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The Return Of The Luddites

JonKatz posted about 14 years ago | from the rebels-against-the-digital-revolution dept.

Technology 253

The Luddites have returned, dominating the presidential campaign, attacking technology and culture on many fronts, from ruining work to despoiling the environment to endangering children. Although the term "Luddite" gets kicked around a lot, few people understand who the first Luddites really were. Compared to the current crop of moral poseurs and wannabe anti-technology intellectuals, the originals were genuine heroes. They were fighting for a way of life, not for moral control or cultural power.

Members of a radical agrarian movement in early l9th-century England, the Luddites surfaced in Robin Hood country -- Sherwood Forest, near Nottinghamshire -- and for 15 bloody months took on the Industrial Revolution's first factories and entrepreneurs, until the British army suppressed them for good. The term has come to mean something else, though -- an attitude of fear and resentment toward technology. The Luddites never really left us completely, but the rise of the Net, the Web and the screen-driven culture they're helping to push along are bringing Luddites, or at least modern pretenders, back in force.

The historical Luddites drew their ranks from farmers and artisans whose families had lived for centuries in small villages, using simple machines that could be operated by individuals or small groups. The big mills and factories of the Industrial Revolution meant an end to social customs and community, to personal status and individual freedom. Having worked independently on their own farms, they grasped that they would be forced to use complex, dangerous machines in noisy, smelly factories, enduring long hours for slave wages, and that the trade was not in their favor.

Contemporary Luddites are fighting technology to keep power rather than livelihood, though they have as much chance of succeeding as their predecessors did.

These self-appointed watchmen are opportunists and cultural reactionaries led by people like Joseph Lieberman, former Education Secretary William Bennett, (one of Washington's leading moral gasbags, and one of Lieberman's closest friends), and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, who bemoan the lack of "morality" in popular culture, entertainment, and of course, most of all, the Mother of All Demons, the Net.

In fact, plenty of people call themselves Luddites today; they're popping up all over in media and Academe. The writer and social critic Kirkpatrick Sale, best known for his prescient book on the rise of the Sunbelt and his portrayal of Christopher Columbus as a raving imperialist scumbag (he's most recently the author of Rebels Against the Future: the Luddites and Their War on The Industrial Revolution), routinely attracts college audiences who cheer while he figuratively or literally smashes computers and denounces technology for ruining the world.

Unlike the first time 'round, this time corporations have joined the Luddite movement with a fury, hiring platoons of lawyers and lobbyists to fence off the Net and beat back the menace of free information online. Congress has passed a number of anti-democratic and unconstitutional laws designed to curb the free speech spawned by new technologies. Every season brings more books, articles, news stories warning that technology is driving us crazy, making us stupid, turning out kids into murderers, endangering out families. And how many articles and TV news stories have you seen on dangerous "hackers," online predators, Net addicts?

The neo-Luddites have attacked on a broad range of fronts blaming technology for everything from copyright theft to addiction to the oft-invoked menace of hacking and cracking. But no assault has been more relentless than the idea that technology and culture endanger the moral and literal lives of children. For years Bennett and Lieberman have led a wildly successful campaign (now joined both by Al Gore and George W. Bush), thumping the entertainment industry for allegedly contributing to violent behavior. Columbine advanced the hysterical ideal that computer games were not only unhealthy, but mortally dangerous. This idea has become the central rallying cry of the neo-Luddites.

It's interesting how modern-day Luddites invoke morality as a shield to mask zealotry and ignorance. Basically, they're doing what fanatics have done for centuries: try to force everyone to accept their own personal ideas of right and wrong. We are constantly being told this cultural piety and conformity is really for our own good -- and that of our children. This despite evidence that young people are safer than they've ever been, according to every recent statistical survey, from the FBI Uniform Crime Report to the Center for Juvenile Justice in New York. There are virtually no credible connections between technology use, media and violence.

Author Richard Rhodes, a scholar both of technology and violence, pointed out in The New York Times last week that violent behavior isn't learned from mock struggles on a screen. Violence is learned in personal encounters, beginning with the epidemic brutalization of children by their parents and peers. "Violence is on the decline in America," wrote Rhodes, "but if we want to reduce it even further, protecting children from real violence in their real lives -- not the pale shadow of mock violence -- is the place to begin."

But that isn't likely to happen. Exploiting the idea that technology as a menace to children is a lot easier and cheaper than confronting more complex social problems like child abuse or guns. Rhodes and others have pointed out that as media use has increased in the western world, violence has generally declined. Private violence (as opposed to the military or nation-state kind) has been dropping in the West since the Middle Ages, when homicide rates are estimated to have been 10 times those of Western nations today. Historians attribute the drop to improved social controls -- police forces and common access to courts of law -- and to a shift away from brutal physical punishment in child-rearing, a practice that shows up again and again as a common factor in the background of violent criminals.

Yet most Americans believe violence among the young is skyrocketing, and more than 80% told the Gallup poll last year that they believe the Internet is at least partly responsible. that's how good a propaganda job the neo-Luddites and their media have done.

"This time around the technology is even more complex and extensive," warns Sale, "and its impact even more pervasive and dislocating, touching greater populations with greater speed and at greater scales." In a way, Sale has a point. The neo-Luddities do have a whole new crop of legitimate issues with which to rouse an already alarmed populace: nano-technology, artificial intelligence, the open source challenge to proprietary businesses, and the growing access to information by younger Americans who could previously be easily censored and influenced.

Little organized political or other opposition counters the neo-Luddites. Few people are using mainstream media to argue that digital technology actually is creating many new kinds of jobs, sparking new kinds of communities and liberating information for millions in ways never before possible. Some should. For all its many flaws, the digital culture fosters freedom and opportunity and information everywhere it goes. The irony is that the neo-Luddites, like their predecessors, are fighting forces beyond anybody's control. They can't win either. The only issue is how ugly the brawl will get.

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Technology is not an enemy it's the lack of it (1)

sips (212702) | about 14 years ago | (#747489)

What is the real enemy is the lack of technological power and the means to understand it.

Re: By my calculations.. (1)

AFCArchvile (221494) | about 14 years ago | (#747490)

you currently have a karma of -29. You're still heading in that direction.


Slashdot Rapper (235164) | about 14 years ago | (#747491)

Mod this up!!!

(hahaha) (1)

Slashdot Rapper (235164) | about 14 years ago | (#747492)


There's another sect of the neo-Luddites... (1)

AFCArchvile (221494) | about 14 years ago | (#747493)

...the one which hates Javascript. Here's our homepage [] . Do the viewers of your webpages a favor, and don't use frivolous Javascript!


Slashdot Rapper (235164) | about 14 years ago | (#747494)


Luddite-Internet integration (1)

Parsec (1702) | about 14 years ago | (#747495)

Still... it is easy to find examples of mental illness on the internet. The beautiful things seem to be kept away for fear of being ripped off.

How many open source art projects do we have out there? Especially vs. free exhibitions of the gruesome?


Anonymous Coward | about 14 years ago | (#747496)

2 Katz articles in a row!!!

And wouldn't you do the same in their shoes? (3)

Froid (235187) | about 14 years ago | (#747497)

Imagine this: one day in the near future, Congress and the FBI finally get their way and install Carnivore boxes not only at the ISP level, but at your local computers also. If Richard Stallman urged a call to arms and geeks everywhere organized massive protests where they liberally shattered the Carnivore boxes into little bits, would you not join? You too, Mr Slashbot, are a Luddite, by that standard, make no mistake about it. When someone shatters your own world-view, it is your right and duty to shatter his means, at whatever cost and to whatever ends.

Mondo 2000? (2)

British (51765) | about 14 years ago | (#747498)

With this article and that super-confusing one 2 above, I'm wondering if it's Mondo 2000 day at Slashdot. Now all we need is another neo-hippie Timothy Leary article and we're set!

