On Being a Luddite currentaffairs.org

Nathan J. Robinson, of Current Affairs, spoke to Brian Merchant, formerly of the Los Angeles Times, about his book “Blood in the Machine”. Published last year, it tells the history of the Luddites and finds parallels in today’s technologies.

Merchant, in response to a question from Robinson about the widespread misconception that Luddites are merely anti-technology:

Luddism is about questioning who machinery serves. It’s really a question of political economy, of being able to locate exploitative or abusive uses of technology, and in which cases machinery becomes hurtful to commonality. So, as a framework, I think it’s one that we can certainly apply today, which is why I found it so interesting.

This is a worthwhile ongoing pursuit. There are those who insist technology is politically neutral, mere tools, and what we do with it is a separate issue. But it is far more nuanced. There are different incentives when, for example, generative machine learning tools are being used in positions of power compared to when they are used by an outsourced temporary workforce. We ought to always question how new technologies will likely be used, and whose power they will serve.

By the way, Merchant’s book is a good read. Worth checking out.