Ed. Note: It’s been a very long time since I posted anything to this space. The urge to write was gone for a while, so I didn’t. It is back now, so look for more to come sooner rather than later.
The Luddite is a fascinating character from the days of yore (read: 1770’s-1810’s). In our times, the term “luddite” has become a disparaging name to hurl at anachronistic dolts for doing little more than (insert annoying thing your technophobe friend/family does). I’ve done it myself, scores of times. However, after reading an old piece in Wired news today, my perspective has changed.
Don’t get me wrong:
- I still love technology and see it as important to modern living.
- I, myself, am not going to start smashing computer monitors or any other analogs for Lud’s loathsome stocking frames.
- Finally, for the record, I am not so obtuse that the notion of tech’s deleterious effect just now caught my attention.
No, rather than break the machines themselves, I suggest we embrace the Luddite mentality insofar as it makes our lives better. How? By breaking the hold the machines have on us. Technology is supposed to make life easier and it often does. But what about when it doesn’t?
Here’s an example torn from today’s headlines: I’ve been trying to get Windows Vista running on a new machine I built last week for over a week now. It has taken up the majority of my free time for an entire week! Who is to blame for this? The (clearly) inarticulate machine? Nope. Me. I’m to blame because I didn’t walk away and spend time with friends and family.
As James Surowiecki said in The New Yorker,
…the futurist Herman Kahn prophesied in 1967, Americans would enjoy thirteen weeks of vacation and a four-day work week. The challenge, it seemed, would be figuring out what to do with all our free time.
If only Kahn had been correct. Instead, as that article points out, we Americans find ourselves working the same amount as in 1970 while our Western European counterparts the French work 28 percent fewer hours per person and Germans work 25 percent fewer hours per person. This isn’t a matter of the French or Germans having better tech. It seems that Americans just don’t understand how to use technology to our advantage. Or could it be that Americans are simply being taken advantage of?
So, dear reader, join me in the New Luddite Movement (NLM)! We have but one tenant: make technology work for you, rather than you work for technology!