Yay... Katz espouses moral relativism (2)

PacketMaster (65250) | about 14 years ago | (#747499)

Katz dismisses out of hand people that complain about the lack of morality in the movies, tv and on the Internet. Yes, people in political positions that are attempting to use the "back to values" battle cry in their political campaigns are usually the least interested in a true check on our morality. However just because people have genuine beliefs about the moral decay of American civilization doesn't make them anti-technology. I think the proliferation of moral relativism is apalling. For those of you who many not be familiar with the term, moral relativism is the mode of thought that whatever anyone wants to do is fine becuase it's what they beleieve is right. This is going to cause the ultimate downfall of our society because eventually one of two things will happen: anarchy will come to pass or a zealot movement will get power and clamp down on all GENUINE freedoms. There HAS to be standards of conduct. Programmers follow standards in code. The Intnet is based on standards and those that don't follow the standards are shunned. Yet in our REAL lives there are NO standards of behavior? That's ludicrious.

I disagree on a few points. (1)

VAXGeek (3443) | about 14 years ago | (#747500)

You know John, you have a few good points, but I did disagree with you in a few places.

#1: "The historical Luddites drew their ranks from farmers and artisans whose families had lived for centuries in small villages, using simple machines that could be operated by individuals or small groups."

I think that this shows a tendency of the masses (ie. plebians) vs. the aristocracy to try to rise above the place they are expected to sit complacently in the hierarchy. This is a borderline accusation of communism. These societies weren't as developed as ours. In a study by Fellane (1977), most pre-industrial socities have a lesser change of revolt against a commmon enemy, simply due to the fact that there are higher ratios of "artistic" individuals (ie. producers of art) to common workers. (farmers, blacksmiths)

#2: "Basically, they're doing what fanatics have done for centuries: try to force everyone to accept their own personal ideas of right and wrong."

Are you talking about them in a cultural sense, or in an individual sense? Such ideas cannot be imposed culturally, by some fraternal figure from above. This is the reponsibility of the cultured citizen to decide what is right, and also what is wrong. When you ursup this obligation away from the individual, you are stepping on their basic human rights.

But, all in all, another good thought-provoking idea. I'd like to see what your response is to my queries. Maybe a reply here is in order?
a funny comment: 1 karma
an insightful comment: 1 karma
a good old-fashioned flame: priceless

Irony... (2)

KingJawa (65904) | about 14 years ago | (#747501)

Does anyone else think it's really silly to complain about luddites in a cyber-column?

No difference - historical vs contemp (2)

redelm (54142) | about 14 years ago | (#747502)

Once again, JonKatz spouts off. Well, that's an editor's prerogative. And ours to flame :)

The original Luddites were afraid of change, and didn't like that their trade was being usurped by cheaper factory producers. They wanted things their way rather than change to own or build these new machines. Tough!

The current crop is no different. They are deathly afraid of change because they will lose the status and position they have built for themselves. Tough!

In every change there are winners and losers. The secret is to adapt so you are on the winning side. I have no sympathy for lazy whining losers. I do have some sympathy for those who try to change, but need help.

I call myself a Luddite (3)

hald (1811) | about 14 years ago | (#747503)

And yet I am a software developer. A contradiction? I don't believe so. My fear is loss of control over my own life and my own destiny. I don't have to wonder how many ways that technology can fail us, I know how many ways technology and the dependence of society upon it can fail us. I develop software in order to continue to be sure that I remain "in the loop" on technology, and the changes that are comming in the future. I try to keep as much technology out of my home, so that I am not dependent on it. I don't have a cellular phone, I don't have a color television. When I consider adding some new technology to my life I try to evaluate the impact. Will I become dependent on it? Will I control it? Or will it control me?

Hal Duston

Luddites were right (3)

magic (19621) | about 14 years ago | (#747504)

The real Luddites were opposed to technology being used to suppress people. They all lost their jobs or were put in to dangerous jobs interacting with some scary automated weaving machinery when the industrial revolution occured in England. Like the citizens in "Metropolis", they smashed the machines that were supplanting people and leaving large numbers of the poor unemployed or facing lousy jobs.

I think they were right. When new technology is introduced, it should be used to make life better for all of society, not to make the rich richer and eliminate the need for other economic classes. Mechanization and new technology have always promised that the work day would get shorter, safer, and easier. So why are so many people working 12 hour days at multiple jobs?

Most of us are lucky; we are the technological elite and we like our jobs. But too frequently, people (like us) have introduced new technologies without thinking about the social impact. In the case of the Luddites, clever engineers figured out how to make an electric loom. But noone figured out how the textile producing population of England was supposed to support itself. I think the whole point of being 'human' is in looking to higher goals than feeding yourself for one day. Introducing technology that is more efficient and makes you money and more secure is a good thing-- but if the cost is destroying the livelyhood of large parts of your society, it's time to figure out a plan for them to succeed as well.

Now, the modern "Luddites" tend to be the exact opposite of this. They are protecting large, abusive corporations from technologies that would liberate many people both intellectually and financially. I think it is insulting to the original Luddites to call these new folks "Luddites."


Mainstream media has been eviscerated (2)

Private Essayist (230922) | about 14 years ago | (#747505)

"Yet most Americans believe violence among the young is skyrocketing, and more than 80% told the Gallup poll last year that they believe the Internet is at least partly responsible. that's how good a propaganda job the neo-Luddites and their media have done."

Mainstream media hypes problems, such as isolated acts of school violence, to such an extent that people who point out crime is going down are given funny looks. 'Conventional' wisdom tells us we are living in horrible times with our children under fire at school, and under attack by Hollywood and the Net.

Conventional wisdom is dead wrong. For this, I blame the mainstream media. Now that we have access to news on the Net, from a wide variety of sources, I'm constantly amazed at the emptiness of the nightly newscasts. So many interesting stories are happening around the world, and they report instead on Al Gore sneezing in Michigan or something.

Just when the corporations got full control over the mainstream media and managed to eviscerate it, the Net came along and gave us access to more information. Now they are going after the Net. If they succeed, we will all be dumbed-down.

Katz way off again... (2)

deefer (82630) | about 14 years ago | (#747506)

And how many articles and TV news stories have you seen on dangerous "hackers," online predators, Net addicts?
And how many on "dotcompreneurs" who are growing filthy rich? Go on, count the times you've seen Bezos and his ilk gassing on TV about the e-information age...
As far as the violence goes, it is perception that counts. And that is something Katz has conveniently skipped in this ill though out piece of flamebait.
There is a saying "no news is good news". Ever wonder where that came from? Originally, in the formative days of the BBC, if there were no disasters or bad news to convey, all that would be broadcast would be "there is no news today".
But in this day and age of more and more saturated TV coverage, enabled by our better communications and logistics, could you imagine CNBC or the BBC broadcasting that?
When was the last time you saw a news programme where there were solely "good" events happening, instead of the quirky 20 second slot on some news shows? And why is that? Because it doesn't make for good viewing figures, and that is what the news agencies depend on for funding.
I have given up watching the news, reading papers for this exact purpose. My current affairs knowledge is now minimal, but I am happier. Because can I really make [insert tragedy here] not have happened? Can I un-drown all those people lost at sea off Greece? (I only know this because the guy who sits next to me at work is Greek, BTW)
And those that Katz derides as Luddites (BTW, Sherwood Forest is _in_ Nottinghamshire), maybe they're looking at the 80+ hour week pressure cookers some of us high tech workers are in... And want something different. However, they don;t seem to understand that we can walk away from these furnaces at any time. The Luddites were still in a feudal system; the Lord of the land basically owned you, you did his bidding. And that is why the Luddites didn't want the tech.

Strong data typing is for those with weak minds.

Fred doesn't understand women (1)

Hairy_Potter (219096) | about 14 years ago | (#747507)

And I say this, because I understand women better than most men.

My qualifications here are that I've had sex, which puts me head and shoulders above your average 15 year old virgin Slashdot reader (cf. Bruce Perens).

