Technology Kills





Technology doesn\'t kill people...

Today we swim in a sea of ever-changing technology that affects us as much as our thoughts and actions shape it. The technology we have chosen, either by the preferences of those who use it, or the agendas of those who own and benefit from it, has had its own influence on us from gross examples such as increased pollution, or a higher Western-style standard of living, to the way one person perceives another.

Some people who resist using some, or even all technology; they are often called Luddites by those who embrace all things new; another type calls themselves Neo-Luddites, such as Kirkpatrick Sale. In his book Human scale, Sale describes the slow rotting of the stones of the Parthenon and other ancient monuments to civilization from the acid pollution developed by our present Industrial civilization and compares it to the slow disintegration our industrialized society has seemed to have undergone. He identifies effects of technology which have been harmful to the human condition and the environment, but seems to not quite "get it" about the Luddites: they were not fighting the machines themselves; they were struggling against powers of society that, for the past century, through enclosure and the abolishment of commonality [and the subsequent arisal of a class of people who lived by renting their labor: the working class] (Laslett, 195), had been seeking to disempower and disenfranchise the mass of people, and were now striking anew with the latest, and most powerful manifestation of their social policies, the Industrial Factory.

The men of Nottinghamshire who died as Luddites were fighting a system, not a technology, a system whose intentions were not to cut costs and increase efficiency, but to increase the control of management (i.e. the control of the owners of capital) over labor. Technological developments are made by, and in the best interests of those who own those who own and benefit from technical innovations (Law, 195). The history of Industrial factory technology begins to appear as a collective fetish of the ruling classes for instruments of control. In American Industrial development, the direction of technological development since the Civil War has been driven by the largest customer of that Industry, the Military (Noble, 334), and the society that works in and uses the products of that Industry has been affected by that direction. But as to the woes of our civilization,

"...Technology is not the problem, nor is it the solution. The problem is political, moral, and cultural, as is the solution: a successful challenge to a system of domination which masquerades as progress." Noble, 351)

Luddite Technology

Social power is needed to direct the resources necessary for technological innovation; so during the history of the Industrial Age, at the beginning, the machines were new, large, and expensive, so only those who controlled enough social power to bring about the machines could decide on what forms those machines came in-- the wealthy, and the state, through the needs of the military. Less expensive and more efficient technologies were stifled by those in authority if they did not contribute to the goal of taking power away from the workers and placing it in the hands of management. In this century, the development of Numerically Controlled (N/C) machine tools was controlled by the emerging military-industrial complex, which spared no expense to implement a troublesome and complicated technology that was no better than the conventional methods, and inferior to the alternative Record/Playback automated machining (Noble, 146). The Boeing plant in Seattle even had special switches on the machines so the operators could signal the manager for permission to go to the bathroom! (Noble, 243)

The engineers of the 1950\'s announced the dawning of a Second Industrial Revolution- one that would finalize the subjugation of labor- but instead that Revolution has come full circle: we presently have come to a break-even point where the products of the Industrial Age are now its undoing; mass-production and the unprecedented ability of modern electronic communication. Mass production was intended partially to maximise the usefulness of expensive machines through continuous production, but also to discipline workers who had to attend to the rigors of working with a machine that never took breaks, never slowed down, and never stopped for a