The other day, Dictionary.com’s Word of the Day was luddite, and this fascinating term has inspired this prompt.
The term luddite is often used in a derogatory manner. ‘How can you not know how to work your phone, you luddite!’ Basically, someone who is considered ignorant of how to use modern technology might be called a luddite as an insult, even though this is actually a misleading use of the word. Luddite is defined as ‘someone who is opposed or resistant to new technologies or technological change.’ There’s a distinction between struggling to come to grips with technology, and a refusal to use it.
Luddites have their historical roots in Victorian Britain, and in some ways, their original concerns reflect (as history so often does) modern-day worries. They started out as workers who were concerned that machinery was going to replace them, and to that end, textile workers would raid factories and destroy the machines that threatening their jobs. Eventually the problem became bad enough for the government to threaten execution or exile for anyone caught in acts of vandalism, and the owners of mills and factories resorted to shooting trespassers. In fact, at one stage the Army, numbered 12,000 strong, was deployed to the areas most affected by the Luddite Movement (largely the north of England).
It can be argued that luddite-like actions were taking place even earlier in UK history, but it was in the 19th Century that they got organised. In modern times, people sympathetic to luddite philosophy continue to oppose the roles of machinery and automation, out of fears that people will be put out of work. One very vivid example of this is the opposition to AI writing and art. Detractors of luddites and their ideology would argue that luddites stand in the way of progress.
I for one tend to enjoy technology, I dare say it has certainly made my life easier, but then again, my job is not under threat from it. I might feel differently if I worked in manufacturing, and had to watch as machines denied me a livelihood. Who knows how many steps we all are from being luddites?