Katz is right (1)

YIAAL (129110) | about 14 years ago | (#747508)

Note, for example, that Time has a story on the return of exorcism this week. Credulity and antirationalism are on the rise. I blame liberal-arts academics, who are jealous of the strides science and technology have made over the past hundred years while their disciplines -- philosophy, literature, political science, history -- have either been irrelevancies or the handmaidens of mass murder. This has percolated into the general culture somewhat, though the public at large is far more pro-science and pro-technology than the average journalist, pundit, or academic.


SEWilco (27983) | about 14 years ago | (#747509)

I reported that one months ago.

Luddites feared... (1)

script (225526) | about 14 years ago | (#747510)

The original luddites feared to lost their job's. The Industrial Revolution breaked the man and the identity with your own work and life means. The man was no more owner of your work (and life) and the product of your work was far away from your understand, since the industrial line production segregates the worker from the final product. The technology can give this back!

the technical juggernaut (1)

rodentia (102779) | about 14 years ago | (#747511)

It is a mistake to regard technical progress as a tautology or beyond the control of social forces. The willful abandoning of a technical advance by a society is rare but not unheard of. Z.B.- 17th C. Japan giving up the gun.

This is something which should be given more consideration.

The original Luddites were selfish (2)

Russ Nelson (33911) | about 14 years ago | (#747512)

The original Luddites were selfishly fighting to keep their unproductive jobs. This would have kept clothing expensive for everyone else. Instead, they lost out, and people got affordable woolens. And in a generation, the industry grew back to its former employment levels.

So they are against technology. (2)

Ryn (9728) | about 14 years ago | (#747513)

As a minor point of interest...
1. Do those people run around naked or they make their own clothes out of natural products by hand?
2. Do they walk from one state to another?
3. How about TV? Surely their speeches go on the air. Being true to their values...shouldnt they abolish cameras and TV, and so not be able to get their word out?
If answer is Yes to all 3 points above, I'll believe they are true to their views. If not, they are full of shit.

Re:The original Luddites were selfish (1)

script (225526) | about 14 years ago | (#747514)

We are the evil ones! The technocrats. We'll win, of course, but, look that poor ones that can't understand why your little son spends hours at and don't have a girlfriend? They loose the control, and blame us for your fault!

Come on. Got an agenda? (1)

huguley (87575) | about 14 years ago | (#747515)

Calling people gasbags then lumping guns and child abuse together makes it hard to take you seriously. I usually do not mind editorials but this is labeled as news. It would be a pretty good story if it was made a bit more objective.

Television (2)

Xenu (21845) | about 14 years ago | (#747516)

While Internet and other modern technologies may be changing our society, I would suggest that television is still the biggest influence. People watch an enormous amount of television. Besides pushing products, television influences our beliefs about the "real world".

Ironic, Isn't It... (1)

RobL3 (126711) | about 14 years ago | (#747517)

that the values espoused by the original luddites (commitment to culture, community, and independence) are so much more attainable in an interconnected world where information is free (as in thought, not beer). Knowledge really is power, and the less a community has to rely on industry or government for their information or approval, the closer we are to having true freedom to live a life our short little lives in a fashion that suits us.

Al Gore, AntiTechnologist (1)

SEWilco (27983) | about 14 years ago | (#747518)

Let's not forget the Al Gore or Unabomber [] game. Get a copy of "Earth in the Balance" and the "Unabomber Manifesto" and play along.

Aren't you glad The Internet is in Al Gore's hands [] ?

Re:No difference - historical vs contemp (1)

hound (188920) | about 14 years ago | (#747519)

I agree...we all have to be prepared to accept change or go the way of the dinosaur. Although this is a lot to be said for a simpler way of life...

Re: (1)

Slashdot Rapper (235164) | about 14 years ago | (#747520)

yeah.. OK big guy

How can you say... (3)

Threemoons (70070) | about 14 years ago | (#747521)

Alright, Jon, I normally like/tolerate your stuff...but HOW do you get off saying that the current "Luddites" are (insert negatives here) while the "original Luddites" were the ones who were "heros" and "fighting to preserve a way of life" or somesuch?

The modern Luddites are trying to protect a way of life they always have...they want to keep information that THEY don't like out of the hands of everyone. Whether it's sex ed/AIDS ed for kids, substance abuse information, etc etc etc...the modern Luddites are trying to force their view of the world on everyone NOT by proclaiming their own position but by censoring others'.

I"m not worried, I don't have an IP number (1)

Hairy_Potter (219096) | about 14 years ago | (#747522)

since I'm browsing Windows NT instead of Linux, I don't have an IP address, instead I have a NetBUIE address, so I'm not worried about this.

Thanks for the warning, though.

Change (1)

nigelb0 (234670) | about 14 years ago | (#747523)

Everything changes eventually. We all realise the meaning of this, but we don't always understand how this relates to our own lives. The idea of ending up in the junkyard in a few years time is somewhat un-appealing.

Agrarian romanticism... (4)

teraflop user (58792) | about 14 years ago | (#747524)

I think that this argument contains a false appeal to romanticism.

Workers were being offered heavy, regulated, industrial work in exchange to a farming lifestyle. But to characterise the exchange as uniformly bad is probably unfair.

Farming is hard. It involves long hours, in all weathers. The results are far less predictable than factory work - bad conditions can mean famine. Many farmers lived in poverty. The plight of the Irish was particularly desparate.

Some people were being offered worse jobs in exchange for better ones. But I think that many of the Luddites were, as commonly characterised, afraid of change.

Technology transparency (1)

TWX_the_Linux_Zealot (227666) | about 14 years ago | (#747525)


Something that almost everyone ignores is that technology can be made transparent. Technological advancement has its drawbacks, and often has to fight issues it brings along with itself, but eventually a point is reached where technology can be disguised or engineered to how ever the market wants. Take Chrysler for example. They build cars that look like how they want them to look, not specifically how they function. The PT Cruiser, Ram, Viper, and Prowler are all examples of this change. I hope other automakers and groups follow a similar example.

Specifically speaking of computers, I don't see a reason why we need to have really obvious computers anymore. My DVD player is an old P-233 pc, and I have it placed where it is unobtrusive. I have discretely placed IR and radio mouse receivers, so my keyboard and mouse can sit on my coffee table when I am using them, but be put away when they are not needed. The display itself is on the TV, not a computer screen, further disguising it. In the future, I hope to be able to forego the TV in place of a discretely placed projector anyway, and not have any of it visible. Ultimately I want to do this for all of my electronics, specifically downplaying their importance while increasing their usefulness behind the scenes. Technology then becomes integrated into my life without intruding.

Most of the consumer market seems to go in for the gaudy, colourful, 'fruity' look with equipment now. The Apple line right now is a perfect example of this, as is the knockoff PC cases that have followed. Peripherals sit all over the place when people have scanners, printers, mice, keyboards, diskette drives, CD-burners, etc, when designs more like the IBM PS/2 Model 50 (the all in one with some actual expansion bays and an unobtrusive colour) proved that lots of the crap like drives and such could be feasibly integrated. "Natural" coloured equipment is available on the market, but it doesn't appear to sell very well. Until the consumer is told that this is what they want, it won't happen.

Much of the technology that is commonplace can be made to look like whatever we want. We can put massive computing systems into furniture like the old General Electric stereo cabinet, and never have to look at the innards again. Fighting the advance is not going to work, but working to make it as transparent as possible could be done. All that we have to do is convince the market that this is where to go.


Re:Moderation for this story (1)

starflyr (164236) | about 14 years ago | (#747526)

This is ridiculous. If you don't like the article, don't comment. Keep it to yourself unless YOU have a better point to argue. As it stands, your post has a much higher garbage to intellectual ratio than Katz article. Most of us come to read facts and opinions, not flames. Don't waste our time. Thank you.

