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Uncontacted tribes: What do we know about the world's 100 hidden communities?
As you live in our hyper-connected world, it may seem strange to realize that thousands of people still live in so-called uncontacted tribes, utterly cut off from modern civilization.
On July 1st, 2014 seven members of an Amazon tribe emerged from the jungle and made their first contact with the rest of the world—out of dire and tragic necessity. Despite 600 years of Portuguese-Brazilian history, this tribe only came out to interact with their new neighbors now, and we discover more things about uncontacted tribes all over the world every day—which is not necessarily a good thing.
According to Survival International somewhere around 100 so-called uncontacted peoples still exist. The estimates for how many such peoples there are can vary dramatically. For example, Brazil claims to have 77 uncontacted peoples living in the Amazon Rainforest, while National Geographic claims there are 84. When the estimates of uncontacted peoples are taken together and compared, around 100 tribes worldwide is a reasonable answer to give, though the real number is likely higher. Sources for these numbers include observations from aircraft flying over the isolated regions and accounts by contacted peoples living nearby.
“Uncontacted” is a bit of a misnomer, as it's likely that even the most isolated tribe in the world has interacted with outsiders in some way, whether face to face or by exposure to modern artifacts such as planes flying overhead and inter-tribal trading. However, they are unintegrated into global civilization, retain their own cultures and customs, and can have little interest in communication with the outside world—or too much fear. “They know far more about the outside world than most people think,” Fiona Watson, research director for Survival International, told BBC. “They are experts at living in the forest and are well aware of the presence of outsiders.”
Where do they live?
Darkened areas indicate regions where uncontacted peoples still live. (Wiki Commons)
As you can see on this map, the tribes live in some of the most difficult-to-reach places in the world, such as the deep interior of the Amazon, the Congo, and the mountains of New Guinea. Two groups are known to live on islands off India.
Why don’t they come out to visit?
The reasons why a group of people might want to remain isolated can vary, but in many cases, it is just that they want to be left alone. Others may have fled into hiding long ago to escape atrocities. Fear is also suggested as a primary motivation by anthropologist Robert S. Walker of the University of Missouri. In the modern world, their isolation can be romanticised as defying the forces of globalization and capitalism, but as Kim Hill, anthropologist at Arizona State University, puts it: “There is no such thing as a group that remains in isolation because they think it’s cool to not have contact with anyone else on the planet.”
Why don’t we visit them?
Technically speaking, most of these tribes have been visited in some way. The so-called "most isolated tribe in the world" (more on that later) was first contacted in the late 1800s by the British Raj, though they have remained extremely isolated ever since. Brazil conducts flyovers of many tribes not only for anthropological curiosity but also to assure that illegal logging is not taking place, and to confirm survival after natural disasters. Many of those tribes in Brazil have items that originated far away and were obtained via trading with other tribes.
The tribes have rights to self-determination and to the land they live on. As the arrival of outsiders would dramatically change their way of life no matter what they might desire, it is thought best that the outside world should stay away so those peoples can determine their own futures.
Historically, tribes that have been contacted have done poorly in the period immediately afterward and the decision to make contact would perhaps lead to more suffering than it is worth in the short run, as many tribes are stricken by illness right after the first contact.
Their isolation causes them to lack immunity to many common diseases, and there is a history of first contacts resulting in epidemics, even to this day.
Should we contact them?
Well, the arguments against visiting them should be pretty clear after reading the previous paragraph. However, a couple of arguments do exist for the other side as well. Most notable is the argument anthropologists Walker and Hill make in Science, that, "isolated populations are not viable in the long term," and, "well-organized contacts are today both humane and ethical. We know that soon after peaceful contact with the outside world, surviving indigenous populations rebound quickly from population crashes."
This argument is rejected by most supporters of indigenous rights and is somewhat lacking in supporting evidence. An example of what can happen will be discussed below in the section about Brazil.
Who are they?
Below are five uncontacted and recently contacted tribes. They were selected for geographic diversity and on the availability of information. Much of this information can be taken with a grain of salt, as it is partly based on distant observation.
The Sentinelese as seen from a distance (Survival International).
“The most isolated tribe in the world” lives on the Andaman Islands off India. Contacted by the Raj in the 19th century, the tribe has remained isolated and hostile to outsiders ever since. The last official attempt at contact was in 1996; no further attempts have been tried, not only to protect the tribe from disease but also because they have a tendency to shoot arrows at anybody who gets too close.
