events called Maker Faires, participants share ideas for previously unimagined tools, toys and forms of locomotion. Their goal is to reassert creative control over technology that is now so sophisticated and magically opaque that we are its loving hostages. Lots of people are content to lie back and let the iPhone and Google tell them where and who they are. Makers are not those people.