A concern and fascination for me is the undeniable transformation of the human mind as a direct result of technology. Occasionally veering towards being an early curmudgeon, I try to keep a balance between appreciation and fear of the dazzling array of contraptions that surround us. For me, the primary issue is not whether or not robots will take over the world, but whether or not we will in the midst of the commotion of whistles and bells, retain the plain and simple ability to think clearly and coherently.
The book that initiated my thinking in this direction was Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman. This has led me to discover other writers who are also wary of where we are headed. Comparing education now to education a century ago seems on its own to indicate a serious “dumbing down” that is more and more obvious as time goes by.
The idea is not to oppose technology, but to see it clearly for what it is—and to glean what is good from it without blinding welcoming what might indeed be intellectually and spiritually harmful.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I found the term that somewhat captures this aspect of me. I am a Luddite.
It is derived from an event that took place in 1811. Devices were designed to use in the British textile industry. This resulted in falling wages and unemployment—the basic scenario where man is replaced by machine. A group of workers formed a secret society led by someone called “King” Ned Ludd of Sherwood Forest (no one knows for sure whether or not he existed). The Luddites sent letters demanding the machines to be removed. When that failed, they resorted to violence, destroying thousands of the devices. The movement spread to other parts of Britain. Soldiers were used at one location to protect the machines and two Luddites were killed. Ultimately, many of the Luddites were captured and sent to Australia. Fourteen were hanged.
Ironically enough, this term and its historical origin have probably been drowned out by the very technology that it attempted to stop. No one remembers the Luddites because the 21st Century. Century is so bright, you can barely see past the edge of the 20th.
I am not a pure Luddite. I’m writing this on a computer and posting it on the internet. But I am wary. Maybe I can reverse the irony of all this by using technology to point out the consequences of technology. I do not have a mob. I am riot of one. But I will rant. I will rant on this modern descendant of the typewriter, bracing myself to see just exactly how fast this world is going to spin before we are flung off completely.