It is strange to think but there are still civilizations today who know nothing about the modern world we live in. The modern marvels of flight, the internet, and space travel are completely unknown to many of the world’s isolated tribes. There are over 100 isolated tribes in the world. The majority of these tribes are in the Amazon of Brazil but some can be found in other countries of South America as well as Papa New Guinea and the Andaman Island of India. These tribes have had little or no contact with the developed world as it was once believed this was the best option. However, some now question that idea.
In the 60s and 70s, these tribes were treated with little respect. In Brazil, in particular, the rainforest was seen as a site for industrial development and many tribes were interrupted by developments. Thes sites were made contact with by both government officials and religious people. In both cases, the tribes were often ruined by the flu. In many cases over 50% of the population were killed by the introduction of flu. The tribes were separate from the developed population for so long that they have never seen some viruses that started in Europe or other countries. This means that their immune systems are not ready to battle these strange flu strands (the main reason that the Europeans were successful in colonizing the Americas in the first place).
Because of this, it was decided that the best course of action was to leave the indigenous tribes alone and allow them to make contact with the modern world when they wanted to. To understand this decision you must understand the nature of the indigenous tribes. It is not that they do not know people exist outside their world. They are far more aware of what happens in their forest than people realize and whether it is the disappearance of other tribes, land, or planes flying overhead, they know we exist. They do not make contact because they are afraid.
However, experts now say that leaving them alone may not be the best approach. Since this plan was taken a number of tribes have made contact, some have got sick and returned to their tribes and spread the virus. By allowing the tribes to be the ones to take the lead we lose the ability to control the viruses that we may unleash. Experts are now suggesting that we should start making contact with these tribes in a limited way to show that we mean no harm. From there we could spend time with the tribes and if they fall ill, be there to vaccinate them.
The plan makes sense from a viral point of view. It is better to introduce ourselves to them in a managed way and control the viruses we have instead of allowing them to meet upon strange people and discover the virus. However, this situation is far more complicated than just a viral one. There is a serious question to ask about interrupting the way of life these people have.
The traditions and systems in place in these civilizations are so different to the approaches we have in the developed world that to make any meaningful form of contact would turn their world upside down. It is impossible to know what this small contact would do to their world and to do so blindly would be incredibly arrogant.
However, it is unclear how long these different civilizations can live away from the rest of the world. While in an idealistic sense we would allow them to live their lives away from us it is only a matter of time before both our worlds clash. What happens then, is anyone’s’ guess.