They remain a hunter-gatherer society with no known agriculture. They have metal tools but can only fashion them out of the iron they recover from nearby shipwrecks. They have been isolated for so long that their language is not mutually intelligible with their nearest neighbors and remains unclassified, suggesting hundreds if not thousands of years of isolation.
The common estimate for the Sentinelese population is around 250.
Another isolated tribe in India, they also live on the Andaman Islands. They are a self-sufficient hunter-gatherer society and are, by several accounts, rather happy and healthy this way.
In the early nineties, the local government presented a plan to bring the tribe into the modern world but has backed off from this plan as of late. In 1998, members of the tribe began to visit the outside world. Recently more communication between the Jarawas and outsiders has taken place due to the increased settlement near their villages.
This contact caused two outbreaks of measles among the tribe, who had no immunity to it. The tribe is also increasingly subject to visits by misguided tourists and increased settlement near their ancestral home. Government interest in encouraging the tribe to adapt to a more modern lifestyle waxes and wanes.
The population is estimated to be near 400.
A member of the recently contacted Matis tribe of Brazil. (Getty Images)
The Javari Valley in Brazil is an area the size of Austria which is home to approximately 20 indigenous tribes. Of the 3,000 persons estimated to live there around 2,000 of them are thought to be “uncontacted”. The information on these tribes is fleeting, but evidence suggests they utilize some agriculture alongside hunting. They have metal tools as well as metal pots they acquired by trade.
In the 1970s and '80s, it was the policy of the Brazilian government to contact isolated tribes for their benefit. The story of the Matis tribe of this region stands out. As a result of the diseases they were introduced to, the tribe saw three of its five villages wiped out, and their population dropped drastically. The Brazilian government no longer engages in this behavior.
The threat to this population now comes from miners and loggers.
An elderly member of the Dani People (Getty Images).
Information on these isolated tribes is fleeting, as the Indonesian government has done a good job at keeping people out of the highlands. However, some tribes have been contacted over the last century while remaining fairly isolated and retaining their traditions.
One example is the Dani people and their story. Located in the heart of Indonesian New Guinea, the tribe has contact with the outside world but retains their customs. They are well known for their use of finger amputation to remind them of the departed and an extensive use of body paint. While the Dani have been in contact with the rest of the world since 1938, they can offer us a glimpse of the people we have yet to meet.
Many of the forest-dwelling peoples in the Congo have been contacted infrequently over the last century. However, it is supposed that many uncontacted tribes still exist. The Mbuti, a 'pygmy' people, a contacted but isolated case which can give us an idea of how the uncontacted tribes may live.
The Mbuti are hunter-gatherers who see the forest as a parental figure that provides them with everything they require. They live in small, egalitarian villages. They are largely self-sufficient, but they do engage in trade with outside groups. Their way of life is at risk due to deforestation, illegal mining, and genocide being carried out against pygmies.
Inventions with revolutionary potential made by a mysterious aerospace engineer for the U.S. Navy come to light.
- U.S. Navy holds patents for enigmatic inventions by aerospace engineer Dr. Salvatore Pais.
- Pais came up with technology that can "engineer" reality, devising an ultrafast craft, a fusion reactor, and more.
- While mostly theoretical at this point, the inventions could transform energy, space, and military sectors.
The U.S. Navy controls patents for some futuristic and outlandish technologies, some of which, dubbed "the UFO patents," came to light recently. Of particular note are inventions by the somewhat mysterious Dr. Salvatore Cezar Pais, whose tech claims to be able to "engineer reality." His slate of highly-ambitious, borderline sci-fi designs meant for use by the U.S. government range from gravitational wave generators and compact fusion reactors to next-gen hybrid aerospace-underwater crafts with revolutionary propulsion systems, and beyond.
Of course, the existence of patents does not mean these technologies have actually been created, but there is evidence that some demonstrations of operability have been successfully carried out. As investigated and reported by The War Zone, a possible reason why some of the patents may have been taken on by the Navy is that the Chinese military may also be developing similar advanced gadgets.
