What occurs when Westerners uncover
and acknowledge a sequence of identifiable details? In accordance with Western logic,
that physique of information places them able to create the instruments that may
allow them to unravel issues. These instruments fall into two broad classes:
strategies and expertise.

The strategies they create — whether or not
they’re known as science or administration strategies — give attention to the gathering and
group of knowledge and the invention of logical procedures that serve to
construction units of guidelines. They design the principles to supply a desired consequence and
apply these guidelines to analyzing the info. The strategies then information the creation of
applied sciences that render the processes much less labor-intensive and more and more
environment friendly.

For the previous 500 years, Westerners,
their establishments and, certainly, Western considering as an entire have labored on the
assumption that the instruments they create are designed not solely to execute guide
duties within the spirit of conventional tool-making, but in addition to unravel issues.
This modern, cultural orientation launched the pattern that spawned the Industrial
, radically reworking human environments, each city and rural.
The pattern then accelerated, actually reaching the velocity of sunshine with the
digital revolution within the late twentieth century.

The Veiled Face of Information Colonialism Uncovered


One of many unspoken assumptions that
has pushed technological progress is the assumption that there isn’t a downside that
human ingenuity and entrepreneurship can’t clear up. One of many penalties of
this perception is that we’re inclined to see each phenomenon encountered even in
our each day lives as an issue to be solved. Typing, for instance, offered the
resolution to speaking with machines, till typing grew to become an issue to be
solved by substituting voice instructions. That cumbersome downside is now being
addressed by expertise that treats thought instructions. Our ingenuity is
incessantly directed at facilitating our management over the setting. Its
final manifestation would be the transformation of people into cyborgs.

Consequently, no one seems to be
taken with a extra basic query: Do all issues must be solved?
Much more essentially, why can we deal with so many phenomena of the pure world
as nothing greater than an issue to be solved?

Accepting to discover the historical past of
thought and the avenues towards information in the remainder of the world could assist
these of us raised and educated with Western values to know our personal
tendency to hunt to account for every thing as if it represented an issue to be
solved. This obsession has produced the final word downside to be solved: weaning
ourselves off our dependancy to fixing even issues that don’t exist and
promoting our options to others.

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The web site Aeon options an intriguing essay by the historian Toby Inexperienced, who’s specialised within the historical past of West Africa. The article known as “Africa in its Fulness.” Inexperienced challenges us to find the advanced historic and cultural actuality of a continent that we are inclined to dismiss as an enigmatic “coronary heart of darkness” that we’d like not even attempt to perceive as we give attention to exploiting its assets. African historical past has not simply been deformed however fairly actually annihilated. This isn’t simply by a scarcity of curiosity, but in addition by the Western method to problem-solving.

In his essay, Inexperienced makes an
remark that deserves critical reflection: “Lengthy into the postcolonial period,
the consequences of this colonial effort stay on within the migration disaster, and the
lack of former methods of information that – like these associated to ecology, and lots of
different issues – have a lot to supply the world within the twenty first century.”

Right here is
immediately’s 3D definition:

Methods of

For many of humanity and all through human historical past, avenues towards making a residing relationship with the setting and even the universe that result in the development of human understanding. For Western tradition, the gathering and exploitation of proprietary knowledge for the needs of figuring out issues to be solved because of monetizable problem-solving ingenuity.


Inexperienced reminds us that African
civilizations, whose cultures the West has alternately ignored or sought to
suppress, possess “methods of information.” This places them in direct distinction with
the West’s conception of “our bodies of information.” The West now finds itself on
the brink of exhausting its personal most popular approach of information, a approach that has
centered on extraction, exploitation and manufacturing. It justifies itself by the
infernal logic of obsessively in search of and even creating issues with a purpose to
have new issues to unravel.

Local weather change stands as a chief
instance of this logic. Inexperienced means that humanity, at the least in Africa, could
have approaches — name them “unexploited assets” — that may save us from the
self-destruction that compulsive problem-solving entails. Alas, these purely
human assets don’t have any simply discernable financial worth.