The constant truth? (2)

Demon-Xanth (100910) | about 14 years ago | (#747527)

Kids today have no respect This music kids listen to is inappropriate The way kids dress today is very inappropriate There is way too much violence today (not like when I was growing up) Said by your Grandma to your Mom. Said by your Mom to you. Said by you to your kids?

Re: By my calculations.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 14 years ago | (#747528)

At -50, the user explodes in a shower of grits.

Then why.... (1)

tewl (226290) | about 14 years ago | (#747529)

....have several big name silicon valley companies donated close to 22 million this year alone to the 2 presidential candidates???

Re:And wouldn't you do the same in their shoes? (1)

pointym5 (128908) | about 14 years ago | (#747530)

When someone shatters your own world-view, it is your right and duty to shatter his means, at whatever cost and to whatever ends.

Huh? I don't see the parallel here at all. A hypothetical reaction against forced installation of a particular piece of technology is just not the same as a fundamental resistance to technology in general.

In any case, I just don't get that last sentence, unless it's supposed to be a joke (and clearly I still don't get it).

Re:Television (1)

terry217 (220138) | about 14 years ago | (#747531)

Besides pushing products, television influences our beliefs about the "real world".

As an aside:

It could be argued that the products television pushes aren't the commercials etc, but us - we, the audience, are the product, constructed by the networks to be sold to the advertisers...

How this helps this debate I don't know, but there you go.

Re:I call myself a Luddite (2)

Deskpoet (215561) | about 14 years ago | (#747532)

I, too, am in the tech industry, have been for years, and the closer I get to the technology, the more I wonder WHY?

There is no question that these things are fascinating--otherwise we wouldn't be here to discuss them, but at the end of the day, where do they leave us? A conversation with my wife is far more fufilling than getting my MTA working through my firewall, but I still want that system--and the four or five others I have at my home (let alone work!)--to function at peak, secure performance, and so I leave the conversation to go make sure It Is So.

I personally fear that the machines already have control of me, and I'm not certain how to extricate myself.

Ahem. Pardon this personal digression.

While I hesitate to call myself a Luddite, I certainly understand your worldview.

Re:And wouldn't you do the same in their shoes? (2)

Jonathan Walls (218026) | about 14 years ago | (#747533)

I thought that if someone shattered your world-view, it was your right and duty to reappraise that view with an open mind. Then take appropriate steps - which could include acknowledging your error and agreeing with your supposed enemy. To feel compelled to shatter anything and everything they have done, at any cost and to whatever ends would, for example, give credence to Hitler's Holocaust. Or the Spanish Inquisition. And let's face it, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.

Fear (1)

jaga~ (175770) | about 14 years ago | (#747534)

I think this Luddite movement is nothing new; in fact it's as old as civilization itself. As far as I can tell it's merely an expression of fear for people in power either politically, financially or morally, feeling their position threatened by something which they do not understand and that they feel is escaping from their grasps of comprehension and more importantly from their control.

Columbine advanced the hysterical ideal that computer games were not only unhealthy, but mortally dangerous.

First, I'm not sure if you meant mortally or morally, but I think morally is more appropriate. Second, as an avid video game player, and not (yet?) a parent, I think I should stress that the ideology that video games ARE morally healthy on their face value is incredibly misleading and is a position only held in opposition to attempts at censorship. Blowing off other people's heads is not morally acceptable in our present culture, and a simulation of such can easily be interpreted as not being either. The stress we should make in this situation isn't that the cause of such violence cannot come from these games/movies/media, but that it isn't the authors of these things that should be held responsible. Freedom of speech is still prevalent in this country (USA I mean) and the responsibility should be held with those responsible for the children's upbringing; Parents, not the public or the media.

Bullshit about programmers. (2)

Hogarth (98887) | about 14 years ago | (#747535)

Programmers don't follow standards. Programmers adhere to APIs when it suits their purposes.
There are plenty of standards of behavior in our real lives. Laws against libel, slander, assault, conspiracy, kiddie porn, adultery and all those nasty things apply just fine to the Internet.

What your average Slashdotter objects to is the needless passing of MORE laws to prevent the protection of speech that, as much as a majority of people may not like it, is a valid viewpoint and deserves to exist. Virtually every kind of technology potentially usable to "verify" internet identities or "filter" or "secure" does only one thing -- remove liberty from individuals.

I'll concede that they may not do so very much -- but that they invoke a slippery slope -- once we give up a little, we'll have to give up a lot. I assure you of that.

Re:the technical juggernaut (1)

Elgon (234306) | about 14 years ago | (#747536)

Yes, except that history has proven many times that you cannot put anything back in Pandora's box. It is a similar argument to Eddie Izzard's on armies -

'Every country needs an army ... because of organised arseholes. Hitler was an organised arsehole.'

These organised arseholes, and we have plenty of them in this world, do not have the willpower or sensitivity to put the 'demon' back in the box.
Do you wish to return to an age of no antibiotics a 75% child mortality and a country governed by an elite based on birth rather than ability?


Re:Irony... (1)

Curious G (72425) | about 14 years ago | (#747537)

Not really, when you consider the huge volume of "Luddite" and "Neo-Luddite" websites that are out there. Many self-described Luddites are probably reading this. (Try a google search, you might be surprised.) Now, talking about Amish people in a "cyber-column"... *that* would be silly.

Sigh... (2)

Palin Majere (4000) | about 14 years ago | (#747538)

Let the war on my Karma begin, but this article is just way too much.

I had been one of the (few?) people on /. that actually enjoyed many of Katz's articles.

This one, however, has made me join many of the other readers in filtering out Katz posts now. Katz has completely crossed the line of even editorializing here, and has wandered off the deep end into the realm of zealotry and conspiracy theory.

I don't come to /. for politcal diatribe and for groundless threats and accusations of huge conspiracy theories determined to remove our right and privledges all for the sake of stopping the Internet.
Every season brings more books, articles, news stories warning that technology is driving us crazy, making us stupid, turning out kids into murderers, endangering out families. And how many articles and TV news stories have you seen on dangerous "hackers," online predators, Net addicts?

Great. And how do these articles, TV news stories, books, and news stories get published? Oh yes, the entire media system is part of the Neo-Luddite conspiracy, isn't it?
But no assault has been more relentless than the idea that technology and culture endanger the moral and literal lives of children. For years Bennett and Lieberman have led a wildly successful campaign (now joined both by Al Gore and George W. Bush), thumping the entertainment industry for allegedly contributing to violent behavior.

Great. So Al Gore and George W. Bush are both leading the Neo-Luddite campaign to our doorstep. Technology as we know it is doomed if we vote for either one of them. I'm surprised Katz doesn't present us with someone running for president to stop the Neo-Luddite menace. Any volunteers Katz?
It's interesting how modern-day Luddites invoke morality as a shield to mask zealotry and ignorance.

And it's interesting how Katz invokes the same morality as a shield against his own zealotry. This article reads as little more than a long-winded governmental conspiracy theory against Neo-Luddites. Let me guess, Bill Gates is part of the Neo-Luddite conspiracy too, since he supports the highly restrictive and probably unconstitional DMCA? Please. There are plenty of reasons for politicians to vote for laws that restrict our rights and privledges. They don't need to be members of an anti-technology conspiracy to do it.

If you're going to construct conspiracy theories, I suggest you read the Illuminatus Triology. You'll learn a lesson or two in conspiracy theories as taught by the Grand Illuminated Masters themselves.

Fear of technology today is real (3)

laetus (45131) | about 14 years ago | (#747539)

I'm not surprised we're seeing a resurrection of Luddite ideals. There are real fears in the general population concerning technologies and unfortunately, the technologists in their zeal to push further/faster are not taking enough time to assuage those fears or listen intently to what the general population is saying. For example:

  • Biotechnology - we see great promise from this technology for medical purposes, but there is great fear about biotech's impact of the environment and our food supply. As seen with the recent Taco Bell gene-altered corn incident, errors can and will be made. Food is so basic to our well being that I wouldn't be surprised by a backlash/revolution against biotech.
  • Nanotechnology - Again, great hopes such as nanotech medical devices to clean clogged arteries. But the visions of nanotech weaponry, unbridled nanotech reproduction, and nanotech self-evolution that permeate nanotech discussions is generating fear in the general population.
  • Net technology - Want the laundry list? Carnivore, Amazon-style different pricing, tracking of financial transactions across websites when you purchase merchandise, name lists being sold when privacy was promised, etc.

