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What We're Watching: 'Primitive Technology' Gets Back to Basics

Primitive Technology

What if all of our modern technology was somehow rendered useless tomorrow? Most of us are dependent on electricity, supermarkets, clothing stores, and other modern conveniences, but YouTube’s Primitive Technology channel shows us how we can survive (at least in a basic way) without all of that.

I am always on the hunt for good YouTube channels, as you may have seen in some of my other “What We’re Watching” articles, and one of my newer favorites is Primitive Technology. Here, the person behind the channel, John Plant, takes us through building all kinds of (relatively) everyday items you’d need for survival and basic society building, like a brick firing kiln, a bow and arrow, a thatched workshop, a freshwater prawn trap, and a forge blower.

Plant describes Primitive Technology as “a hobby where you build things in the wild completely from scratch using no modern tools or materials. These are strict rules: If you want a fire, use a fire stick – An axe, pick up a stone and shape it – A hut, build one from trees, mud, rocks etc. The challenge is seeing how far you can go without utilizing modern technology.”

The popular YouTube channel was started over seven years ago, and now has 10.4 million subscribers. Plant films his videos in Far North Queensland, Australia, near where he camps regularly (and where plenty of venomous snakes live, he notes). He says he learned all of these survival and building skills by reading books, researching online, and a willingness to endure trial and error with his own experiments.

The videos are simple and unadorned. There is no set, no fancy lighting, no stock music, and no insightful voiceover—it’s just a timelapse of Plant working on his projects barefoot out in nature. And honestly, the videos don’t need narration or anything else. The structures he builds and the technology he uses are all straightforward and logical; many are often used to build larger structures or more complex items in future videos.

That’s precisely why I was initially attracted to the channel, though—it’s a nice reminder of just how far technology has come. We may spend our days fawning over the latest smartphones, laptops, earbuds, and EVs, but without the many, um, primitive technologies that our ancestors honed, we wouldn’t have any of those fun gadgets, and I think it’s nice to remember our roots.

It’s also nice to actually see someone craft these items and structures, and to see them actually work and be useful. You know, for when some future mysterious apocalyptic event inevitably hits and obliterates all of our modern technology. And plus, the videos are just fun to watch!

For those who do want more information for every video on the channel, I recommend clicking on the description in each. There, Plant typically includes a few paragraphs divulging all the info about whatever he worked on in it. He usually lists out what tools he used, why he chose them, his building process, how long it took to build, how it’s holding up, and other details.

You can also sign up to contribute money to the channel’s Patreon page Plant’s Patreon, if you want exclusive access to videos and other content. Likewise, feel free to pick up a copy of Plant’s book, based on the channel—Primitive Technology: A Survivalist’s Guide to Building Tools, Shelters, and More in the Wild.

John Plant’s Book

Plant makes Primitive Technology super easy to binge-watch, with dedicated playlists for things like Pyrotechnology, Shelter, Weapons, Food & Agriculture, Tools & Machines, and Weaving & Fiber. And once you watch all of these incredible videos, you’ll be ready to head out into the wild, build a shelter, craft weapons, start a farm, and not just survive but thrive!

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