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Demotech research wiki: Design / TechnologyForTenBillionPeopleFinal
Technology for Ten Billion People
I wish you, reader of this story, a long life. But -as a start- please realize, you are going to share this planet in your old days with ten billion people. Five billion of whom are expected to be unacceptably poor. Will your old day be a quiet one?
A smart design solution would come up with something amazing, really unexpected, not another one of the look-alike suggestions. It would mobilize a forgotten and improbable resource.
Recognize this: People within poverty survive thanks to a different technology, let us call it 'Technology within Poverty'. This 'Technology within Poverty' is the way of cooperating, the working methods, the tools and materials with what two billion 'people within poverty' are able to survive. Sometimes it is called informal technology. These ideas are present in the works of Victor Papanek and Ernest Friedrich Schumacher.
But what about the low effectivity of 'Technology within Poverty', as compared to Western technology? Technology within Poverty with its roots in traditional crafts, presently lacks institutions to support its further development. Neither the rich or the poor expect or believe that a further development is possible. The existence of such a Technology within Poverty is not even recognised or is denied as not relevant, apart from a very few cases described later.
So an important feature of Technology within Poverty is overlooked: it is based on information, a kind of technical information that is applicable without capital investment and without infrastructure. This is the characteristic difference with capital-intensive modern technology. And, this difference gives 'Technology within Poverty' the potential to develop into a new generation of technology. By learning to harness technologies requiring neither capital nor infrastructure, sustainability can be attained at a very fast pace. This new paradigm would be analogous to information technology both in its swiftness of development and its small need for capital.
People in impoverished situations do not survive by government support, or by foreign aid, but with this technology. The efficiencies and advantages of 'Technology within Poverty' are waiting to be harnessed as a model for a sustainable technology. 'Technology within Poverty' as a guide for environmental survival
As above stated, the world is faced with the challenges of depletion of resoures, exponential population growth, and environmental damage. This situation threatens our standard of living in both the short and long term. How can “Technology within Poverty” as it has been identified be used as a method towards answering these challenges? As a start, technology within poverty has three clear advantages over modern technology:
These advantages have already been recognized and tested by a small body researchers. These people, overcoming the cultural biases, have drawn very interesting ideas into practice in poor as well in rich countries. They continue to make headway in the field of informal technology, as shown by this list of examples:
It is important to emphasize that these examples are not developing Technology within Poverty itself, but instead use it as a TOOL to support meaningful change in today’s world. If this tool is implemented broadly, ten billion people will live more comfortably into their, and your, old age forty years from now. How can that be achieved?
If 'Technology within Poverty' resembles Information Technology, would it then be possible to let it profit from the same rapid development IT has shown?
Yes, the conditions for such a takeoff are available. Such methods have been used before, and current communications technology makes such a paradigm entirely possible. Whether or not such a change will start, is another question entirely. See paper Can Designers Make a Breakthrough for discussion on this issue.
Future peace and prosperity asks for a paradigm shift in technological development. Technology within poverty gives the guidelines of a technology, resembling information technology, that leads to sustainability without compromising standard of living and comfort. If indeed we are to share the world among 10 billion people, then it is up to us to embrace a way of living that makes such sharing not only possible, but attractive.
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