Don’t Be a Luddite, Technology is Here to Stay

Around 1812 to 1816, industrialization was in full effect and had an enormous impact on Northwestern England. Textile factories, which predominantly manufactured fabrics and clothes, had implemented stocking frames, spinning frames and power looms—technology that was far advanced at the time and greatly improved efficiency.

The Luddite movement consisted of a group of textile workers who were concerned about how the advancements in technology would potentially result in a decrease in wages and a rise in unemployment. These workers are now famous for protesting and rebelling against the advancement of technology by entering the factories and destroying the new machinery.

Today, when we reflect upon the Luddites’ place in history, we have a tendency to caricaturize them and oversimplify their cause. Of course, as the story goes, it now seems silly and strange of them to protest and fight against a force as unassailable as technology. We can only stay the waves of technology for so long; that it will overcome opposition is seemingly as inevitable as gravity. Nevertheless, it’s clear that modern Luddites persist today, albeit in new forms.

There are a number of individuals who reject technological change simply out of fear that it will pose a threat to their routine or standard of living. Sometimes those of us in K-12 resist the implementation of new technology, making technology out to be some kind of bogeyman. Generally, their core message goes something like this: Technology doesn’t facilitate education; it only gets in the way.

This post and a subsequent post will first try to communicate why technology is inherently a healthy thing and then offer suggestions on how you can start to align yourself with technology, instead of moving against it.

What is technology?

It seems like a very slippery concept that changes as time moves forward. In 19th century England, technology consisted in machinery used in textile factories. In the 21st century, technology consists to a greater extent in everything associated with the advancement of the Information Age.

I suggest that technology can be defined as “appropriated nature.” When you “appropriate” something (and “appropriate” is used as a verb here), you take it, modify it and use it for your own purposes. This is a broad definition that captures many instances of technology, even the most primitive.

Consider the harnessing and use of fire. To be sure, fire was a natural constituent of the universe long before human beings made use of it. But as natural, its effects are almost always disastrous. By learning how to create and control fire, human beings inventively took something that was dangerous and put it to use. The world hasn’t been the same since.

Any time you take something natural, modify it and use it for your own purposes, you develop and foster technology. Of course, it can operate on scales both large and small, advanced and primitive. To reject technology itself, however, is to reject something that is fundamental to being human: that to survive and flourish we need to be adaptable and make ourselves at home in the world.

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