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The importance of the issue of the luddite technology

Understanding the former urge is pretty easy: Humanity has had such a particular and privileged conception of itself for so long that altering it, as technology must inevitably do, will indeed change the very nature of who we are. Advertisement To understand the appeal of being a Luddite, you need only read these words of Leon Trotsky: Man must see himself as a raw material, or at best as a semi-manufactured product, and say: This vision, promptly disposed of by Stalin, is so intuitively unappealing that even with the return of authoritarianism to Russia, neither Vladimir Putin nor any of his associates have revived the idea of scientifically perfecting man.

Mocking people who fear technology’s dehumanizing creep is easy. Here’s why they have a point.

Such language brings back bad memories of eugenics, Nazi experiments, Tuskegeeand worse. In reaction, modern-day Luddism arrives in a variety of forms, many of them vulgar. Writers from Neil Postman to Jerry Mander, in books like Amusing Ourselves to Death and Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, blame technology for making us brain-dead sheep; the solution, of course, is to eliminate it.

  • Giving up any one of them—probably with technological assistance—is taking a step toward seeing the human as an empty container for whatever you want to pour into it, no different from a computer running software;
  • And membership has its privileges;
  • Technocratic Ideologies Since the Industrial Revolution, the idea that controlling nature through technology automatically produces progress has become so widely accepted that it has become unconscious, a kind of common sense that is rarely questioned.

But more thoughtful writers, like philosophers Wilfrid Sellars and Willem deVries, recognize that squaring our conceptions of ourselves with what science and technology tell us entails some pretty unsettling revelations.

Angry English workers marched together and destroyed machinery in what was essentially a vigilante labor movement, only for many of them to be tried and executed by their government.

  • The crisis was made worse by food shortages as the price of wheat increased, and by the collapse of hosiery and knitwear prices in 1815 and 1816;
  • The left has also often abandoned its traditions of critical thinking and acquiesced in the liberal myth that science and technology are somehow neutral, and free of the effects of social power interests;
  • They did not want this new system that involved working out how much work they did, how much materials cost, and how much profit there would be for the factory owner;
  • Nature might be a clockwork machine, but humans most certainly were not.

The history is covered well by E. Fighting the machine, then, is fighting a vision of the future in which the human is the machine.

  • In Nottinghamshire, they protested against wage reductions;
  • Writers such as Ivan Illich argue that most modern technology is so powerful that it forces us to conform to its way of doing things, rather than being a tool that we can flexibly use according to our own needs;
  • Of course, this was exactly what the Luddites were facing in the steam powered machines of the Industrial Revolution;
  • Writers such as Ivan Illich argue that most modern technology is so powerful that it forces us to conform to its way of doing things, rather than being a tool that we can flexibly use according to our own needs;
  • Now, as then, along with their benefits science and technology often empower the powerful and marginalise the weak, create unemployment, deskilling and dependency, destroy whole ways of life and communities based upon them and create massive environmental and health damage, generally to the most vulnerable;
  • Likewise, a very strong element in the opposition of the British public to GM foods was indignation that corporations such as Monsanto were introducing these new foods without ever having consulted the public about it.

Advertisement Luddism is not nostalgia for the past. Even the supposed evils of technology too often turn out to be evils baked into the soul of humanity. Hannah Arendt dwelt on the mechanized totalitarianism enabled by the industrial revolution, claiming it had made the Nazis possible.

Some Luddites Wear Corsets and Fear iPhones. Others Have a Pretty Good Point.

Yet the importance of the issue of the luddite technology host of low-tech atrocities, from the Armenian genocide to the Rwandan genocide and countless third-world dictatorships, have shown that organized terror and slaughter can be achieved with no more technology than a radio and a machete. If you truly wish to go backward, you must go back beyond the invention of what a friend termed the most harmful human invention of all time: Agriculture not only enabled the exponential growth of the population of suffering souls, but also set the scene for tyranny, slavery, and every other atrocity that recurs throughout human history.

Consequently, the Luddite impulse is to embrace a certain distinction between human and machine. To Be a Luddite? You either had it or you wanted it. In Star Trek, the android Data rose to gain humanity, while those who were assimilated by the Borg ceased to be human. Sometimes this distinction did not favor the human; in the s, gloomy science-fiction writers started to point the finger of blame not at technology but at humans themselves. But whether humans were better or worse than technology, they were always different from it.

It was rare that humans were superseded and made redundant, as in the science fiction of Olaf Stapledon and Stanislaw Lem, or that they ran toward their own negation, as with the J. Ballard heroes who deny the human, abet the apocalypse, and have sex with cars. Ballard is the anti-Luddite par excellence. Otherwise, the human or an alien surrogate for humans tended to remain at the center of the picture. And membership has its privileges: Humans are entitled to freedom and equality and fraternity, not to be used as a means to an end.

For the thinking Luddite, technology becomes a serious threat only to the extent that it threatens to collapse the boundary between human and machine.

This human exceptionalism has its roots far back in Renaissance humanism, when the cosmos was separated into three clear tiers: Nature might be a clockwork machine, but humans most certainly were not. Advertisement When you start talking about fine-tuning and improving the human, you move toward treating humans as tools and raw materials—in other words, how we treat machines and animals.

Unfortunately, once you start down the road of medicine and transplants and heart monitors and antidepressants and biotechnology, it becomes very hard to stop, even with strict ethical guidelines. This unease is where Luddism begins to have its pull on most of us, because it eats at our previously robust sense of the human. While the specifics of each vary across time and cultures, the abstract categories have remained fairly robust.

The parent-child bond has remained mostly intact through generations of sweeping changes.

The importance of the issue of the luddite technology

Single-motherhood, same-sex marriage, and polyamory are pretty mild changes to the general model. Rather, these conceptions are markers of humanity. Many argue for changing our ideas around gender roles, but few argue for eliminating the very concept of gender.

Giving up any one of them—probably with technological assistance—is taking a step toward seeing the human as an empty container for whatever you want to pour into it, no different from a computer running software. There is one special human universal that deserves attention: Top Comment Appreciate the thoughtful take, but I think the main complaint against technology is that it doesn't deliver on its promises of an easier more enjoyable life, or at best is a double edge sword.

I think it very unlikely that this boundary will collapse in practice any time soon, despite the predictions of the transhumanists who cheer on the Singularity.

Already, psychology has taken a beating from neuroscience and pharmacology, making us wonder how rational and free we actually are.

Our latitude to hold on to our traditional ideas—to be an intelligent Luddite, in other words—may lie in the extent to which we remain ignorant of scientific realities about the world and gain the capacity to manipulate them.