[This post is part of the 10 Principles blog series, an ongoing exploration of the history, philosophy and dynamics of Burning Man's 10 Principles in Black Rock City and around the world. We welcome your voice in the conversation.]
Every now and then someone proposes a new technological fix for what many at Burning Man don’t see as a problem in the first place. The debate that results usually boils down to a parody of intellectual discussion, as performed by a sparkle pony named “Meerkat” and a shirtcocker named “Thunder”:
MEERKAT: “YOU AND YOUR PHONE DON’T UNDERSTAND OR RESPECT THE 10 PRINCIPLES!”
THUNDER: “YOU’RE A LUDDITE TRADITIONALIST WHO DOESN’T APPRECIATE TECHNOLOGY!”
MEERKAT: “HEY, LOOK, A GIANT PIRATE SHIP PILOTED BY COOKIE MONSTER!”
THUNDER: “I’M GOING TO POST ABOUT IT TO ALL MY FRIENDS!”
MEERKAT: “DAMN YOU, TRAITOR!”
THUNDER: “WHY CAN’T I GET A SIGNAL? OH CRUEL WORLD!”
This is a lot of fun to watch at three in the morning, but it’s not productive.
If we’re going to have a productive debate about technology, the terms of the discussion really need to change.
The first thing to realize is that an event in the desert founded on radical self-reliance can’t be anti-technology. Technology is a form of radical self-reliance. What you can’t do yourself you develop tools to do, and tools become machines, and machines become systems – and systems become “technology” as a whole. We absolutely rely on our tools to survive, let alone to build and thrive, and the idea that Burning Man culture is incompatible with the development of better tools is ludicrous.