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  • February17th

    I’m currently watching a show on globalization, mainly focusing on the effects of China’s insatiable demand for raw inputs to fuel it’s incredible growth.  The show visited a remote tribe living in the depths of the Amazon Rain Forest who’s lands were being encroached upon by illegal logging.

    Sad story, guys – stop the illegal logging of the Rain Forest. I’m 100% for paper products, I’m 100% for wood products, but come on people, if the land is protected by the law, don’t illegally go cut down all the trees and certainly don’t get the work done by enslaving entire families (as the show implied…). I’m sure the exotic woods from the rainforest look incredible in city lofts, but at what price?

    So that’s not the point of this post, the point is that ~2000 years ago, Romans built this:

    This should (hopefully) be immediately recognizable to you as the Colosseum built in the 1st Century. It not only held ~50,000 people, but underneath the arena floor was a two-layer network of tunnels and cages where the gladiators and animals were housed, personal tunnels existed for the Emperor to safely enter and exit, and there’s even evidence suggesting that the entire arena floor area could be quickly flooded for maritime events and shows. You can read more about the Colosseum HERE.

    They also built this:

    This is Pont Du Gard, also constructed in the 1st century. It’s currently located in France, but was once part of the Roman empire. This Aquaduct is over 30 miles long and the bridge seen above is over 160 feet (48.8 meters) high! The aquaduct was also COVERED, something people often don’t realize, but the water actually flowed INSIDE the top portion in a pipe like mechanism – the Romans realized that the easiest way to bring them down would be for an enemy to simply poison their water supply. Even more incredible is that over the entire 31 miles, the difference in elevation from the source of the aquaduct to it’s end is only 56 feet (17 meters)!!! To put this in perspective, the bridge you see above is 1,496 feet (456 meters) long and it decends only 2.5 centimeters – LESS THAN AN INCH.  You can read more about the Pont Du Gard  HERE.

    So you may be wondering where this is all going…well, here it goes:

    If 2000 years ago, people lived with the luxury of running CLEAN water and if you were rich – even heated water, and if they enjoyed a feat of engineering, amazing even by today’s standards, such is the Colosseum, why then, pray tell, are there still remote tribes in Africa and Brazil and other parts of the world living like this:


    Have you ever wondered? That is a picture of a “lost tribe” of South America shooting arrows at a Helicopter.

    Now don’t get me wrong, I think it is beyond amazing that these people have been so untouched by the outside world that they fear helicopters (and to be honest, this is something that this tribe and I have in common), but why have they only achieved to a level that they are at now?

    So here’s come the stream of consciousness that will try to explain why…in my head…yet still not really explain it, because I’m actually curious…and can’t seem to figure it out.

    So we’ll look back at the greeks and romans – trade was obviously much easier for them because they were there with the mediterranean and had access to many lands. But then again, we’ve got to go WAY back in time before the Romans, because that’s an unfair comparison. To compare the skill and level of “evolution” or even “revolution” in terms of ideas, etc. of these people, you’d have to go back MUCH farther than just 2,000 years. We’ve all watched those discovery channel shows where they show neanderthals working with stone tools and touting such successes as tying them onto the end of a stick and creating a spear. Now even though these seem like such simple ideas to us today, I can only imagine how “beside-himself” the neanderthal who came up with that idea must have been! So they were quite revolutionary for their time…”their time” being MANY of thousands of years ago. So why does it appear that these people have not evolved  much further than that? Surely the idea of a gun would be “revolutionary” to these people, but alas, for us it’s been commonplace for many generations. The idea of a cell phone or computer or any number, if not most, of our coveted inventions would have them claiming sorcery. WHY?

    Is it because of their remote location? Are they so remote that there were no chances of information overflow between tribes? There were no chances for collusion and innovation? Are they so small and remained small that there were no incremental improvements in brain power to consider other opportunities on how to improve the quality of life? I really can’t answer these…I’m guessing it has a lot to do with the number of people, considering you can tell that this group has clearly not reproduced well in the past – if they’re centuries old (old enough to have an entire language, for example) why are there so few of them?

    Many may blame this on the government or suppression or depressions. In the case of undeveloped african countries or tribes, this may in fact be true – the government policies didn’t allow for the growth that was potential. But again – we’re talking so much further back – when “government” was little more than the patriarch/matriarch of the group.

    The dark ages can EASILY be attributed to the church and governments around the European area. In my Innovation Management & Strategy, there was a quote that stood out from William Baumol’s article Entrepreneurial Enterprises, Large Established Firms and Other Components of the Free-Market Growth Machine that reads as follows:

    “Even the most well-off consumers before the Industrial Revolution had virtually no goods that were unavailable in ancient Rome. Clocks, hunting guns, window glass, and paper virtually exhuast the list. Moreover, many choices available to affluent Romans – like hot baths – had long disappeared by the time of the Industrial Revolution.”

    So this brings up some interesting questions in and of itself, but I think we all know enough about the Dark Ages to say that the church was a main cause, seeing as the bible was all the “light” they needed. If you don’t agree with that, you can research the fall of the Roman Empire in which the rise of the Catholic church was a major player. Nonetheless, I digress into history that I do not know enough about to intelligently, with more than 90% certainty, debate.

    So that’s the take on the “Early Middle Ages” – formerly known as the “Dark Ages” – but it doesn’t answer the question of these tribes, which is why I wrote this post to begin with…how have they remained so cut off from the world and so content in their present (for SO long) that we end up in the present: us flying over them in helicopters, and them shooting at said helicopter with weapons that were “revolutionary” at a time when our ancestors had hardly discovered the loin cloth.

    Any ideas on this…?  The only thing I can truly come up with is their geographic isolation, but it still doesn’t explain their lack of population growth over such grand periods of time, because lets face it, all of our ancestors once lived in “isolated” places – the earth didn’t start out this populated!

    Hope y’all can help me shed some light on this…

    By the way, I passed all of my first semester exams and I am PSYCHED about it!!!! Cannot even express…and although that sounds like “oh congrats, Ross…you passed all of your exams….?” Well, passing here is not as easy as it sounds and their grading scale is entirely different. I’ll explain that in some other long-winded post…not here.

    Take care!


    – Ross