    These are just few examples but here's the point. The fear is justified because people are rightfully discerning that technologies are being developed/used that directly (and increasingly adversely) impact their lives and this application of technology to (or against) their lives is out of their own personal control. People are beginning to feel victimized by technology, and not empowered by it. Victimization on a mass basis (and technology is giving us the ability to victimize people in numbers never seen before) is the stuff from which revolutions are wraught, even Luddite revolutions.


This type of discussion needs balance (1)

under_score (65824) | about 14 years ago | (#747540)

Really, I am quite tired of the extremes that are presented. Unfortunately, western culture is based, in large part, on the idea of using conflict to resolve issues (party politics, debate, etc.). So, its the Luddites vs. the industrialists, the neo-Luddites vs. the technologists. Me, I'm a mp3-using, Java-coding, internet-community-participating, Luddite: I refuse to watch TV. I have decided that TV as a technology should be eliminated. I truly think it is harmful to individuals and society. Yet, computers melded with the Internet, I definately think there is a place for.

It is impossible to deny that technologies and media have social and cultural effects. Let me be clear what I mean by that: any new technology or media as it is implemented and used in a society, transforms that society. First an example: back in '96 I went to the Marshall Islands [] to do some volunteer work. Although I do not know the exact dates, they had recently begun to receive television from the USA. The cultural impact was obvious and undeniable. Children and teens completely changed the way they dressed and played (this was the minor, most visible impact). Violent youth gangs formed (this was the really bad, less visible impact). There were many other changes. There is nothing in their previous culture which suggested that these people had a shred of violence in them. But within a few short years of media contact their culture radically changed.

I strongly encourage people to take the debate away from technology-freedom vs. non-technology-morals. This debate is a straw man. Every technology is different enough that it must be evaluated on its own, appart from an irrelevant larger debate which can't be resolved. The middle ground, the rational discussion that we need, can only be done by recognizing that every technology has a host of effects, and that we must try to see those effect clearly in order to make a rational choice about the adoption of the technology.

I am writing a paper [] about this topic. It is still in progress so if you take a peek, please excuse any stupid phrasings or unsupported claims... As well, I would like to point people to some books by Jerry Mander: Four Arguments for the Elmination of Television [] and In the Absence of the Sacred [] and a book by Marshall McLuhan: Understanding Media [] . These books try to be fairly balanced. Jerry Mander does get a little wierd at times, but on the balance has good arguements for his points.

Moral Gasbags (1)

MajorBlunder (114448) | about 14 years ago | (#747541)

Puh-leeze, Katz! Having done your own shrare of moral pontificating in this forum I'd hope you'd be able to refrain from calling the kettle black. While I rarely agree with Senators Lieberman and Bennett on most issues and matters of legislation, I do respect them, as I respect anyone who'll state thier convictions and stand by them.

Re:Moderation for this story (1)

SClitheroe (132403) | about 14 years ago | (#747542)

You won't find many facts around here, sonny.

Actually, it was a change of fashion. (4)

brad.hill (21936) | about 14 years ago | (#747543)

Actually, the original Luddites weren't quite so philosophically minded, and weren't really being put of their job by machines so much as by a change of fashion. They were mostly stocking makers, and the stockings they made were of far far superior quality to what machines at the time could produce. They started losing their jobs not because machines were out competing them, but because stockings went out of fashion in America. Once you weren't showing off your stockings as a fashion statement, it made sense to buy the cheaper, but much poorer quality, machine made stockings.

I think a lot of neo-Luddites are rather the same. They don't have any well thought out objections to technology per-se, they're just people who are losing out to the rapid pace of change in the world, driven by human nature as much as by computers, and they lash out at having to change or having their profit stream threatened.

Look at how hard the MPAA fought against VCRs. The movie industry isn't anti-technology, they're about as high-tech as you can get, innovating constantly throughout this entire century. They just had a good profit scheme going and they'd rather try to keep the status quo they've been winning at than work to sieze the new opportunities present.

Katz calls the kettle black... (1)

GreyBear (98473) | about 14 years ago | (#747544)

How amusing. Katz actually can't see that he's the pot calling the kettle black.

Both the original Luddites and the current crop are driven by the same motiviation; fear and lack of understanding about technology (with a healthy dose of 'Let's preserve the status quo, shall we?').The only difference is that Katz allows the distance of time and the skewed perspective of history to color his own comments.

What matters isn't the tactics the Neo-Luddites employ, nor Katz's persistent whining about the unfairness of it all. It's the end result.

The original Luddites were wrong, despite Katz's romanticizing about their motivations. For example, would you trade your life expectancy (a direct result of advances in both industrial and medical technology) for that of one of the Luddite weavers? I think not, if you have brain one.

Struggle is inevitable, and I support anyone's right to use any reasonable means to express his or her point of view. I think the Neo-Luddite point of view is every bit as cockeyed as the originals, and that it needs to be countered by reason. Complaining, however, about the fact that they use effective methods is just whining.

JonKatz is a Luddite, Slashdot is filled with them (1)

Prometheus_NG (61422) | about 14 years ago | (#747545)

This is pretty amazing to see. On the one hand Jon provides a pretty good modern description of luddite'ism. The fear of new technology and the desire to freeze technical progress or even regress.

But while he denounces one particular branch of luddites. The coporate and goverment interests that seek to restrain the growth, power, and inevitable social changes that computers and the Internet bring. He does not want condem the idea itself. Since he is himself a luddite.

Oh? You say. Jon Katz a luddite, no way! Well listen up buddy. Ask Jon about genetic engineering. Anytime someone speaks, in reference to a particular technology, and says "I think advancements in this field are outpacing man's [moral|ethical] abilities". What are they saying? Other than we are afraid of this New Thing.

Down with all luddites! Embrace change!

Maybe; (3)

2nd Post! (213333) | about 14 years ago | (#747546)

It really depends on how you define a Luddite. If a Luddite is a person who values his life, his culture, his identity over that of pop-mash-culture, over technology and gadgets and constraints, over someone else's fairy tales, then a cyber-column on the internet in a public forum is one of the better places to do this sort of discussion.

If you define a Luddite as a technology fearing/hating/avoiding individual, against change, against growth, against 'progress', then yes, you're quite funny.

The nick is a joke! Really!

Re:No difference - historical vs contemp (1)

humantraffic (220145) | about 14 years ago | (#747547)

These weavers who were the 'Luddites' were skilled workers who were well paid by the standards of the time and had prospered due to the initial stages of the industrial revolution ie: the rise of the spinning machines such as the Spinning Jenny

They were protesting at what they saw as the the deskilling of their work by the combination of the factory and mechanised weaving.

I would say that their position was rather similar to Developers today faced with the .NET concept coming out of Microsoft. Micosoft's aim is to deskill developers and force them into the Micosoft 'factory' system.

Re:Irony... (1)

tewl (226290) | about 14 years ago | (#747548)

It's good to be informed about as much as you can...ignorance is no excuse.

Re:Yay... Katz espouses moral relativism (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 14 years ago | (#747549)

For those of you who many not be familiar with the term, moral relativism is the mode of thought that whatever anyone wants to do is fine becuase it's what they beleieve is right.

No, you are confusing relativism with absurdism. Of COURSE you can take the most ridiculous extreme of some person's opinion and mention that as their worldview. I can do that with you and draw a picture of the reactionary hell you want everyone to labor under.

Now for a real definition of the term, it's the tendency to relax a society's (or an individual's) stance on what someone does, because of trust that this person is doing nothing that harms others badly. It is an assumption that you don't know all the valid things that can be done in the world, and neither do your value systems.

