The popularity of “Luddism” ideology has grown in the 21st century as technology becomes part of our daily lives. No doubt, technology has caused major disruptions to markets and economies while replacing human labor. The term “Luddite” emerged from the British industrial protests in the early nineteenth century that opposed the use of machines in production processes that provided much-needed employment for people. With advancements in technology and innovations, more people are losing jobs to robots and Artificial Intelligence machines. The idea of opposing technology today, or being a modern Luddite is quite difficult because you can’t resist technology that we rely on everyday activities. This paper analyzes the Luddism anti-technology ethos that has been part of our history.
Modern Luddites have tried to resist technology, but with a similar process – reinventing machines in the form of malware and computer viruses. Recent suspected targets include the Iranian nuclear power plant and London Stock Exchange. But this presents the ethical side of resisting technology through hacking. The same viruses and malware have been used against the public service and companies threatening the stability and integrity of many. We have had many instances where cyber hacking has been used as a scam to lobby for money from accounts of popular people. at home, parents are raising concerns over violent computer games that are influencing the behavior of children. The complex regulatory processes of social media and deep internet are presenting a gap that extremists use to radicalize and sell weapons. Several downfalls come with technology, however, the benefits are also tremendous. Technology has transformed the transport sector, industries, communication, and governance. The question today remains, is it possible to resist technology?
Luddism took the form of groups or individuals advocating for anti-technology. However, just like neo-Luddism, it is difficult to define it as a movement. As such, modern Luddism is a form of movement without leaders who equally benefit from the consumerism of the perceived threatening technology advancements. To some extent, it has been combined with environmentalist and anti-capitalist movements that advocate for cleaner technologies and industrial processes. However, Luddism fights for complete abandonment of the existing technology and embracing nature. But the reputation of modern Luddites presents highly skilled individuals who work with various technology-intensive fields, and the technologies they attack are newer with more reputations on the existing form of capitalism.
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Just like the 21st century, the 19th century experienced a shock with widespread unemployment and economic upheavals. In Britain, workers started protesting for better working conditions and wages. As part of the Luddism campaign, several cases were reported with workers smashing machinery, especially in the textile industry. The waves spread to England and later the US, a move that saw governments respond by sending soldiers to protect the industries. While the protests sow a few industries burned down, the lack of organization of the Luddism protests inflicted less violence that would influence policy changes. The industrial revolution as such was characterized by a worried workforce who saw the increasing efficiency of machines. The worry played a big role in the subsequent violent protests in France and Britain towards the end of the 18th century.
Throughout the industrial revolution and globalization, people have been worried but equally astonished by the new advancements that bring tremendous benefits. Technology has improved health systems, increased transaction speed, increased the efficiency of transport systems, and enhanced surveillance. But with the high rates of unemployment, people are worried about the reputations of advanced machines. Some of the industries that have felt the impact of robotics and AI systems include the banking sector, manufacturers, and global retailers. These industries have continued to lay off millions of workers globally with a move to cut costs by implementing more efficient technologies. The original Luddism ideology was that humanity should prevail and technology should not take away the livelihoods of people. But people are today more attached to technologies that dehumanize their senses. Anywhere you go today, you will find people staring at their phones browsing the web and social media. No one seems to have time for conversation. As much as this was not the prevailing fear of Luddism, it has raised concerns over such platforms. Luddism as such does not fight technology, but it is more concerned with labor rights and the threat of declining jobs for the public.
Luddism has had a bad rap for the past 200 years, but their concerns have been proved to be right today. There is no doubt that we need technology and that technology will “save us.” But because of reluctance in policy regulations, the downfalls of technology are becoming clearer by the day. Increased use of robotics and automation has already destroyed careers of many and the trend is expected to continue towards the future. Massive unemployment is a social problem that has to be addressed through policy regulation of the use of these technologies. But technology will always improve the quality of life with a longer lifespan, a comfortable, and healthier population.