One of the most human tendencies is to polarize issues.
So it has been predicted (I haven’t read those predictions myself) that humankind is splitting in two: The technophile and the off-grid “bushwhacker”. The former will be isolated individuals lost in the online world, with no “real” friends and estranged from their families. The latter will live in little enclaves, ecovillages that have reverted to the lifestyle of late Stone Age.
I see several problems with this concept. Firstly, every “technophile”, bar perhaps the most extreme games addicts, has a life “outside” the computer. Yes, we can order stuff online, but we still do physically go to the shops to select our shopping ourselves. And we could take e-tours around Blarney Castle (I did, in 2015) but while that is amusing and quite amazing, it has nothing on the actual experience.
Also, the off-gridders cannot survive in such small, isolated communities. Alright, I guess they can survive. But the trouble is, humans are a fine balance of social vs antisocial beings. If you felt encroached in a mini community while living in a small town, just imagine how much worse it will be when you share every meal with neighbours around a large table in the community banquet hall. And imagine the power of the community to excommunicate a member if they disapprove. If you feel camped in by other people’s rules now, just imagine how it will be then. A lot of problems arise from this “Underbergishness”.
In the middle ages, young adults would, after completing their apprenticeship, become a wandering bachelor, looking for fresh opportunities, fresh villages. This is a natural human desire: The wish for “something more”, for a place where nobody yet knows your name and nobody watched you be potty-trained. Our culture and civilization arose in response to our need for “something more”.
Now that we have that “something more”, to an extent that we can communicate with lost family and friends across the oceans in real-time, I cannot see humankind abandoning this in a hurry. Not even half of humankind. Yes, ecovillages are a great idea and so is off-grid – as long as the off-grid doesn’t actually cut you off from all communications with the outside, and all our actual culture.
Some of the questions I would raise:
- Literature. So, we’ll be writing with goose quill and brewed ink on home-made papyrus again… a novel of 500 pages that one can really get engrossed in? And there is only one copy of it, because without technology it would take monasteries to copy out books – and as you know, they don’t necessarily like fiction.
- Music. Where are the orchestras, when in one village of 30, there are perhaps two fiddlers, a guitarist and one soul experimenting on the flute?
- Art. Canvas, paints? The insects will eat it, because it cannot be proofed against them if it’s all organic.
So you’ve just done away with art, music and literature – the three things that define a human culture. The very heart of what makes us tick. Is Stone-Age living really worth that?
I volunteer, in that post-apocalyptic horror vision of a world, to be the glue between the two sides of humanity. Who is joining me?
Humans love stories, we’ve always thrived on them. Books, reading and writing, are treasures. We shall continue to produce paper books and move the techno world into mass-producing them – or at least, have the possibility to produce the paper book on demand. I’ll be vending them to the off-grid guys.
Music. I guess I could get into my off-roads vehicle with a number of other music teachers and go around the ecovillages giving lessons. I know they have a lot of time in their idyllic lifestyle, so they will practise (because they are bored).
Art. Organizing workshops (with transport arranged) for those poor young people stuck in the eco-villages who crave to be artists, to explore their souls and the world that way. Supplying them with materials. Heck, I’ll take gold nuggets or home-crafted tablecloths in payment and vend them back to the techno crowd – because, peeps, no matter how techno we are (see which world I clearly belong to), we still love adorning our homes in lovely colours and eating fresh, wholesome foods.
I’ll be the Rover. The Trader. The Glue. Who’s with me?
And TBH this leads me to wonder if there wasn’t such a situation before (not quite as technological but as divided) where the travellers (gypsies and other travelling tradespeople) were actually acting as the glue.