Among Dr. Pais's patents are designs, approved in 2018, for an aerospace-underwater craft of incredible speed and maneuverability. This cone-shaped vehicle can potentially fly just as well anywhere it may be, whether air, water or space, without leaving any heat signatures. It can achieve this by creating a quantum vacuum around itself with a very dense polarized energy field. This vacuum would allow it to repel any molecule the craft comes in contact with, no matter the medium. Manipulating "quantum field fluctuations in the local vacuum energy state," would help reduce the craft's inertia. The polarized vacuum would dramatically decrease any elemental resistance and lead to "extreme speeds," claims the paper.
Not only that, if the vacuum-creating technology can be engineered, we'd also be able to "engineer the fabric of our reality at the most fundamental level," states the patent. This would lead to major advancements in aerospace propulsion and generating power. Not to mention other reality-changing outcomes that come to mind.
Among Pais's other patents are inventions that stem from similar thinking, outlining pieces of technology necessary to make his creations come to fruition. His paper presented in 2019, titled "Room Temperature Superconducting System for Use on a Hybrid Aerospace Undersea Craft," proposes a system that can achieve superconductivity at room temperatures. This would become "a highly disruptive technology, capable of a total paradigm change in Science and Technology," conveys Pais.
High frequency gravitational wave generator.
Credit: Dr. Salvatore Pais
Another invention devised by Pais is an electromagnetic field generator that could generate "an impenetrable defensive shield to sea and land as well as space-based military and civilian assets." This shield could protect from threats like anti-ship ballistic missiles, cruise missiles that evade radar, coronal mass ejections, military satellites, and even asteroids.
Dr. Pais's ideas center around the phenomenon he dubbed "The Pais Effect". He referred to it in his writings as the "controlled motion of electrically charged matter (from solid to plasma) via accelerated spin and/or accelerated vibration under rapid (yet smooth) acceleration-deceleration-acceleration transients." In less jargon-heavy terms, Pais claims to have figured out how to spin electromagnetic fields in order to contain a fusion reaction – an accomplishment that would lead to a tremendous change in power consumption and an abundance of energy.
According to his bio in a recently published paper on a new Plasma Compression Fusion Device, which could transform energy production, Dr. Pais is a mechanical and aerospace engineer working at the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD), which is headquartered in Patuxent River, Maryland. Holding a Ph.D. from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, Pais was a NASA Research Fellow and worked with Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems. His current Department of Defense work involves his "advanced knowledge of theory, analysis, and modern experimental and computational methods in aerodynamics, along with an understanding of air-vehicle and missile design, especially in the domain of hypersonic power plant and vehicle design." He also has expert knowledge of electrooptics, emerging quantum technologies (laser power generation in particular), high-energy electromagnetic field generation, and the "breakthrough field of room temperature superconductivity, as related to advanced field propulsion."
Suffice it to say, with such a list of research credentials that would make Nikola Tesla proud, Dr. Pais seems well-positioned to carry out groundbreaking work.
A craft using an inertial mass reduction device.
Credit: Salvatore Pais
The patents won't necessarily lead to these technologies ever seeing the light of day. The research has its share of detractors and nonbelievers among other scientists, who think the amount of energy required for the fields described by Pais and his ideas on electromagnetic propulsions are well beyond the scope of current tech and are nearly impossible. Yet investigators at The War Zone found comments from Navy officials that indicate the inventions are being looked at seriously enough, and some tests are taking place.
If you'd like to read through Pais's patents yourself, check them out here.
Laser Augmented Turbojet Propulsion System
Credit: Dr. Salvatore Pais
A new study suggests that reports of the impending infertility of the human male are greatly exaggerated.
- A new review of a famous study on declining sperm counts finds several flaws.
- The old report makes unfounded assumptions, has faulty data, and tends toward panic.
- The new report does not rule out that sperm counts are going down, only that this could be quite normal.
Several years ago, a meta-analysis of studies on human fertility came out warning us about the declining sperm counts of Western men. It was widely shared, and its findings were featured on the covers of popular magazines. Indeed, its findings were alarming: a nearly 60 percent decline in sperm per milliliter since 1973 with no end in sight. It was only a matter of time, the authors argued, until men were firing blanks, literally.
Well… never mind.
It turns out that the impending demise of humanity was greatly exaggerated. As the predicted infertility wave crashed upon us, there was neither a great rush of men to fertility clinics nor a sudden dearth of new babies. The only discussions about population decline focus on urbanization and the fact that people choose not to have kids rather than not being able to have them.
