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Hexayurt basic education

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Let's print a basic curriculum on each Hexayurt so that people can read useful information, relevant to their own health, comfort or survival, on the buildings we are going to send them. Furthermore, let's put the kid's material near the ground, and the more adult material further up the walls.

Sounds like a good idea?

While there is a lot of detail to be worked out, both of the materials we are considering for production units have printable surfaces, and large format printing on flat materials is a commonly solved problem. We can do this.

If we cover both the inside and the outside of the vertical walls we get the equivalent of 600 letter-sized pages on an 8' hexayurt, and 1200 pages on a 12' hexayurt. That's a lot of copy!

So what to print?

Wikipedia-type Content

We could do a lot worst than pick a few dozen of the more useful articles from Wikipedia and other open-source materials and reprint them. However, there are some severe problems with this approach:

  • Wikipedia articles are long and boring
  • They are not written as how-to guides
  • They use a very large subset of the english language
  • Some articles could be just plain wrong and misleading at the time they were taken and printed

However, as a very basic starting point, we could do worse.

How To Live Wiki Content

The how-tos from this web site might provide more targeted guides but we have none written at this time.

Repurpose Books

Another approach would be to try and get reuse rights to books like Where There Is No Doctor. However, we need a skilled team to know which books to obtain, and there may be unforeseen problems in the transition between the printed page and the printed wall. However, this approach offers the best access to high quality information in the immediate future.

One possible source of books, already scanned and ready to go, is the Appropriate Technology Library.

Custom Basic Educational Curriculum

The right approach is a basic educational curriculum targeted to each area. A BEC would provide introductory reading materials, so that those who already read English could teach others. It would have material for children and adults alike and focus on practical knowledge, explaining concepts like germ theory and crop rotation, thermodynamics in the context of drying food or making fires burn better, and so on.

As an example, consider explaining germ theory to a five year old child in a no-TV, no-Internet village.

You start from what they can see: pick an ant or another bug. Explain that we have large bodies, and the ant only has a tiny body. Explain that there are creatures which are as small compared to the ant as the ant is small compared to us. Explain that these creatures are so small we cannot see them. Explain that a person can get infested with these creatures, causing diseases. This explanation of germ theory seems like it would work more or less anywhere, for more or less anybody, and then concepts like basic sanitation practices can be taught on top of the accurate scientific model.

These basic scientific models are incredibly powerful. Consider that the Standard Days Method gives excellent birth control results with essentially no technological base. Any culture with counting could apply this technique, and there is no solid reason that a stone age culture could not have maintained the technologies to apply this method if they understood the principles giving rise to the practice.

A properly prepared knowledge packet could describe a wide range of tools and techniques, all of which can be implemented with field-availble technologies, giving many of the benefits of 21st century science to people in essentially medieval living conditions. Of course, there are severe cultural problems related to magical thinking or cultural taboos which sabotage the success of some of these tools. Deep expertise and monitoring of results are required to ensure that this part of the project works.


Why English? Well, if the BEC is created in English, it could be translated. At this time, given that we don't even have a start on the BEC, considering a broadly translated version is too far in the future. Given that the writers are likely to mainly speak English, we should initially work in the language of the writers.

However, the English of the BEC could be based on one of the reduced-vocabulary Englishes in use, perhaps the Voice of America's Special English, to simplify both use in the field, and future translation efforts.

Also, and this notion needs to be checked - my guess is that in most parts of the world, in a small camp, at least a few people will speak english well enough to teach people how to read. If there is an ocean of text available, and a few people who can teach reading, how long before school starts and people begin to absorb the knowledge we send them?

Large Knowledgebase Distribution

There is no need to print the same material on every hexayurt. One approach would be to take a much, much larger knowledgebase and print a common set of materials on every yurt (instructions on hand washing, basic geography, whatever seems relevant) and then fill the remaining walls with parts of the larger corpus. Assuming 50% of the walls are devoted to printing parts of the larger knowledgebase, a 100,000 person camp has several million pages of text available to it. One would require a lot of replication to ensure that loss of a single building didn't make a bigger text useless - long books could span several buildings - and god alone knows how one could do indexing so you could find the building with the text you need on it... but if a sufficiently cheap and flexible printing solution can be found so we can put different material on each building, we could get enormous quantities of knowledge into the hands of those who need it most.

Cultural Issues

What happens if something printed on a hexayurt is unacceptable for cultural reasons? The birth control instruction hexayurt winds up in a camp where people are angry and insulted at having improper materials sent to them.

I don't know how to avoid these issues. I don't even know where to begin to address them.