Neo Luddite

Neo Luddite

The Luddites were a group of protesters in the early 19th century England. They were protesting the new technologies that were being implemented into the work places, the fear of their jobs and skills being lost to a machine was enough for them to revolt and try to stop the progress of machines. While Ned Ludd the person who the movement is named after almost definitely did not exist, it is an idea that has persisted through out the last two centuries. In recent decades it has gathered some momentum as the pace of digital technology becomes ever more pervasive, the global weather climate on which we need to survive becomes ever more energetic and weird, as the social structure of societies become ever more polarised from the pervasive nature of media/social-media. The Neo-Luddite is an idea that is rising up from the ashes as a potential solution to the issues of too much stimulation. Both of the mind and of the environment.

While the original movement was primarily because of the fear of job and skill loss – and yes this is still a big element of the movement – nowadays with Neo-Luddites it is more targeted at lower level issues. Rather than just how people make a living but the impact of the jobs and technologies they use on themselves and the world around them. On how people figure out who they are in the face of technology that is desperately trying to distract you from doing so. Either by design or by its unintended function.

In the last few decades, in western industrial societies at least, the likes of Theodore Kaczynski would be the first person that springs to mind when it comes to the idea of abandonment of technology and the kind of reactions that spring to mind. To that, I have two points.

Firstly, he was inspired by a large body of works before him, the anti-technology movement never died but merely went dormant. The departments of Harvard were he was positioned in his late teens was already a hot bed for technological disbandment. Ted as the Uni-bomber was one of the worst examples of how and anti-technology movements should be handled. I must admit, for as horrible a "solution" his attacks were, they did bring him and these ideas some main stream attention that almost definitely would have been confined to the back alley of philosophy. As they say, the ends do not justify the means.

Secondly, the abandonment of all technology is a poorly thought out solution. Humans are a technological species, it is what has allowed us to get as far as we have today. We might not be the strongest or the fastest creature on the planet but we have figured out how to adapt to this limitation by using the external world. Technology is not universally a problem, it is the scale that we implement it at and that ignoring the side impacts of this technology. To use it unquestioningly will make it inevitable it will blind us all.

A good model for a Neo-luddite would be someone that uses technology but in a more thoughtful manner. Do they want or need said technology or is it something that have been conditioned to? To use simpler technology for instance to cut the capital supply to a more nasty technology. Using a bike or walking instead of enabling the car industry and the fossil fuels it relies on. This is using a positive change rather than a negative punishment to get a similar solution. Kaczynski hated the computer sciences, the solution is to not use them and talk to others about not using them either. Kaczynski decided to mail bombs around! The original Luddites were fans of smashing looms, if they had bombs maybe they would have used them too. That is not what a modern Luddite movement should be.

This also goes for a lot of modern environmentalist movements in a much more sedate fashion, they are eager to shut down the central business districts for a day in protest, something that will be remembered for a few days at best. But giving up the SUV that got them there is too much change for most. A Neo-luddite should lead by example, demonstrate this example to others; not by violence or by mere talk of policy.

The most apt term to use is 'Sati' or the modernised translation 'Mindfulness'. Not the buzz word marketing definition it has turned into but the original intention, to bring contemplative attention to the concepts and how to live with them. To really figure out what you desire and how technology can help with that rather than depend on it. To walk across the bridge rather than live on it.

Don't fly but still have a smart phone. That phone has no social media or distractions on it. Use the Internet, don't become obsessed with it. Give up the law mower and use a scythe. Give up the lawn. It is up to you to figure out what works for you. For some people they will give up absolutely nothing, others will move back to the living standards of the 11th century – everyone is different. Just be honest to yourself about it. You can find your place in this context.

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