Are you saying that you do have enough experience, and you can smirk wisely because what you believe has all the answers, that all of society would just WORK right if everyone does everything the right way? That's BS, neither of us random posters to Slashdot has all the answers or can ably predict something so complex as the world, so by default it is good to be reasonably relativist, let people change the world and learn.

Re:Irony... (1)

Paul Sheridan (220709) | about 14 years ago | (#747550)

I don't think the article was written for the luddites benefit.

Re:Irony... (1)

Happy Fun BaII (234989) | about 14 years ago | (#747551)

I thought it ironic that Katz called someone else a gasbag.

Pot... kettle... you know where this is going.

A little hostorical background ... (3)

Bassthang (78064) | about 14 years ago | (#747552)

Most interesting. Firstly, a point of fact. Sherwood Forest is in Nottinghamshire, not near.

I don't think is fair (as some posters suggest) that the original Luddites were entirely selfish. The move from an agrarian to an industrial economy caused an immense amount of social upheaval. Cities like Nottingham experienced huge population increases, but often without a corresponding increase in their boundaries or facilities, leading to terrible housing, poor health, food shortages, etc. In this sense the Luddites were justified in their actions. However, over time, industry has on balance improved things!

It is interesting to compare these changes to those occuring in England over the last 20 years, as we have moved from an industrial to a service economy. Whole industries (e.g. mining, textiles) have been wiped out in Nottinghamshire, with consequential poverty. Try talking to some of those people about the information revolution ...

Cliche! (1)

Erasmus (32516) | about 14 years ago | (#747553)

I think that Slashdotters should invoke a new rule that the moment someone mentions Luddites in a comment they forum should be closed. They are being invoked as a catch all for any unpleasant group that has an objection to anything even tangentially related to technology in the same way that Nazis are invoked in politics.

Take the groups in Katz's column. Are they objecting to the existence of computers? No. Do they want to ban the Internet? No. They object to the content being distributed over the Internet and through computers. If Katz's neo-luddites are considered thus for arguing against violent video games then anti-porn crusaders must be against the printing press and opponents of instant replay in football want to wipe video cameras from the face of the Earth. They are not Luddites -- jerks, perhaps, but not Luddites.

The only real Luddites in Americal are living in shacks in Montana. If the intent is to complain about censorship -- complain about censorship! Don't construct flimsy arguments out of inapplicable cliches.

Are they really Luddites (1)

GutterBunny (153341) | about 14 years ago | (#747554)

It seems as though whenever an anti-technology voice comes along, we all resort to calling him a Luddite. Seems to me that the Luddites were also rebeling against those in positions of power.

Here we have an opposite situation. The people in power are the supposed "Luddites."

Is calling Leiberman & Gore & Bennett Luddites really correct? Seems as though this might be closer to McCarthyism than Ludditism.

Luddites vs. Plutocrats OR JohnKatz is confused. (2)

frlord (128277) | about 14 years ago | (#747555)

JohnKatz is drawing a very thin correlation in this piece. He is trying to draw a direct parrallel between Luddites and modern political and business plutocrats, and then smash that connection under the modern warchant of "hypocrisy" on the part of the "new Luddites."

The problem JohnKatz with discrediting the analogy is that it is JohnKatz's analogy. It's no mean feat to claim a ridiculous fact and then disprove it.

The modern foes of Freedom in politics are just that, foes of Freedom, not technology. They have embraced technology that is changing the world, they encourage it and propogate it as much as possible. The problem, of course, is that they want to be in control.

Try to focus on real arguments instead of semantic tricks portraying your enemies as dishonest and hypocritical.

Re:Mondo 2000? (1)

moonsammy (65351) | about 14 years ago | (#747556)

no damnit, its "right on, right on to all them mmm... english girls named cherise." The "mmm..." bit came about because he was saying things off the top of his head and got stuck for a second ;)


Jon, couldn't you find a broader brush? (1)

TheDude2084 (214602) | about 14 years ago | (#747557)

Hmmm, let me see, I'm Jon Katz, and I've been taking quite a beating on Slashdot. What do those bastard geeks like anyway? I've got it! Technology. So, they'll hate anyone who's anti-technology. Now, what don't I like: politicians, anti-hacker hysteria, moralizing right wing christians, censors, ... they're all Luddites! They're going to love me this time...

Most of the ppl Katz mentions aren't Luddite at all. Fundies against sex and violence at the movies aren't against movie technology - they'd be against sex and violence in puppet shows. (I could go for some sex and violence in puppet shows). Calling the MPAA a bunch of Luddites is rediculous. They LOVE technology. Technology lets them extend their control to grotesque places and wring every last dollar out of the punters.

There's a lot to be said for neo-Luddism. People have a right to be concerned that they have to spend 8-10 hours each day behind a CRT to make a living. They should worry about how the lack of face-to-face interactions is changing society. They may be entirely justified in becoming angry that increased computerization has eliminated a lot of jobs that traditionally go to lower income people, while at the same time creating an obscenely wealthy industry populated almost entirely by already well off, highly educated, white males.

People who think that these issues and others indicate a bad deal for the average person and society as a whole are Luddites. This blatant attempt to trivialize the issue by lumping Luddites in with Jack Valenti and Tipper Gore is pretty repugnant. And the fact that the motivation is simply to pander to a hostile (to Jon Katz) technophile audience is reprehensible. It sure as hell ain't responsible journalism.

Jon Katz, shame on you.

Re:Here is a TV news clip.... (1)

Boli (13752) | about 14 years ago | (#747558)

[GROSS] That was so bad, I could smell it! Watching a woman drink her own vomit is not what I consider 'a good time'. Clearly sir, you demonstration a lack of taste.

A curse:
"May you be banished to the backwaters of the Internet! Fie upon thee!"

Put that in your bowl and choke on it!

False distinctions (1)

rarose (36450) | about 14 years ago | (#747559)

Compared to the current crop of moral poseurs and wannabe anti-technology intellectuals, the originals were genuine heroes. They were fighting for a way of life, not for moral control or cultural power.

Uh... Jon, what's the difference between a "way of life" and "cultural power and moral control"? If I'm not mistaken a way of life consists of culture and morals.

Re:Fred doesn't understand women (1)

stanlee (70161) | about 14 years ago | (#747560)

Taking that post seriously opens you up to several 'sexist' remarks... if you were a woman.

Don't Know Nothing About History (3)

BBB (90611) | about 14 years ago | (#747561)

The big mills and factories of the Industrial Revolution meant an end to social customs and community, to personal status and individual freedom.

Sure, that's why the Industrial Revolution led to the repeal of the anti-poor Corn Laws, the inclusion of non-landowners in the House of Lords, and the first time in history people could have some freedom over where they lived. What if the "social customs" entail burning the houses of Catholics or Jews? Before the IR, you couldn't move away -- you grin and bear it. And the idea that the IR killed individual freedom is ridiculous. The House of Commons gained its first real powers during the IR. Coincidence?

It's chic to bash the IR. But without it, >50% of jobs today would be agricultural (compared to around 2% now). On the other hand, Katz does seem to have a talent for laying down fertilizer, so perhaps that explains his enthusiasm.

Having worked independently on their own farms, they grasped that they would be forced to use complex, dangerous machines in noisy, smelly factories, enduring long hours for slave wages, and that the trade was not in their favor.

Oh PLEASE. "Their own farms", no doubt, were wondrously safe, quiet, fragrant places to work. If Katz seriously believes this then I don't think he has a clue what farming entails. And as for "the trade not being in their favor," yeah, it was undoubtedly much easier to deal with a landlord who took half your harvest but shouldered little of the risk -- and who dictated to you to whom and for how much you could sell your crops.

