It’s a journey of increasing uneasiness. A guy in an office is browsing Google Earth, and sees a dark circle in the middle of nowhere in Madagascar, and gets curious: he sees buildings inside of an old crater. He traces satellite photos back in time, and learns that the buildings weren’t there before 2008. He digs deeper, never leaving his office, but looking for photos and people on the internet who might help him figure out what’s going on in this remote place, which has virtually no footprint on the web.
So far, I’m with him. This is interesting! How much can you figure out about an isolated spot on the globe without lifting your butt from a chair? He’s calling up people in Madagascar, scientists and college professors, and asking them what’s going on in that crater. It’s purely academic, he just seems to be getting a bit obsessively invested in this random question, and now he’s pestering people on the island.
Then he hires a half dozen people to make the trek from the nearest city to this isolated place. He has the money, he can draft a few locals to do some leg work for him, all to satisfy his curiosity. Unfortunately, it’s the rainy season, the roads are terrible, they can’t get there.
So he waits for the dry season, hires another bunch of locals to make a second trip, and they get there at last. It’s a village of about 300 people. They’re tense and worried. They’re suspicious and wonder why these strangers have suddenly shown up on their doorstep.
They don’t tell them that this well-off white man a few thousand miles away had seen their homes from outer space and had spent a lot of time and money to invade their privacy and make a video telling the whole world about them. As a reward for exposing these people, the video creator got a million views on YouTube and thousands of comments telling him how great he was. But what does the village get? Did they even want this kind of attention?
Here’s the video. It’s professionally done. A lot of people spent a lot of money satisfying idle curiosity, which you’d think I’d appreciate, but I don’t know…how would I feel if a film crew showed up at my house, and they announced that this wealthy Malagasy guy was kind of curious about what I was doing and had commissioned them to come report on how I spent my time? He was too busy to make the trip himself, but he’d definitely make sure everyone knew my business.
Maybe I’d feel less queasy about it all if the narrator had cared enough to make the trip himself, and wasn’t parading the people around on the internet like some kind of exhibit.