enismirdal: (Bee!11)
[personal profile] enismirdal
OK, so thought experiment...

A magic portal opens up between you and a magical parallel universe that's pre-industrial (or near-as) - think Narnia, Arda, Damar, Valdemar, pick your poison - and you get to control what influence from our collective Earth culture goes through. What do you introduce, and what do you intentionally deny/spare them?

I mean, we need to make a few assumptions: do they have polio? Is it the same as our polio? If the new world has preventable diseases that are like ours, and we have vaccines/treatments, I couldn't in good faith hold them back. I mean, could you really say, "Sorry, we want to keep your culture and world pure, so your daughter is just going to have to get polio, oh well"?

And I guess if they grow, say, potatoes, and we grow potatoes, and we have better yielding varieties, I'd want to introduce the new varieties, because how can you really refuse a community the option of increasing their yields by 200% or something? But you'd have to do it without introducing all the associated pests and diseases.

But they probably have their own crop pests and diseases. So do you introduce pesticides? If I met a culture and I wanted to help, could I, in good conscience, say, "Look, here's lambda-cyhalothrin, I'll sell it to you"?

Of course, then it gets more complicated. If they had massive reserves of a trace metal, like vanadium or something and an unnamed other Earth government approached them, bypassing you, saying, "Look, if you let us mine your vanadium, we'll build you nice roads and sell you cheap cars and cool gizmos," how hard do you argue with the hypothetical magic Queen that no, she really doesn't want that to happen to her country and the road-building will involve introduction of invasive plants, the quarrying will rip out sections of forest and grassland and they won't be the same for millennia, etc.

Makes me want to write a novel. I guess the Sparrow and Children of God touched on some of the ideas, but were really about other matters.

Perhaps I'll doodle some scenes about it...

Date: 7 Feb 2017 08:46 (UTC)
ext_45018: (and whither then I cannot say)
From: [identity profile] oloriel.livejournal.com
Welcome to cultural anthropology and the participant observer dilemma. :/ Or, in Star Trek terms, the limitations of the Prime Directive...
Edited Date: 7 Feb 2017 08:47 (UTC)

Date: 12 Feb 2017 18:59 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] enismirdal.livejournal.com
Yes, I did realise it was a prime directive jobby but started writing this after a cocktail party so forgot to add that!

Date: 13 Feb 2017 07:38 (UTC)
ext_45018: (Words words words.)
From: [identity profile] oloriel.livejournal.com
Sounds like a great party! ;)

More seriously, though, it is a thorny field, and I suspect one really could fill a whole novel with the different issues and the consequences of whatever decision people make. Because there just seems to be no right way of handling it. :/

Date: 11 Feb 2017 21:58 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aglarien1.livejournal.com
With what we know in this day and age about the impact of changing just one thing, the thinking man or woman would have all the best intentions of not changing a single thing. How do you cure a disease without causing population growth that can't be sustained without improving agricultural methods and animal husbandry? The problem arises that while that intention sounds well and good, real life is going to challenge it. What happens when the sick person is your child, your lover, your friend? Too easy to think "What would be the harm is just one little thing?"

Date: 12 Feb 2017 19:06 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] enismirdal.livejournal.com
It's true, but what if you accept it won't be one single thing, but an a la carte menu of things that together might make things better? I mean, potentially, if it was well managed, it might be possible to steward a small population through the industrial revolution and out the other side without them having to see all the horrific negatives of the process (like the Victorian factories and the child labour, etc.). And there's plenty of evidence that shows birth rates will plummet rapidly when women are educated, so population growth doesn't have to be inevitable or unsustainable if you match it with good education and access to healthcare.

I suppose it's similar to uncontacted tribes in the world today - if they choose to remain uncontacted, that's their choice. But forcibly keeping them ignorant seems to me rather like treating them as a human zoo. I couldn't square it with my conscience if I had means to provide stuff like vaccination, antibiotics and contraceptives, improved crop varieties and ibuprofen, and chose not to offer it. I suppose it's basically discrimination. But yeah, there's always that problem of where to stop. Access to refrigerators is a huge boost to a nation, but you then need the means to power them. And plastics waste...ugh. I'd love to see a developed society without use of oil, gas, coal or plastics. Perhaps the way to do it is to sit down with the decision makers and show what's available and say, "But this will be the consequences," and just hope that they'll think long-term...

Date: 12 Feb 2017 19:17 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aglarien1.livejournal.com
It certainly all gives food for thought, and change presumes that the people would even listen. Not so easy to educate the women if those who hold the power think it shouldn't be. I have my doubts that one or two or even a group of people from this era could go back and effectively change anything. Which probably has to do with the fact I'm currently listening to book to one of Lucy Worsley's history books - If Walls could Talk.


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