Since when was Luddite a bad word?

“Only a people serving an apprenticeship to nature can be trusted with machines.” Herbert Read

I got this choice little quote from a great discussion between Chellis Glendinning, Kirkpatrick Sale, and Stephanie Mills about a Luddite perspective of technology, and where it stands today. If you’re into the debate about the role machines play in our lives, and their moral impact on the world, then I recommend reading on.

Chellis Glendinning, Stephanie Mills and Kirkpatrick Sale: Three Luddites Talking:

SM: OK. So how do you see technology’s place in today’s world?

KS: My analysis, especially of the computer revolution, always comes back to capitalism. It’s that economic system that has led to Western civilization’s willingness to enslave ourselves to machines — because some people benefit enormously from it, while the costs are borne by other people and the planet. Add to that the fact that modern governments, existing primarily to protect and enhance capitalism, maintain their power through the use of technologies that control the populace — by bread or circuses, by war or schooling, by armies and police, all of which are enabled and empowered by technology. That is what we might call the stick part of capitalism, while the riches-for-the-few is the carrot.

It’s worked pretty well for five centuries. But it’s come to the point that the technologies are destroying the earth. I’m convinced that the catastrophes of the next two decades will be so vast as to bring about a world where life, if it survives, will be far simpler — and the technologies, too. Then we will have come full circle to something like life on the savanna.

SM: So … a systemic analysis of technology derives from nature.

CG: A crucial point!!

SM: Yes. If a technology is elegant, biodegradable, made from renewable materials and employs a minimum of muscular, water or wind energy, is responsive, beautiful in its way, and challenging to the user in that it develops the user’s senses and strength — it may comport with nature.

A deep analysis judges technology morally — from its conception and intention to the totality of its consequences, knowing that all “raw materials” once were someone’s home or sustenance, that extraction and manufacture at industrial scale reduce landscapes and their human beings, that distribution, employment, and disposal of technologies change lives in unpredictable ways.