Now, a new analysis of the 2017 study says that lower sperm counts is nothing to be surprised by. Published in Human Fertility, its authors point to flaws in the original paper's data and interpretation. They suggest a better and smarter reanalysis.
Counting tiny things is difficult
The original 2017 report analyzed 185 studies on 43,000 men and their reproductive health. Its findings were clear: "a significant decline in sperm counts… between 1973 and 2011, driven by a 50-60 percent decline among men unselected by fertility from North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand."
However, the new analysis points out flaws in the data. As many as a third of the men in the studies were of unknown age, an important factor in reproductive health. In 45 percent of cases, the year of the sample collection was unknown- a big detail to miss in a study measuring change over time. The quality controls and conditions for sample collection and analysis vary widely from study to study, which likely influenced the measured sperm counts in the samples.
Another study from 2013 also points out that the methods for determining sperm count were only standardized in the 1980s, which occurred after some of the data points were collected for the original study. It is entirely possible that the early studies gave inaccurately high sperm counts.
This is not to say that the 2017 paper is entirely useless; it had a much more rigorous methodology than previous studies on the subject, which also claimed to identify a decline in sperm counts. However, the original study had more problems.
Garbage in, garbage out
Predictable as always, the media went crazy. Discussions of the decline of masculinity took off, both in mainstream and less-than-reputable forums; concerns about the imagined feminizing traits of soy products continued to increase; and the authors of the original study were called upon to discuss the findings themselves in a number of articles.
However, as this new review points out, some of the findings of that meta-analysis are debatable at best. For example, the 2017 report suggests that "declining mean [sperm count] implies that an increasing proportion of men have sperm counts below any given threshold for sub-fertility or infertility," despite little empirical evidence that this is the case.
The WHO offers a large range for what it considers to be a healthy sperm count, from 15 to 250 million sperm per milliliter. The benefits to fertility above a count of 40 million are seen as minimal, and the original study found a mean sperm concentration of 47 million sperm per milliliter.
Healthy sperm, healthy man?
The claim that sperm count is evidence of larger health problems is also scrutinized in this new article. While it is true that many major health problems can impact reproductive health, there is little evidence that it is the "canary in the coal mine" for overall well-being. A number of studies suggest that any relation between lifestyle choices and this part of reproductive health is limited at best.
Lastly, ideas that environmental factors could be at play have been debunked since 2017. While the original paper considered the idea that pollutants, especially from plastics, could be at fault, it is now known that this kind of pollution is worse in the parts of the world that the original paper observed higher sperm counts in (i.e., non-Western nations).
There never was a male fertility crisis
The authors of the new review do not deny that some measurements are showing lower sperm counts, but they do question the claim that this is catastrophic or part of a larger pathological issue. They propose a new interpretation of the data. Dubbed the "Sperm Count Biovariability hypothesis," it is summarized as:
"Sperm count varies within a wide range, much of which can be considered non-pathological and species-typical. Above a critical threshold, more is not necessarily an indicator of better health or higher probability of fertility relative to less. Sperm count varies across bodies, ecologies, and time periods. Knowledge about the relationship between individual and population sperm count and life-historical and ecological factors is critical to interpreting trends in average sperm counts and their relationships to human health and fertility."
Still, the authors note that lower sperm counts "could decline due to negative environmental exposures, or that this may carry implications for men's health and fertility."
However, they disagree that the decline in absolute sperm count is necessarily a bad sign for men's health and fertility. We aren't at civilization ending catastrophe just yet.
A year of disruptions to work has contributed to mass burnout.
- Junior members of the workforce, including Generation Z, are facing digital burnout.
- 41 percent of workers globally are thinking about handing in their notice, according to a new Microsoft survey.
- A hybrid blend of in-person and remote work could help maintain a sense of balance – but bosses need to do more.
More than half of 18 to 25 year-olds in the workforce are considering quitting their job. And they're not the only ones.
In a report called The Next Great Disruption Is Hybrid Work – Are We Ready?, Microsoft found that as well as 54% of Generation Z workers, 41% of the entire global workforce could be considering handing in their resignation.
Similarly, a UK and Ireland survey found that 38% of employees were planning to leave their jobs in the next six months to a year, while a US survey reported that 42% of employees would quit if their company didn't offer remote working options long term.
