Indigenous * Technology

It’s interesting to find a lot of solutions for improving one’s life nowadays in seemingly opposite ends of a spectrum: modern technology (e.g. motors, computers) vs. indigenous ways (e.g. Traditional Ecological Knowledge). This is written with the will to transform the “vs.” to an “&”. The challenges of today are of a scale that calls for modern technology, yet are of a depth that calls for indigenous ways.
A couple of examples – by no means an exhaustive list – to clarify the importance of…

Modern Technology

  • Technology helps us organize, facilitating community and grassroots initiatives. One can tap into this by joining a listserv about a hobby or movement of interest, by joining a community network like Nextdoor.com, or simply by keeping in touch with friends more through messengers and event organizer tools.
  • Information access is so valuable. Though having answers at your fingertips could dumb you down, it could also broaden your horizons by far and enable you to push your thinking even further. As Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Information technology, in this sense, serves as a gateway to giants.
  • We have information overload in many places, and it’s not just what’s on your social media sites or any screen for that matter. There are so many humans making observations and changes upon the environment, that the amount of information out there can be overwhelming. How do we organize it and keep track of it? Something as essential as the pipes we use to bring water in and out of our house, as a neighborhood block group or town or city, requires extreme precision in monitoring, maintaining, and coordinating to make it work. Computers and electronic networks are making this much easier and I think less overwhelming to do.

Indigenous Ways

  • Indigenous ways cultivate vital sense of place, in terms of connection to our physical place and also belonging to the role we best fulfill in our community. Modern, western people have lost these senses of place as we live more frequently uprooted lifestyles with less consistent connections to the creatures and environment around us as well as to our own gifts.
  • Traditionall Ecological Knowledge teaches adaptation, carefully observing the environment and shifting landscapes and lifestyles to fit in harmoniously with nature’s ways. This is important as we face a changing climate and a need to eventually reduce the use of fossil fuels; learning to move with, rather than against, nature’s tides will be key in how easy things will be for future generations.
  • Indigenous lifestyles demonstrate a more balanced approach to capital (see: 8 Forms of Capital), demonstrating how social, cultural, living, and spiritual capital can be so valuable. Having a neighbor to help, a culture to guide, life to subsist, and appreciative awe for all are deeply precious things that humanity has lost track of in the hustle and bustle of modern, industrial life. Given deep flaws in the growing global economy, we need other models to be resilient in the face of turbulent times.
How these two seeming contrasts fit together is not yet clear to me. It is an important bridge to build however, taking the best of an ancient and everlasting world as well as a new and fast-living world. Might the next generation of torch bearers from both sides be able to trailblaze working together, with indigenous ways applied in the 21st century and IT freed via open source & cryptography movements?
Do you have ideas on how indigenous ways and modern technology can be cultivated in your own life for the best of one and all?

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