The Impact of Technological Advancement from a Luddite’s Perspective

Governments and religions have valid reasons to fear air pumps and electrical machines, not to mention  technological advancement as a whole. The reason for this is that many political and religious concepts are, while founded in the natural sciences, a step removed. They tend to look at the implications of science, whether accurate or not. On the other hand, scientific data to the trained eye is similar to the doctrine of a certain religion or political stance, however, is backed up with a concept more concrete than morals. The pure fact that science is viewed in the same lens as religion or politics is daunting, because they are not so easily comparable. However, this is not the meaning of being threatening towards institutions–this is a stretch of a comparison, because science is not a social structure, whereas Religion and Politics are. What we should examine is not the structure of the scientific community, but the impact of it upon other institutions. The things created by science are daunting to powerful figures, because using science, higher levels of power are more easily within reach. These powers which scientific advancement may bestow upon humans are not only daunting towards institutions such as the church or state, but to the average person.

A “techno-fix” is a way of solving some problem with a technological advancement or reimagining. The example given in Johnston’s “The Technological Fix as Social Cure-All” is that of a streetcar which is dangerous to ride due to exposed platforms above the ground. First, riding on platforms was prohibited by the streetcar company, to no avail. Again, it was decreed by the local government that there would be a fine of $100 for riding on the platforms, which was again ignored by the general public. In response, a “techno-fix” was rolled out: streetcars without platforms to ride on. While this seems like a reasonable and widely applicable theory upon which to base faith in technology, this is only one example, and is very specific to the issue of personal safety. 

As an example of why both of these can be overall detrimental to humanity, I examined the (somewhat cliché’d) textile machine. Upon its advent, it transformed being a textile worker from being a highly skilled individual who had toiled his entire life to become a master of his craft into any average Joe who could operate a simple piece of machinery. Since textiles were more or less scarce, and therefore expensive, this “techno-fix”reduced their price, but also meant that being a master of one’s craft was no longer significant, which is hugely important towards economics at large. If any average person could produce textiles of a similar quality to a master textile worker, everyone effectively could become a master textile worker with almost no effort. This de-commodified the profession, and prompted a militant uprising of textile workers who feared their livelihoods would be wiped out (which, effectively, were). The way this is dangerous towards governments is that factory owners, who now could output hundreds of times more product than an individual artisan previous to a respective technological advancement, and therefore reap hundreds of times more money from their sale, were becoming a threatening legislative force towards the government. This prompts a similar situation to that of the British East India Company, who were financially powerful enough to claim a large portion of India and rule there for upwards of a hundred years. Through these examples, the shortcomings and risks involved in scientific advancement and “techno-fixes” are readily apparent, and could be argued to not even be worth the unforeseen consequences. 

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