What The Crap Is A Luddite?

I mentioned that I’m going to become something of a modern Luddite, but I didn’t explain what exactly that was. So, here we go…

A Bit of History

During the Industrial Revolution, a group of people protested against changes that were taking place. This social movement often expressed itself by destroying mechanized looms. These textile artisans felt that the machines were going to replace them and that their livelyhood was in danger.

Their name comes from Ned Ludd, who was believed to have destroyed two large pieces of equipment (stocking frames) earlier in England, making him the first actor in the movement. At that time, breaking machinery could be punished by execution, so the name Ned Ludd might have been ficticious. False name or not, the name stuck, and the Luddite movement was formed.

Since the Luddites thought that the new machines were going to take away their source of livelyhood, they were acting in self-preservation. They didn’t understand basic economics, and so didn’t realize that they would still have their jobs, the factory in which they were working would have simply made more product by using the machines.

Modern Luddites

The term Luddite managed to stick around from the early 1800s until today. In the 1970s large numbers of people began to question technology and called themselves “New Luddites”. And so the Neo-Luddite movement was born. People opposed to advances in technology because of the cultural and socioeconomoic changes that are associated with it.

Most often, the term Luddite was used in a negative way by advocates of technology, insinuating that Luddites are backwards and foolish for their beliefs. However, I believe that the term can hold a positive connotation. It is with this aim which I will be using the word.

My Version

Luddite as a positive. I am not against technology. I believe that technology has provided us with many opportunities that simply weren’t available only a few short years ago. The world has shrunk, we can travel around it in a matter of hours, we can talk across it after only a few short rings, on phones that we carry in our pockets. Work can be done from anywhere, at any time. What amazing opportunities are now available to us!

Unfortunately, with the ready availibility of technology, it has begun to take over our lives. I constantly see people who “cannot live” without their cell phone and texting, or without an mp3 player of some sort stuck in their ears. Not only do I resent the erosion of manners that have taken place, but I feel that we are actually less productive than ever before, precisely because of the devices that have been created to help us.

So, as a modern Luddite, I am breaking the technology habit. People lived quite happily for years without a cell phone in their pocket, without email, and without Google to control all of their information. I will be taking a look at the technology that I use and make educated decisions about what to keep and what to let go.

Technology might be here to stay, but that doesn’t mean that I have to use all of it all the time.

6 thoughts on “What The Crap Is A Luddite?

  1. Terral says:

    I agree. I love technology but there are a few things that have become ridiculous. We invent technology to replace things that are naturally designed to do whatever it is that they already do well. Other problems arise because technology cannot do the job as well and then people invent more technology to fix those problems. It becomes a chain reaction of dependancy.

    • froldt says:

      I wonder how many of our modern “necessities” are actually part of this chain reaction. Shoes are an easy example: we started with just sandals for protection against cuts, then added more padding for “comfort”. Since that made us walk funny, we needed more specialized shoes to fix the problems we were having, which lead to more, and so on. Where, in reality, we only need covering for climate protection and basic soles so we don’t get cut.
      This might make for an interesting exploration, to see what we “really” need.

  2. Rob O. says:

    Congratulations on your new-found Neo-Ludditism!

    I’ve been preaching my own brand for some time now, albeit mostly without success. And yes, it may seem a bit counter-intuitive for a career IT guy to be anti-tech, but bear with me…

    My slant can be summed up with: Just because you CAN do a thing, does not necessarily mean that you SHOULD do that thing.

    As a relatively new father, technology as it is applied to children has become a hot topic for me. It just amazes me that the mindset of “technology has to be good for kids, so let’s shovel it at them” has become a societal norm without even so much as a shred of solid evidence that technology does boost academic achievement or enhance overall quality of life. Computers, cell phones, video games, Blu-Rays. We’re mindlessly, needlessly immersing our children in a continuous-connected, instantaneous, cyber-world with no thought about how this environment we’ve constructed is shaping them for the future.

    I don’t want to stick my head in the sand and ignore technology but at the same time, I believe we first have a responsibility to teach children to think creatively, solve problems, and communicate in the real analog world before we aimlessly plunge them headlong into the digital abyss.

    • Matthew says:

      Rob,

      Thanks! I’m certainly enjoying my Neo-Ludditism. 😀

      I definitely understand IT guys being anti-tech. I was a “computer nerd” when in high school, and my best friend is a career IT guy who pretty thoroughly dislikes tech. He still only has a prepay cell phone. (Pretty inspiring, I think.)

      That’s a good point that you bring up: how the pervasiveness of technology effects children today. As a kid, I loved technology, but I also loved being outside (and was shooed out the door a number of times), so I felt like I got a healthy balance. Plus, I got left-over technology: hand-me-downs as Dad got new equipment for work, or I was only able to use the computer when Dad was done with it.

  3. Rob O. says:

    I can’t honestly go so far as to say I’m anti-tech – I do love my iPhone, mp3s, digital camera, flat screen TV, etc. – but rather that I’m just very conservative about technology. I want people to be more mindful of the long-term effects of this stuff.

    For example, my wife & I are the just about the only parents I know who don’t have a DVD player in the car for our son to watch. And I do see some small merit to something like this for extended road trips, but unfortunately, the net result is that many of our friends have children who cannot weather a torturous 10 minute ride to school or the grocery store without popping in a movie. (Conversely, our son goes on 6-7 hour car rides with us and sometimes we don’t even have the radio on.)

    I suspect that, in no small way, disorders like ADHD are being behaviorally created. Our digital lifestyles are hard-wiring children to expect and demand instant (and constant) gratification. As a parent, I feel a deep responsibility to resist that trend.

    • Matthew says:

      This is the hard part for me, as an ex-nerd, it’s hard to not desire new tech. I know that I don’t need an iPhone, but would still love to have one. I want a newer laptop, and definitely want a dslr (to replace my point-and-shoot with the broken screen). However, I also don’t need these things to get by. My phone works, my laptop works, and I can get by with my camera.

      I certainly agree with you thoughts on technology. (I like the idea of a DVD player for long trips, but that’s it.) Too much technology, too readily available, and I can certainly see things like ADHD being created. Not only in children, but in anyone who has been trained to expects instant results. Microwave food, internet on our phones, mp3 players constantly in our ears, the TV and/or radio always on. I see college students now who are addicted to technology. I’m afraid to see what children growing up with it will end up like.

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