The Luddite movement in the 19th century was targeted specifically against creeping industrialization and the effect it was seen to be having on society. The concern was legitimate because the Industrial Revolution did massively change things and particularly in the short term there were negative consequences. But the Luddite response was narrow minded, short sighted and a classic mob mentality.
Welcome to the 21st century.
And on the internet (somewhat ironically) it’s becoming increasingly common to see reactionary screeds about the evils of technology. Whether it’s spy satellites, spy glasses, being too connected, runaway Artificial Intelligence, or cancer from wifi, there’s an awful lot of noise being made about how horrible technology is and all the bad things it might do.
And that’s the thing. Most of it hasn’t happened. Most of it is speculation on what might happen. Possibly. Maybe. If a particular set of circumstances occur.
Enter Google Glass
This has been building for years now. We are exhorted to switch off our phones because interacting with the real world is superior (really… on a train?). We should fear for our privacy because of all the information we have shared with our technological overlords! Robots will put us all out of work!
But oddly enough what seems to have put a lot of people over the top is… Google Glass.
Yes a rather goofy and cumbersome gadget that is clearly (by Google’s own admission) not ready for prime time. Is being portrayed as the symbol of technologically aloof assholes who want to invade everyone’s privacy. Logic, if applied, would show that this really doesn’t make a lot of sense. But then we’re not dealing with a logical argument. We’re dealing with an emotional one. Specifically fear.
What this new Luddite movement shares with its namesake is a fear not of the technology itself, but of the unknown. Because all this new stuff is changing society fast. And it’s hard to keep up. And change can be bad. It’s certainly scary.
But you know what doesn’t make it better? Becoming a screaming mob and smashing down (physically or intellectually) everything new to make it go away and stop things from changing. That is a childish response, not an adult one.
Observe, Learn and Adapt
You can’t escape change. It is built into the DNA of life itself. Life changes. Society changes. Technology changes. And yes, the changes are coming fast these days. It’s hard to keep up, even for people who want to.
I’m not going to claim that all of the changes that come from our current technological revolution are going to be good. Some of them will undoubtedly be bad. But the problem is… you can’t weight the benefits against the negatives in advance. You can only do that from a historical perspective.
The internet has always echoed with the sounds of reactionary screaming. But you don’t have to embrace it or encourage it. Stop reacting emotionally to the information you receive and start analyzing it. Stop anthropomorphising companies. Stop projecting a personality onto people based on the technology they are carrying. Stop picking sides.
Observe, learn and adapt.