The fact of the matter is that the IR enormously improved the lives of almost everyone in Britain (and everywhere else it was adopted), and the Luddites were a middle class interest group who supported laws that kept the price of food and wool high (thus enriching themselves at the expense of people who had to buy those necessities). They also objected to the idea that one could become wealthy without owning land. They were not "heroes" in any sense of the word, unless one is a columnist who has built his reputation on bashing free enterprise, and who is willing to pay any price in bad arguments and inept rhetorical flourishes ("slave wages" is a contradiction) to further that end.


Dude. grow up. (1)

torinth (216077) | about 14 years ago | (#747562)

If you would bother to actually listen to the politicians out there rather than just try to glean what you read off the sidestory article on CNN or hear in some IRC channel, you'd realize something.

Politicians understand the role of government. Lieberman in office doesn't mean that we all lose moral freedoms. Political office provides two things:

1) A role and governemnt

2) Celebrity

And what people like Lieberman or most other moral-right politicians do is use their newfound Celebrity status to voice their opinions. That's all well and good, really. When you see legislation mandating that companies or citizens do something unconstitutional successfully working it's way through the legislative process, maybe you have the right to complain.

But, if you really believe in freedom of speech as much as you claim to, you have to remember that politicions and Luddites and every other person you disagree with has that some right to freedom of Speech, and there is not reason that holding a government salary should prevent them from saying what they belive.

Re:g++ compiler error: type mismatch (1)

irn_bru (209849) | about 14 years ago | (#747563)

Or in the real world, an Oxymoron, a rhetorical figure in which incongruous or contradictory terms are combined, more often than not for effect rather than by error...

And I bet you thought that was a spot cream for stupid people

Moderate this up... (1)

rarose (36450) | about 14 years ago | (#747564)

This is right on the money.

Damn you, Katz (4)

11223 (201561) | about 14 years ago | (#747565)

I vowed not to respond... but I have to. You haven't read Kurzwiel's Age of Spiritual Machines yet, have you? You really ought to.

Kurzwiel uses an excellent quote from a well-known manifesto to illustrate his main point: that technology enthusiasts (like us) are Luddites as well. Being a Luddite is not about fearing technology - it's fearing the application of technology. I, then, am a Luddite, along with Bill Joy.

These other people are, as you said, opportunists, and those who fear any organization of people. They fear communication among people. They don't fear the application of technology.

Indeed, the Luddites are returning, but in the guise of you and me - those who love technology but fear what people will do with it. I, for one, hate most of the 'net. It's a stinking pile of capatalist dung. Does that make me a Luddite? Yes. Do the people you named like the 'net as a stkinking pile of capatalist dung? Yes. They hate the aspects of the 'net that I like. They hate communication. That's not being a Luddite - just a power-hungry politician.

Jon, do yourself a favor, and pick up a copy of Kurzwiel's Age of Spiritual Machines. You won't regret it. Maybe you might even change your message to be a bit more positive.

Re:And wouldn't you do the same in their shoes? (1)

stanlee (70161) | about 14 years ago | (#747566)

Disagreement begats violence? How modern!

Ack! (1)

Trans (209035) | about 14 years ago | (#747567)

Two Jon Katz columns in a row! I think my head is going to explode!

Re:Moderation for this story (1)

spam-o-tron mk1 (237603) | about 14 years ago | (#747568)

Most of us come to read facts and opinions, not flames.

Speak for yourself, bucko.


Re:Fear of technology today is real (2)

zorgon (66258) | about 14 years ago | (#747569)

Excellent post. (imho) If only Katz were as clear and brief, there might be some more intelligent discussion on this worthwhile topic. I agree that there are serious pitfalls in the development of all of the technologies in your bulleted list. /. posters are (usually?) much more technologically literate wrt net technology issues and fail to see (better: are less vulnerable too) some of the drawbacks percieved by the greater public.

Re:Ironic, Isn't It... (1)

tewl (226290) | about 14 years ago | (#747570)

Exactly. I've said it before and I'll say it again, the internet is the one place where information is FREE, free from corporate influences.Look at all of the mega-mergers that are always covered in the news, and now most of these corporations control the very news sources that the public is *supposed* to get unbiased news from.

It is a fact, all of the major news sources, CNN, ABC, MSNBC, NBC, CBS, and the major newspapers in the country are controlled by large corporations that don't want to see them get bad press and checked up on by media hounds. By controlling the major media outlets, they are able to control what the public can and can't see and hear.

The one place they are having a hard time with this is the internet. It is impossible for these companies to control a medium that has no real boundries.

The net is the one place where the corporations can't control what we see and hear, and I certainly hope this doesn't change any time in my lifetime.

Re:Luddites were right (1)

CalamityJones (180223) | about 14 years ago | (#747571)

Mechanization and new technology have always promised that the work day would get shorter, safer, and easier. So why are so many people working 12 hour days at multiple jobs?


you had me until... (2)

hakalugi (162528) | about 14 years ago | (#747572)

"...Exploiting the idea that technology as a menace to children is a lot easier and cheaper than confronting more complex social problems like child abuse or guns."

Ah, guns are not a social problems. They are a technology, like the computers you use daily.

Abusing a child, or an adult for that matter, is not good. A gun, knife, etc. is niether good or bad.... it all depends on how it's used.

The group of outwardly violent people who feel the need to kill, for pleasure or business, are a social problem.

Begin Personal Rant

Additionally guns, like computers, were origianlly designed to do work, and are now [constructively] used for work and play.
Are there folks using 'guns' for bad? -yes. Are there folks using computers for bad? -yes... Does that mean that they should be taken away from private law-abiding citizens? -no

And for all of those times when someone makes a stab at ESR, consider this:

you know when you hear about the 'supercomputer export restrictions' to black-labeled countries? --what does the average slashdotter think "...jeez all you need to do is buy a bunch of Intel hardware and set up a B'wolf cluster just like the 20 US universities who show you their projects online... they can build their own 'supercomputer'..."

Point is, if someone wants to get around it [partial disarmament], they will. New York City and Washington, DC have outlawed firearms/handguns for over a decade (15 years??) and GEE GUESS WHAT the bad guys still have them.

if you outlaw guns, only the outlaws will have them.

You're just picking on me becuase I have 6 digits (1)

Hairy_Potter (219096) | about 14 years ago | (#747573)

in my userid, and you have 5,

Will this digitism ever end?

Re:g++ compiler error: type mismatch (1)

wsdorsey (179663) | about 14 years ago | (#747574)

Well, no not really. At the risk of sounding anal, a slave does in fact receive wages, even if only in the form of food. Otherwise, the slave dies. By "definition" a slave is someone who if forced to work for another, not someone who works without compensation.


Re:Al Gore, AntiTechnologist (2)

11223 (201561) | about 14 years ago | (#747575)

Y'know, that's kind of neat. Why? Because I agree with both Al Gore and the Unabomber. Few have actually read the Unabomber's manifesto. While I don't condone violence, I'd say he certainly had some good ideas. It's too bad that Al Gore isn't the same person now.... every politician is a conservative, because money corrupts every politican!

Repetition of History? (2)

Paezley (235267) | about 14 years ago | (#747576)

I find it ironic that the original Luddite movement pitted the common man against an Industrial Revolution headed by rich upper class men, whereas the modern Luddites are fighting the common man in a Technological Revolution. Power to the people?

Re:Agrarian romanticism... (2)

Shotgun (30919) | about 14 years ago | (#747577)

They were afraid of change alright -- a change from a fairly comfortable middle-class lifestyle, to that of working class.

Throughout history, revolutions tend to be brought on as the middle-class grows and starts to thirst for power. This makes sense, in that the lower-class is to beaten down to see the light and the upper class has enough control that no significant portion ever raises its head to see what else is in the world. But once the pressure is lifted a little they can see that there is an end to the tunnel.

The Luddites were led by fairly well-off leaders that feared for their position in the world. In that they are no different that todays Luddites.

Personally, I don't think it's such a bad thing. A lit resistance tends to focus the technophiles eyes on the social implications of what they're doing.

