Humans as Infrastructure

Posted by Paull Young | Posted in charity: water, Internet, Life | Posted on 22-10-2010

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Seth Godin raved about  Kevin Kelly’s new book What Technology Wants so I ordered it and got stuck into it today.

The book focuses on the benefits technology has brought society, and this paragraph from chapter 1 struck me deeply:

As Lynn White, historian of technology wrote,

“The chief glory of the later Middle Ages was not its cathedrals or its epics or its scholasticism: it was the building for the first time in history of a complex civilization which rested not on the backs of sweating slaves or coolies but primarily on non-human power.”

A beautiful sentiment, and it is great that technology has played a role in replacing man-labor and freeing up our time for higher level pursuits… well at least if you live in the developed world.

This statement couldn’t help but jar against what I read on blogging on water’s Blog Action Day post, Stop Using Girls as Infrastructure:

Stop using girls as infrastructure. When we create proper infrastructures – build roads, install electricity and clean watergirls won’t need to be used as infrastructure any longer. Today they function as the electric grid as they carry firewood, plumbing system as they carry water, childcare system, etc.

Couldn’t agree more. Too often around the world women and girls are used as water (and all too often wastewater) infrastructure instead of being given the opportunity to be educated and become productive members of society.

Technology is a beautiful thing. And we’re lucky we live in the part of the world where we can play Angry Birds to our hearts content, not the part where we have to send our women and children on grueling daily walks for water.

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