Future Human: New Luddism, September 18
We’re excited to announce September’s Future Human salon, New Luddism, where we’ll explore how anti-technology activists are raging against the machine – it takes place on the evening of September 18 at our usual home of The Book Club, Shoreditch. Tickets are available from our store – buy soon before they disappear…
The dystopian potential of advanced technology is all too evident in today’s news headlines, whether it’s the US government piggybacking on the communications infrastructure of corporations like Microsoft, Apple and Google to spy on the the world’s populace, military personnel conducting remote control killing with autonomous robot ‘drones’, or the disruption of human labour markets by software automation. But who challenges the ethics of unregulated technological development?
In Britain’s Industrial Revolution of the 18th century it was working class artisans who fought back against the mechanisation of the textile industry, smashing the machines their employers had installed in factories. Known as the Luddites, these protestors are today recognised as history’s romantic losers – applauded by Lord Byron yet beaten down by the British army. Yet the Luddite philosophy, which argues against the subjugation of humanity by machine tools, is as relevant today as it ever was.
In the 21st century though, the agents of the New Luddism movement are as likely to pick up a laptop as a pickaxe. They form a loosely knit coalition of ideological fellow travellers: ‘hacktivist’ agitators who kick back against the governments and corporations persecuting whistleblowers, anti-surveillance activists disputing products like Google Glass, and even anarcho-primitivist sympathisers seeking a more pastoral lifestyle in the countryside. There is also a criminal element. Violent Luddite sympathisers, such as the anti-atomic activists who assassinated the Italian nuclear executive Roberto Adinolfi last year, are following in a long tradition of unhinged radicalism typified by the ‘Unabomber’ Ted Kaczynski.
Who are these ‘New Luddites’, what do they want – and do they have a point? Are they wild idealists or simply more attuned to the future direction of industrial society than the common person? And as New Luddism picks up momentum, should we consider it a humanist strike against the darkest encroachments of technology on our lives, or a dangerous idea that will sow division and discord?
Helping us to unravel this new era of technology activism are special guest experts on the ethics of technological development and anti-technology activism.
Adam Wood is the founder of Stop The Cyborgs, a campaign group dedicated to fighting invasions of privacy brought about by wearable technology, particularly Google Glass. Stop The Cyborgs aims to raise awareness of the power of devices that allow users to film and photograph their surroundings while sharing the data on social networks in real time, and generate debate about the ethical usage of such technologies.
Andy Miah is director of the Creative Futures Institute at the University of the West of Scotland, an interdisciplinary research unit that explores critical questions around the future of humanity and our use of technology. He has published a number of books as well as writing for the Guardian and the Washington Post, exploring topics ranging from the use of the internet in medical provision to the ethics of biological human enhancement.
Dave King is a spokesperson for Luddites200, a campaign group formed both to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Luddite movement, and to see where their spirit can be applied in today’s culture. They highlight the potential dangers in synthetic biology, genetic engineering, and technologies that can erode employment and enact mass surveillance.
So join them and us for an evening of intellectual erotica, cocktail exotica, creative mania and Twitter drama… once again, tickets are available here.