• Sat. Apr 20th, 2024

Rediscovering the Roots of Luddism: Lessons from the Past for Tech Workers Today

BySamantha Nguyen

Apr 3, 2024
Author Brian Merchant suggests that Luddites pose a greater threat to the wealthy than Robin Hood.

The Luddites, a group of workers who opposed technological progress in the 19th century, are often labeled as such today due to their criticisms of generative artificial intelligence. Brian Merchant, author and journalist, has written a book called Blood in the Machine that explores the Luddite revolt and its parallels with current technologies.

Merchant began his research a decade ago after seeing the resurgence of the term Luddite amidst Uber’s growth and its impact on taxi drivers. However, he clarifies that the Luddite revolt was actually a labor struggle, not a movement against technology itself. The book quotes historian Eric Hobsbawm, highlighting how the Luddites used collective bargaining through riots to gain their demands.

Ned Ludd, a legendary figure who may or may not have existed, became a symbol of the Luddite movement. The book explores how the Luddites used his name to instill fear and resistance against technology being used against workers. Merchant draws parallels between the Luddites’ struggle and modern labor issues in Silicon Valley.

Merchant criticizes the undemocratic nature of technological development where corporations dominate new technologies with access to capital. He argues that this pattern has been consistent for 200 years with technology advancing without regard for social stability. The book discusses potential future unrest or backlash against big tech companies if this trend continues unchecked.

In recent years discussions around universal basic income in response to automation have taken place in Silicon Valley. Merchant views this as a superficial solution to a larger structural problem. He notes that while new jobs may be created by technology, vulnerable jobs are eroded over time leading to social and economic challenges.

Merchant suggests that recent events like the destruction of Waymo self-driving car may be indicative of growing anger towards big tech companies. He also highlights potential collective action citing Hollywood screenwriters’ strike and negotiation as an example pushing back against abusive uses of technology.

Overall, Blood in the Machine delves into history discussing parallels between past struggles faced by workers against new technologies and present-day challenges within tech industry raising important questions about impact of technology on society and need for democratic oversight in technological development.

By Samantha Nguyen

As a content writer at newsskio.com, I weave words to craft compelling narratives that captivate readers and bring stories to life. With a keen eye for detail and a passion for storytelling, I strive to create engaging and informative content that resonates with our audience. Whether I'm delving into the latest news trends or exploring unique angles on various topics, my goal is to deliver quality content that informs, entertains, and inspires. Join me on this journey as we uncover the news stories that matter most.

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