The Growing Luddite Cacophany

The Luddite move­ment in the 19th century was targeted specif­i­cally against creep­ing indus­tri­al­iza­tion and the effect it was seen to be having on soci­ety. The concern was legit­i­mate because the Indus­trial Revo­lu­tion did massively change things  and partic­u­larly in the short term there were nega­tive conse­quences. But the Luddite response was narrow minded, short sighted and a clas­sic mob mental­ity.

Welcome to the 21st century.

And on the inter­net (some­what iron­i­cally) it’s becom­ing increas­ingly common to see reac­tionary screeds about the evils of tech­nol­ogy. Whether it’s spy satel­lites, spy glasses, being too connected, runaway Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence, or cancer from wifi, there’s an awful lot of noise being made about how horri­ble tech­nol­ogy is and all the bad things it might do.

And that’s the thing. Most of it hasn’t happened. Most of it is spec­u­la­tion on what might happen. Possi­bly. Maybe. If a partic­u­lar set of circum­stances occur.

The Source Of All Evil?
The Source Of All Evil?

Enter Google Glass

This has been build­ing for years now. We are exhorted to switch off our phones because inter­act­ing with the real world is supe­rior (really… on a train?). We should fear for our privacy because of all the infor­ma­tion we have shared with our tech­no­log­i­cal over­lords!  Robots will put us all out of work!

But oddly enough what seems to have put a lot of people over the top is… Google Glass.

Yes a rather goofy and cumber­some gadget that is clearly (by Google’s own admis­sion) not ready for prime time. Is being portrayed as the symbol of tech­no­log­i­cally aloof assholes who want to invade everyone’s privacy. Logic, if applied, would show that this really doesn’t make a lot of sense. But then we’re not deal­ing with a logi­cal argu­ment. We’re deal­ing with an emotional one. Specif­i­cally fear.

What this new Luddite move­ment shares with its name­sake is a fear not of the tech­nol­ogy itself, but of the unknown. Because all this new stuff is chang­ing soci­ety fast. And it’s hard to keep up. And change can be bad. It’s certainly scary.

But you know what doesn’t make it better? Becom­ing a scream­ing mob and smash­ing down (phys­i­cally or intel­lec­tu­ally) every­thing new to make it go away and stop things from chang­ing. That is a child­ish response, not an adult one.

Observe, Learn and Adapt

You can’t escape change. It is built into the DNA of life itself. Life changes. Soci­ety changes. Tech­nol­ogy changes. And yes, the changes are coming fast these days. It’s hard to keep up, even for people who want to.

I’m not going to claim that all of the changes that come from our current tech­no­log­i­cal revo­lu­tion are going to be good. Some of them will undoubt­edly be bad. But the prob­lem is… you can’t weight the bene­fits against the nega­tives in advance. You can only do that from a histor­i­cal perspec­tive.

The inter­net has always echoed with the sounds of reac­tionary scream­ing. But you don’t have to embrace it or encour­age it. Stop react­ing emotion­ally to the infor­ma­tion you receive and start analyz­ing it. Stop anthro­po­mor­phis­ing compa­nies. Stop project­ing a person­al­ity onto people based on the tech­nol­ogy they are carry­ing. Stop pick­ing sides.

Observe, learn and adapt.

About Eoghann Irving

Overly opinionated owner and author of eoghann.com. You can get updated on his posts directly on the blog here or through the usual social networking suspects. What? You expected me to say something interesting here? That's what the blog posts are for. Eoghann has often wondered if people read these little bio things we have to fill out everywhere on the internet and, assuming they do, why?