Saturday, June 21, 2008

Luddite

Luddite [n. LUH-dite] The noun Luddite specifically refers to one of a group of early 19th century English workmen who were campaigning against the automation of the power loom. Under cover of night and generally masked, the workers often destroyed the equipment that had displaced them. Today the word broadly refers to anyone who is opposed to technological change or new working methods.
The name Luddite is presumed to come from the leader of these angry workmen: Ned Ludd. The Leicestershire worker is said to have rushed into a stocking weaver's house and destroyed his equipment.

Warning rambling ahead. Buckle your seat belts.


For the longest time (oh, say about 5-8 years.) I have watched the world change and evolve with cellphones, ICQ, then Blogs, then My space, Face book (or what ever knock off you use) and now Twitter (which I am sorry to say the name fits the idea perfectly in my opinion). Only now am I finally trying my hand at it (mostly cause I have a internet connection at work, and am looking for something to do.)

I don't know why I have such a aversion to this stuff?
or at least a defined knee jerk reaction to it.
Maybe its the loss of ones personal space?
Or Maybe I am just not drawn in by the whole demand to be socially accessible?
Today, Inch by inch we are merging into one gigantic mass of links.

Most of my friends, just by a count today have over 50+ people on their friends lists in face book. Friends that are but a click and a finger tap away from at every moment of the day. More so with the increased popularity of the PDA.

Now twitter has come. Now everyone can be updated in seconds about what minute detail of your life you wish to pass out. "stood up", "opened door", "closed door", "Checked for zits in mirror", "Taking a dump", "Still taking a dump", "Chapter 12 of Leviticus is riveting", "Cleaner keeps knocking at the door"...

Before you could only just phone 1 person and give them play by plays of your life. Now with this you can broadcast it via the net to everyone of your avid fans... Bleh.

Most people like us don't care or will never use it like this. For us its just a fun little thing. A passing fad, or a cute way of passing on info to friends. But I can assure you if you look there is probably a blow to blow instant line on what Brittney or Paris is doing RIGHT THIS SECOND!


So? Are we defined today by who we are, or in are we defined by the people we know now?

Our technology and world wide web is bringing us closer and closer together, that distances are just something we don't think about anymore. All this Interlinked closeness sometimes makes my skin crawl. At what point do we go to far. Where is the line? Will we see it before we go past it? Have we gone past it?

Have you ever got the urge to sell it all and go live somewhere were there is nothing. No TV, no computers, no cellphones, no 24 hour news coverage? I know I do. (Of course this is impossible, but its the idea right?) Then I sit down read a book or two, maybe play a few hours of World of Warcraft and that feeling subsides. (Addicted you say , bah humbug)

About a week or two ago Mom said that my Cellphone contract would be expiring and not renewed at the end of the year. My first reaction was not "damn I will have to find another provider!" it was "Ok, So what?". It wasn't a annoyance, it actual felt... relieving. With no costs going to it, and no guiding reason to have it, what reason would i have to keep it? I think the thing that I have used it the most for in the last year, is to call the guys on the way over and ask if they have had lunch already or not? That... is about it.

I guess this whole feeling that we are just to engrossed in the whole "technology" thing beyond what is healthy for us as a society, was really hammered home when I watched Connections again recently. (I'll throw up the link at the end of this). James Burke in Connections episode 1 does a vicious job of showing you just how dependent we are on technology, and what would happen if it stopped working. That first episode actually made me stop and think about it.

Just how dependent are we now on E-mail, cellphones, etc, now? When was the last time you sat down and wrote a letter? Not a bill payment, a real honest to god letter? Right now if the net goes boom, the world is fucked. Sure we would recover, but if you thought black Monday was bad back in the 30's. No more web and the world economy wouldn't just hiccup and go into a depression. It would implode, and shatter over night.

So stop for 1 minute or 2 (I am not shitting you here, do it). Now in just a minute of thinking about it, and making your own mental list. What would be seriously impacted in your life if you suddenly lost the ability to use your computer, or cellphone. For many of us older types it wouldn't be so bad (say if your over the age of 25). Because we lived before all this appeared, we lived through its birth. But those under 25... Its been simple a facet of your life. You've never known a world without it.

No I am not a Luddite. But I can see the arguments (and yes thats all they are... Arguments)

Now I am not saying I haven't jumped on a few band wagons when they came around.
Of all of us i was the first to buy:
  • A Cell phone. (died, never replaced till I became a Site supervisor at work)
  • A Mp3 Player. (Died, never replaced, till mom bought me a LyPod)
  • A USB memory stick. (Still have, but its nearly useless at 64mg)
  • A PDA (Great until mom confiscated it... cause she thought i stole it)
  • Laptop (talking about the old one... its about the only thing i've ever bought two of)
Of course I paid through the nose for them (wish i still had the kind of disposable income I did then) Only found that they became obsolete within such a short period that I kicked myself later.

I think it was the Cell phone that started me down this path to anti socialism. So when it came to being connected to this big inter-web thing Mr. Gore supposedly made. I kinda looked at it and cringed a bit. Perhaps now with this foray into it. I will find I like it and embrace it whole heartedly. Perhaps it is a outlet I have been looking for to express myself creatively.

Or perhaps somewhere in the last month I have sniffed some web crack, didn't know it and now I am just lining up with everyone else at the end of the queue to the rehab clinic down the road... Maybe I am just paranoid... or not paranoid enough.

So I'll do this as long as I can, until that feeling climbs up on my back again, and taps me on the ear whispering: "Psst. Hypocrite! What you doing? Who reads this? Who Cares?"

Connections 1 Ep 1 (1 of 5)

1 comment:

mike said...

Just because you have a cell phone doesn't mean you're one of those assholes that uses it too loud at a restaurant, ignoring his dining companions.

Just because I have Twitter doesn't mean I tweet every stirring of the macaroni and cheese I make for dinner.

Just because I text message doesn't mean I have conversations that would have been easier if I'd just friggin' call the person.

I didn't buy a laptop to further disappear into an electronic log cabin and see with the world as ones and zeroes.

I'm on Facebook too keep in touch with old and new friends in an amusing environment. People I migh tnever have spoken to again had I not cracked and put a profile on it.

I want an iPhone because it's neat. Not because I feel some hive-minded need to stay State-of-the-Art by having the latest and most expensive version of whatever gizmo is all the rage. If I did I wouldn't have gone a year without a real computer. And then I would have sprung for a MacBook Pro and not this little guy.

I really, really miss your cottage and the chance to leave everything behind for a weekend and enjoy a lake from a nice little cabin with a phone that barely worked. I regret that we brough the N64 that last time.

My father shares your revulsion of the Information Age, where it seems like everyone is constantly texting, e-mailing and talking on cell phones instead of interacting like human beings. I hate to burst the bubble, but that's how human beings interact. What's so wrong sending an e-mail to the family to arrange the next holiday dinner? Why is it better to phone everyone or send invitation? Because it's old fashioned? Bullocks.

If the internet were to vanish, it's nature meant it would be the symptom of a much bigger problem. An apocalyptic problem that mean survival is probably just as much a matter of luck as it is letting go of a dependence on technology. I give myself good odds because I have a gun and a sack. But what if your neighbourhood is one of the ones where the nuke went off? You're just as fucked as cell phone voice guy next door.

There's a line between being addicted to pointless gadetry and being a Luddite. I don't think it's as fine as others would, but the tech junkies risk RSIs, Asperger's Syndrome and early graves from stress or neglect. The Luddite risk unnecessarily slowing human advancement and achievement with an obstinate resistance to change.