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Luddites Pose a Greater Threat to the Wealthy than Robin Hood, Says Author Brian Merchant


Apr 3, 2024

The Luddites, historically known for their opposition to technological progress, have seen a resurgence in modern times with the debate surrounding generative artificial intelligence. Author and journalist Brian Merchant wrote a book titled “Blood in the Machine” that explores the similarities between the Luddite revolt in England at the beginning of the 19th century and current technological issues, particularly the revolt against big technology companies.

Merchant’s research for the book began a decade ago when he noticed the impact of Uber on taxi drivers and heard the term Luddite being used by pro-Uber advocates. He clarifies that the Luddite revolt was primarily a labor struggle, not a movement against technology itself, at a time when unions were prohibited. The book highlights how the Luddites were fighting against poverty and poor working conditions rather than progress or technology.

The book delves into the historical context of the Luddites and draws parallels to the current situations in Silicon Valley where a small group of corporations dominate technological advancements. Merchant points out that the development of new technologies today is still largely undemocratic, with decisions being made by a select group of individuals with access to capital and resources.

Merchant critiques the notion that technological advancements always lead to progress, arguing that the impact on workers and society is often overlooked. He questions the effectiveness of proposed solutions like universal basic income as a band-aid for larger structural problems. The book also discusses the growing anger towards big tech companies and the potential for more disruptive actions like the recent attack on a Waymo self-driving car.

Overall, “Blood in the Machine” sheds light on the historical significance of the Luddites and their struggle against oppressive working conditions, drawing connections to contemporary issues surrounding technology, labor rights, and social inequality. Through an analysis of past and present events, the book raises important questions about the impact of technology on society and the need for more democratic and ethical practices in technological development.

By editor

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