Archives for posts with tag: human problems

Reading a few old sources for a research project, I came across this snippet by Anya Kamenetz in DIY U. It’s written in the context of technology and education, offering some new perspectives (like those of Edupunks and Edupreneurs). However, I think it’s nearly universal:

Our best hope is to get better at empowering individuals to find answers for themselves. In other words, forget about giving the guy a fish, or teaching him how to fish, either. Teach him how to teach himself, and he’ll always be able to acquire the skills he needs to find food, skills you haven’t even thought of yet for things you didn’t know you could eat.

and from there, the anecdote gets real:

Fishing itself, it happens, is a great example of this. Today, 90 percent of fish species are over-exploited. Fish farming is people’s fastest-growing source of food and will probably remain so until 2025, says James S. Diana of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. The world needs people who can figure out new ways to repair the oceans and to find or grow renewable sources of food.

Here, here, Anya!

Although it does a great job of flipping the old “Teach A Person to Fish” story, there’s something to be desired in terms of community, cooperation, and social capital. Oh well, I’ll have to be on the look-out for that next great anecdote.

I starting thinking about this sentence a lot today (something less than a mantra).

Back-to-the-landers (Californians and many others) retreated in the 60s and 70s from cities to rural spaces, some to places that had yet to be populated at all. There was a lot of hippie culture, pot growing, conflicts with locals, and also none (or the opposite) of each. Aaron Cometbus wrote some interviews with some of these folks and their grown-up kids in an old issue of his zine I picked up a couple weeks ago.

Talking to a few people lately, we all have the impression there is a sense of impending doom. The United States is in a bad way, not to mention the whole world, and there are some pretty poor things to come very soon. The consequences of environmental disaster, financial disaster, and more. Even things that were around before our recent financial crashes–the pains of capitalism, corporatism, and so forth.

Many of these back-to-the-landers were thinking the same thing. There was more focus on the collapse of civilization or what-have-you, due to tensions thought to be caused by the urban environs. But the rhetoric really isn’t so different. And how did the react? They retreated, they literally “headed for the hills.”

So what of today? What of our crises today? I say that conditions now are critical and we need to ask ourselves as individuals what we should do about it.

Personally, I don’t think we can escape or avert most of our present crises–there’s no hill tall enough to run to. But more than that, I don’t feel like running, I am interested in confronting these issues and not letting them drive me–or anyone–out of our heads. Funny, all this clarity came from a recent existential crisis, an unbearable lightness of being sort of thing. All I know is, I have things to learn and do, and my intentions are to address critical issues, not ignore or escape them. I invite you to join me.

Classical economics might suggest better democracy, better education, better anything, can be the result of technological development and innovation. Further, I think this a generally held social understanding, for which there is a lot of evidence. Better storage and retrieval systems save money at large scale, and can permit education to be run much cheaper. Lowering communication and coordination costs (personal computers, emails, cell phones, messaging, etc) permits creativity, the flourishing of political discourse, and the facilitation of organizing groups.

However, I have a major point to which I will be adding further insight and corrections for quite some time. I do not believe the fundamental practices and emphases on democracy (the right of the people to govern themselves in some fashion), and education (the process by which knowledge is made accessible and learning is facilitated for people) are dependent on technology.

It is easy to imagine future societies in which true/better/real democracy is facilitated by digital or otherwise large-scale peer-to-peer and broadcast technologies. We can get more peoples’ input, have more refined understandings of each other, provide services and solutions easily at scale at very low cost [see Code for America]. But I am skeptical, I am hesitant to suggest such a dependence on technology is necessary. Fundamentally, democracy and education must be grounded in an analog, or even non-industrial ideology.

Iterations and additional expressions of these concepts can take place over any available medium, with great affordances and benefits to boot! But it is the underlying concept that must remain elegantly independent of technology. I fear we imagine a world that is too dependent on technical innovations to save us from ourselves, or the status quo, or oppression in general. Instead, I want to imagine a world that presumes the challenge to oppression and layers any technological apparatus on top, as supplement.