Africa offered the unique dwelling of humanity. It additionally occurs to be the richest continent on the planet for its sheer amount of pure assets. Africa “has roughly 30 % of the earth’s remaining mineral assets.” As each pupil of contemporary historical past ought to know, Africa has additionally been probably the most brutally exploited continent for the previous 5 – 6 centuries. That historical past consists of all of European colonial historical past relationship again to the fifteenth century, the mad imperial conquests of competing European powers in the course of the nineteenth and early twentieth century, the neocolonial American empire of the late twentieth century, and now the iron-fisted logic of worldwide capitalism that has introduced China into the sport as a serious participant.

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When most Westerners deign to ponder
the problems they affiliate with Africa’s historical past, their ideas are inclined to
coalesce round three phrases and the values they affiliate with them: “slavery”
(dangerous), “colonization” (largely dangerous however now sealed off previously) and
“independence” (good however fatally flawed). Connecting the three ideas to make
sense of historical past introduces a brand new problem. It’s one that almost all Westerners have
no time or inclination to deal with, if solely due to Africa’s bewildering
variety. It entails trying to Africans to attract on their very own historical past and
tradition to construct their very own prosperity.

What our consideration of these three
ideas — slavery, colonization and even independence — takes with no consideration is
the concept it’s all about discovering and implementing probably the most environment friendly kind
of exploitation. In Western phrases, it goes with out saying that this has little
to do with individuals; it’s about extracting assets and creating wealth. 

As Westerners assume the normal position they way back assigned to themselves of being the indispensable instrumental brokers endowed with the expertise of turning assets into wealth, one of many largest issues they have to then clear up is to plot an efficient approach of sharing a few of that created wealth with the natives. It additionally implies deciding which natives need to be designated because the worthy companions of those that know the way to maximize wealth creation, whether or not it’s the Worldwide Financial Fund, the World Financial institution, PricewaterhouseCoopers or Goldman Sachs. As quickly because the query is framed in these phrases, it ought to be apparent that it’s all in regards to the exploitation of individuals somewhat than the creation of wealth and cultural enrichment.


Toby Inexperienced reminds us of a reality few within the West are prepared to acknowledge: “Africa is a voice to be heard, not an issue to be solved.” However the West has persistently denied Africa’s voice, feigned to not have heard it or actively moved to deprive the continent of its voice. The slave merchants of the seventeenth and 18th centuries understood the worth of separating slaves who spoke the identical language in the course of the switch to North America. This served the twin function of constructing something past fundamental communication not possible and destroying the cultural reminiscence of slaves. It was the right technique for stopping revolt and insurrection. 

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The our bodies of slaves, their muscular tissues mixed with their mobility, have been the primary African useful resource exploited by Westerners. By the point slavery was lastly outlawed within the nineteenth century, the Western world had reached some extent of technological mastery that allowed its nations to give attention to pillaging the assets of the continent itself. The our bodies may stay in Africa and work underneath the supervision of Europeans and, later, People or Chinese language to scientifically exploit the total number of accessible assets, basically mineral and agricultural however positively not cultural. The tradition that would supervise and make sense of all that was — and nonetheless is — made within the nations that grasp expertise.

If we
within the West may hear the voice of Africa, if we merely allowed it to be
heard, we will surely have one thing to study that would contribute to
fixing the monumental issues our civilization has created. That voice, which
can reveal the unacknowledged “methods of information” that Inexperienced mentions, stays
largely silenced. Having exploited African our bodies for hundreds of years, the West now
focuses on the mission of strengthening its personal most valuable physique: its “physique
of information.” 

That physique — stuffed not simply with massive knowledge, but in addition with the statistics that reveal the secrets and techniques of our behavioral patterns and private decision-making — will more and more serve a brand new function. The pressure of that physique, which we see as our latter-day slave, is already being made accessible to our rising mind: synthetic intelligence. This new tremendous physique goals reassuringly at processing as effectively as potential the information that may facilitate the fixing of an ever-expanding financial institution of issues.

the West has reached the purpose the place it ought to contemplate abandoning its
obsession with in search of our bodies to take advantage of — whether or not it’s the our bodies of slaves or
our bodies of information — and search for a gap into the methods of information that
are nonetheless alive, as Toby Inexperienced suggests, in components of Africa.

*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]

views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially
replicate Honest Observer’s editorial coverage.