Re:Moderation for this story (1)

talesout (179672) | about 14 years ago | (#747578)

Hahahaha, OH MY GOD!

Hehe, did you just say you come here for facts and opinions? You may get a lot of opinions, but god, if you are reading a Katz article and expecting to see facts ....

I'm sorry, I just realized anything I add to that would be construed as flamebait or trollish behaviour. Not that the moderators won't moderate me down anyway, but.

Re:And wouldn't you do the same in their shoes? (1)

lscoughlin (71054) | about 14 years ago | (#747579)

You're also making the assumption here that the carnivore box is some how progressive or positive, which is clearly not the case. It's an invasive monotring device meant to compormise you at a specific level in a specific way. It is not a world changing viewpoint altering progressive piece of technology.

Re:And wouldn't you do the same in their shoes? (2)

11223 (201561) | about 14 years ago | (#747580)

Whoa.... that made me think (how dangerous!)... wasn't The Matrix about modern-day Ludditism? And don't we all love the Matrix?

World First Transexaul Revolt (1)

irn_bru (209849) | about 14 years ago | (#747581)

Far more interesting than the Luddites, were the perpetrators of the Rebecca Riots, who dressed up in women's clothing to attack tollbooths and smash-up turnpikes...
And a campaign against restriction of movement was on far higher moral ground than one for restriction of trade...

Not that I've always wanted to run rampage in a dress, you understand ;)


Here are some scary facts (4)

gelfling (6534) | about 14 years ago | (#747582)

About 7% of the population at any given time believes in UFO abductions and Elvis is still alive.

54% of people polled recently by US News and World Report and MSNBC belive in the actual real existance of angels, ghosts & demons. That is, they are really here and excert a real influence on people.

The most banned books from US schools over the whole of the 1990's to present are the Harry Potter series because it is believed they promote Satanism, Devil Worship and general un Christian unacceptable thinking.

Today it was reported on national US news that one of the outcomes being seriously considered by the US Congress in response to the reports that movie companies market to children is that there should be only 2 movie ratings: G and NC-17. That is, there are either cartoon movies with talking animals or everything else that is absolutely forbidden to children even if their parents are present.

In a recent poll by CNN, ~27% of those polled would accept a fascist dictatorship if it meant that crime would be reduced and/or undesireable people (undefined) were removed from the United States.

In a recent poll by USAToday 45% of those polled would support the elimination of the separation of church and state as long as the church was Protestant/Fundamentalist.

In a recent poll by the NY Times 59% of those polled support religious education in public schools.

So it's not really a matter of technology or Luddism. It's a matter of slowly but surely sliding towards a dark dark ignorant world.

luddites were about freedom, not so neo-luddites (2)

brokeninside (34168) | about 14 years ago | (#747583)

I agree very much with your comments. Most people don't get what the luddite movement was all about. The folks protesting the WTO meetings held all over the world are much closer in spirit and tactics to the followers of Ned Ludd than most who profess luddism today.

I also don't think that John Katz quite grokked the luddite movement. Very few luddites were farmers. Luddites were mostly skilled tradeworkers. Nor did they break into all factories to randomly smash machines. They broke into factories which had dangerous working conditions, unfair wages, and turned out a shoddy product. (British textiles went from being acclaimed throughout Europe to being the last pick of those who couldn't afford anything better as a result of many of the textile factories that put the hand laboring luddites out of work. Its hard enough to get by making hand made goods with a factory making the same goods next door at less than 1/4 the price, but when the market starts thinking that all the goods made in your area suck canal water, it gets almost impossible.)

Another thing that Katz misses is that while the luddite rebellion was bloody, the violence was almost entirely on the part of the establishment. The luddites broke machines. Capitalists and Sheriffs shot luddites. IIRC, there was only one case of a luddite shooting back during the entire course of the luddite rebelllion.

And anyone who thinks that the luddites should have just gotten a grip and taken up new trades has no clue to what working in a factory during the industrial revolution was like. Pay was subsistance level or less for inordinately long shifts. Sometimes entire families, including children, had to work just to buy enough food to get buy. The rebellion was not about people being upset about losing their jobs, it was about people being upset about being trampled on by factory owners seeking to maximize profits at the expense of the workers.

And no, contrary to what some posters have alleged, the luddites were not communists. They just wanted fair wages for a fair day's work.

On the other hand, we have the neo-luddites of today that aren't looking for a way to get by, but looking for a way to prevent others from getting by. Most (but probably not all) neo-luddites want to censor instead of propagate. They want the large IP corporations to be in charge of the rules governing music and software. They want to return to the good old days where a few large corporations have control over the means of the production of information.

Look at the past.

Before the industrial revolution most goods were made in cottage industries by skilled tradeworkers. Enter the industrial revolution, one person with capital can now control a large segment of the industry.

Look at the present.

Before the information revolution most IP was produced and controlled by a few large corporations with large amounts of capital. Enter the information revolution, content transforms into a cottage industry where skilled workers can have the same potential benefits as the media moguls.

The free software movement and groups like the EFF (and even 2600) have more in common with the luddite movement than the neo (or modern day) luddites that Katz describes.

have a day,


have a day,


Re:Moderation for this story (1)

marlowe23 (54624) | about 14 years ago | (#747584)

Well, you heard El Presidente over here. From this day forth let all posting cease!

Re:you had me until... (1)

TheDude2084 (214602) | about 14 years ago | (#747585)

Are there folks using 'guns' for bad? -yes. Are there folks using computers for bad? -yes.

Are there folks using 'guns' for good?

That's Disgusting! (1)

levik (52444) | about 14 years ago | (#747586)

HOLY CRAP that's nasty! I really did want to get some background on the movement, but it's just a clip of a girl vomiting and then eating her own vomit. Blech.

Off base (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 14 years ago | (#747587)

Katz again shows in this article he's got blinders on, that anyone that espouses a moral position different than his own must be against technology. William Bennett and Joe Lieberman are not against technology. They are against moral decay which is prevalent, and highly visible in U.S. society today. Its true that technology makes delivering crap from Hollywood and the record companies easier, but its the crap that Bennett and Lieberman are railing against not the technology.

Interestingly, Bennett and Lieberman also preach personal and parental responsiblity, something they are often not given credit for.

As for 80% of the people blaming the net for the crap served up on it, I think if you look through "pre-net" history you can find plenty of cases where the messenger was blamed for the content of the message.

Don't automatically accept the paragraph about violence dropping because of media influence. I remember seeing a study a few years ago detailing how violence skyrocketed in almost every country about 15 years after widespread availablity of TV hit. Also violence rates which have finally declined, are still much higher than they were 60+ years ago in many large cities.

Finally, perhaps Katz would like to do some research on the American Medical Association reserach report on how media including computer games does affect kids in regards to violence.

Read it yourself at: ildren.violence.ap/index.html

"Way of life" distinct from morals and culture? (2)

Zach Frey (17216) | about 14 years ago | (#747588)

... the originals were genuine heroes. They were fighting for a way of life, not for moral control or cultural power.

This is a pretty false dichotomy, Jon. As if one's 'way of life' is or could be or should be distinct from one's moral and cultural vision of a good society.

Those utilitarian miracles which science has made are anti-democratic, not so much in their perversion, or even in their practical result, as in their primary shape and purpose. The Frame-Breaking Rioters were right; not perhaps in thinking that machines would make fewer men workmen; but certainly in thinking that machines would make fewer men masters. More wheels do mean fewer handles; fewer handles do mean fewer hands.-- G. K. Chesterton, What's Wrong with the World []

Note that, according to Kirkpatric Sale, the Midlands artisans were not averse to technological innovation -- they had adopted many themselves. Where they objected was when the new technologies (backed up by goverment force) cleared the way for sweatshop factories and massive industrial pollution. In other words, the Luddites were rebelling against The Corporation, not Technology. And they were right -- the new machines did make "fewer masters." Ned Ludd had the right idea.

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