New work trends
Based on surveys with over 30,000 workers in 31 countries, the Microsoft report – which is the latest in the company's annual Work Trend Index series – pulled in data from applications including Teams, Outlook and Office 365, to gauge productivity and activity levels. It highlighted seven major trends, which show the world of work has been profoundly reshaped by the pandemic:
- Flexible work is here to stay
- Leaders are out of touch with employees and need a wake-up call
- High productivity is masking an exhausted workforce
- Gen Z is at risk and will need to be re-energized
- Shrinking networks are endangering innovation
- Authenticity will spur productivity and wellbeing
- Talent is everywhere in a hybrid world
"Over the past year, no area has undergone more rapid transformation than the way we work," Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says in the report. "Employee expectations are changing, and we will need to define productivity much more broadly – inclusive of collaboration, learning and wellbeing to drive career advancement for every worker, including frontline and knowledge workers, as well as for new graduates and those who are in the workforce today. All this needs to be done with flexibility in, when, where and how people work."
Organizations have become more siloed
While the report highlights the opportunities created by increased flexible and remote working patterns, it warns that some people are experiencing digital exhaustion and that remote working could foster siloed thinking. With the shift to remote working, much of the spontaneous sharing of ideas that can take place within a workplace was lost. In its place are scheduled calls, regular catch-ups and virtual hangouts. The loss of in-person interaction means individual team members are more likely to only interact with their closest coworkers.
"At the onset of the pandemic, our analysis shows interactions with our close networks at work increased while interactions with our distant network diminished," the report says. "This suggests that as we shifted into lockdown, we clung to our immediate teams for support and let our broader network fall to the wayside. Simply put, companies became more siloed than they were pre-pandemic."
Burnout or drop out
One of the other consequences of the shift to remote and the reliance on tech-based communications has been the phenomenon of digital burnout. And for those who have most recently joined the workforce, this has been a significant challenge.
The excitement of joining a new employer, maybe even securing a job for the first time, usually comes with meeting lots of new people, becoming familiar with a new environment and adapting to new situations. But for many, the pandemic turned that into a daily routine of working from home while isolated from co-workers.
"Our findings have shown that for Gen Z and people just starting in their careers, this has been a very disruptive time," says LinkedIn Senior Editor-at-Large, George Anders, quoted in the report. "It's very hard to find their footing since they're not experiencing the in-person onboarding, networking and training that they would have expected in a normal year."
But it is perhaps the data around quitting that is one of the starkest indications that change is now the new normal. Being able to work remotely has opened up new possibilities for many workers, the report found. If you no longer need to be physically present in an office, your employer could, theoretically, be located anywhere. Perhaps that's why the research found that "41% of employees are considering leaving their current employer this year".
In addition to that, 46% of the people surveyed for the Microsoft report said they might relocate their home because of the flexibility of remote working.
A hybrid future
In looking for ways to navigate their way through all this change, employers should hold fast to one word, the report says – hybrid. An inflexible, location-centred approach to work is likely to encourage those 41% of people to leave and find somewhere more to their tastes. Those who are thinking of going to live somewhere else, while maintaining their current job, might also find themselves thinking of quitting if their plans are scuppered.
But remote working is not a panacea for all workforce ills. "We can no longer rely solely on offices to collaborate, connect, and build social capital. But physical space will still be important," the report says. "We're social animals and we want to get together, bounce ideas off one another, and experience the energy of in-person events. Moving forward, office space needs to bridge the physical and digital worlds to meet the unique needs of every team – and even specific roles."
Bosses must meet challenges head on
Although the majority of business leaders have indicated they will incorporate elements of the hybrid working model, the report also found many are out of touch with workforce concerns more widely.
For, while many workers say they are struggling (Gen Z – 60%; new starters – 64%), and 54% of the general workforce feels overworked, business leaders are having a much better experience. Some 61% said they were 'thriving', which is in stark contrast to employees who are further down the chain of command.
Jared Spataro, corporate vice president at Microsoft 365, writes in the report: "Those impromptu encounters at the office help keep leaders honest. With remote work, there are fewer chances to ask employees, 'Hey, how are you?' and then pick up on important cues as they respond. But the data is clear: our people are struggling. And we need to find new ways to help them."
Buildings don't have to be permanent — modular construction can make them modifiable and relocatable.