Updated: May 10, 2020
An interesting piece in the New Statesman by Peter Lazenby drew my attention to the Luddites200 website. The organisation has formed to mark the 200th anniversary of the Luddite uprisings, and aims to challenge the version of history that portrayed the movement as anti-technology. As any student of history who has taken more than a surface view should know, the Luddites were opposed only to technology “hurtful to commonality” – which is why they smashed some machines and not others. The modern manifestation sets out its aim as challenging “the dogma of technology as progress” and “standing up for our own ideas of what progress really is”.
It’s a very positive development. I use a lot of technology, I’m very enthusiastic about it and I love what it can do. I also worry about that very “dogma of technology as progress”. We’re told we must have newer and better, but how much are we really thinking about what it is we need and why? When we’re told we can’t stop change, that denies the power of people to shape their own destiny and puts the technology, not the people, in control. And that’s the wrong way round.
No doubt Luddites200 will be dismissed as destructiv, irrelevant and old fashioned by people whose ability to properly debate ideas is limited to attempts to dismiss that which they don’t agree with, or don’t understand. But I suspect there will be plenty willing to engage in this important debate. I wish Luddites200 every success.