Celebrating the Luddite Uprisings

celebrating the luddite uprisings

“November 2011 – January 2013 marks the 200th anniversary of the Luddite uprisings, in which artisan cloth workers smashed machines which were destroying their trades, undercutting wages and forcing them into unemployment and destitution. Today, the industrial system that the Luddites were rebelling against has led to climate change and huge losses of biodiversity, and its new technologies, such as information technology, genetic engineering and nanotechnology raise equally profound issues. Yet anyone who raises concern about the price and side-effects of new technologies is harshly condemned as a ‘luddite’, someone supposedly irrationally opposed to technology and progress.”

“In fact, the Luddites were not ‘luddites’ in that sense: the idea that they were opposed to all technology is a history written by the victors. In fact the Luddites opposed only technology ‘hurtful to Commonality’, ie. to the common good, rather than the narrow interests of the few. They destroyed some machines whilst leaving alone others in the same workshop. So being a luddite today means being a sceptic about the dogma of technology as progress, not about denying the real benefits of some technologies. It means insisting that the crucial decisions about which technologies are developed are made democratically, not just imposed by corporations and technocratic elites. And it means standing up for our own ideas of what progress really is.”

Help celebrate 200th anniversary of the Luddite uprising: Luddites at 200 website. See also: “Lessons of the Luddites“.

What Technology Wants

Björk post All the modern things
like cars and such
have always existed

they’ve just been waiting in a mountain
for the right moment

listening to the irritating noises
of dinosaurs and people
dabbling outside

all the modern things
have always existed
they’ve just been waiting

to come out
and multiply
and take over

it’s their turn now…

“The modern things”, Björk – from the album “Post” (1995). Kevin Kelly’s book “What technology wants” in a nutshell.

Judging Technology

Ran Prieur started an interesting initiative: TechJudge, in which a rating system is applied to different technologies.

“In this age, ‘judging technology’ means one of two things: reviewing a particular tool for how well it satisfies the consumer, or doing deep thinking about Technology as a whole. I don’t think there’s any such thing as ‘technology’. Every tool, every system of tools, every use of every system of tools, is a different animal. And instead of judging a clothes dryer for how well it dries your clothes compared to another clothes dryer, we should also judge it for how it affects the meaningfulness of your life, the society it is part of, and the rest of life on this planet. The goal of this page is to inspire deep thinking about particular technologies.”

For now, only the transportation section has been (partly) filled in. The “passenger dragon” (which scores the maximum of 100 points) left me a bit confused, but here are the preliminary results for the more common transport means:

  • sailboat 85 – 74,
  • horse 79 – 70
  • bicycle 77 – 63
  • private jet 58
  • airliner 45
  • passenger train 44 – 30
  • automobile 25

Note that energy use and ecological damage are not the only criteria.

Characteristics of Modern Technique (3)

“The type of work which modern technology is most successful in reducing or even eliminating is skilful, productive work of human hands, in touch with real materials of one kind or another. In an advanced industrial society, such work has become exceedingly rare, and to make a decent living by doing such work has become virtually impossible. A great part of modern neurosis may be due to this very fact; for the human being, defined by Thomas Aquinas as a being with brains and hands, enjoys nothing more than to be creatively, usefully, productively engaged with both his hands and his brains.”

Bookbinders “Modern technology has deprived man of the kind of work that he enjoys most, and given him plenty of work of a fragmented kind, most of which he does not enjoy at all.”

“All this confirms our suspicion that modern technology, the way it has developed, is developing, and promises further to develop, is showing an increasingly inhuman face, and that we might do well to take stock and reconsider our goals.”

Quoted from: “Small Is Beautiful“, E.F. Schumacher, 1973.

Characteristics of modern technique (2)
Characteristics of modern technique (1)

Characteristics of Modern Technique (2)

“The great feat of medieval technics was that it was able to promote and absorb many important changes without losing the immense carryover of inventions and skills from earlier cultures. In this lies one of its vital points of superiority over the modern mode of monotechnics, which boasts of effacing, as fast and as far as possible, the technical achievements of earlier periods, even though the result, as in the case of monotransport by motor car or jet plane alone, may be far less flexible and less efficient than the more diverse and many-paced system which preceded it.”

Quoted from “Pentagon Of Power: The Myth Of The Machine, Vol. II“, Lewis Mumford, 1970.

Characteristics of modern technique (1).
Characteristics of modern technique (3).

The Misanthrope’s Guide to the End of the World

“Garbage eschatology (I claim credit for this neologism) is based on the premise that our technological infrastructure has acquired too much complexity for us to fix. It will kill us not by turning sentient and (for whatever obscure reason) wanting to kill us, but by stupidly and dumbly collapsing on top of us, like a gigantic Windows Vista, while we watch, powerless to prevent our impending accidental death. Technology will kill us by collapsing into a pile of rubble, turning the planet into a gigantic landfill. (…).

My view is based on the idea that the entropy of a software system (broadly defined to include the civilization-ware that runs the planet, including the mechanically embodied computational intelligence of such things as sewer systems) inevitably increases with time, past a point of no-return. Beyond that, we cannot stop it from collapsing under its own weight, and cannot marshal the resources to reverse the aging process either. The best we can do is hide and then emerge from the rubble and build ourselves Mad Max or Waterworld civilization resurrections. And don’t waste your time agonizing. We probably crossed that threshold in the 14th century, by my calculations.”

Venkatesh Rao = Joseph Tainter with a sense of humour. Read the whole thing. Via Ran Prieur.