Including the luddites [was Re: Degrees vs. smarts]

Robert J. Bradbury (
Tue, 5 Oct 1999 10:07:31 -0700 (PDT)

On Mon, 4 Oct 1999, Natasha Vita-More wrote:

> Also, I notice that most of the respondees to the thread that I started on
> an art topic a couple of weeks ago, that developed numerous subthreads,
> were not "artists." And, the artists who responded did so with a lot of
> technical savvy.
> This is a very good sign.

True, the collective observation of individuals trying to open their minds and grok the perspectives of those who seem (to them) to be quite different does raise my hopes.

However, I will comment that I know an artist in S.F. who happens to also be a Native American. Our conversations regarding technology trends and especially genetics tend to get fairly hot. It isn't that he is particularly anti-technology but that he sees technology as a threat to his cultural history. Native Americans are caught in a bind. They can live on a reservation where they can have their culture but have few economic opportunities or move away from the reservation, losing their culture but having more opportunities to educate themselves and prosper. Since he also teaches Native American history he can also cite chapter and verse where the government has run amok, abused power, broken promises, etc.

When we start discussing genetics he raises the problem of the creation of DNA databases and the "categorizing" of indivduals according to ethnicity. As I understand it there are some relatively complex laws regarding the support you get or rights you have depending on whether you are more or less than some fraction of "Native American" ethnicity.

So the advance of technology represents both a threat to his culture and a threat to the economic well being of the "tribe" that he views himself a member of.

I notice that the barriers are fairly high for him (as an artist with a particular cultural heritage about "art" as well as a Native American viewing fairly negatively the advance of European "Civilization") to allow himself an open mind with regard to possible benefits of technologies we regularly discuss.

It is really important for us to consider the side of things that includes things that get lost (cultures, languages, art forms, etc.), that some people consider to be quite valuable, with the incessant march of technology or the evolution of art.

Since he and I have such radically different backgrounds and experiences I sometimes get the sense our communications go right past each other. However, I believe there are members of this group who share more common experience with him who could identify those shared thought patterns that allow really effective communication.

The increased awareness of the diversity and experiences of people here as well as the interactions trying to find those "common grounds" shows us the resources and paths that may be used to build the bridges to the luddite lands.