Title: Luddite Goals and Principles
Author: UNCFC
Date: 27 September 2014
Notes: This is an old text produced by UNC Freedom Club. For updated texts of a similar nature, please visit www.wildism.org or www.thewildernist.org.
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  1. Wild nature has intrinsic worth and may even be regarded as sacred; ways of life that hold wildness as a central value operate in unity with larger wild processes; and as creatures with bodies and a biology, we have adapted to life within wild nature.

  2. Industrial society values efficiency and artificiality in place of wildness; the technological way of life based in these values disrupts and disregards wild processes to the point of potentially destroying them; and because of the fast-paced and artificial nature of industrial society, the industrial way of life forces the wild ecosphere to operate under conditions radically different from those it is adapted to.

  3. Therefore, those on the side of wild nature have a duty to end the industrial system.

Wild and Artificial Systems

The most alive is the wildest.

—Henry David Thoreau

Luddites do not revere nature, they revere wild nature. Artificial systems are natural in that they are as subject to the laws of nature as anything else, but they are not wild because they intentionally narrow the scope of possibilities within a natural system in order to achieve some efficient end. Wild processes, on the other hand, operate from base needs rather than restricting them.

Two Kinds of Technology

Everywhere we remain unfree and chained to technology...

—Martin Heidegger

Individual technologies or techniques are methods by which an object in the wild world is limited in order to increase efficiency for a given end. For example, a human who sharpens the end point of a stick to more efficiently hunt has utilized technique. Most technologies before the Industrial Revolution were these kinds of small-scale technologies, which can be created and maintained by an individual or small group. These sorts of technologies may make up an artificial system, but they are not artificial systems themselves. Therefore, they can operate within wild nature without interfering with its overall stability.

However, since the Industrial Revolution, most new technologies are organization-dependent technologies, which are both produced by and exist as artificial systems. Organization-dependent technologies depend on already-existing infrastructure and complex systems in order to exist. Roman aqueducts were an example of organization-dependent technology.

Technological Autonomy

The whole trend in technology has been to devise machines that are less and less under direct control and more and more seem to have the beginning of a will of their own.

—Issac Asimov

Taken together, organization-dependent technologies form a technological system that develops certain intrinsic qualities. Among these qualities is efficiency and autonomy from wild processes (through artificiality). This technological system is substantially different from simple, small-scale techniques because it operates autonomously from any one person or group. This happens partly because of the way technological systems distribute responsibility and partly because of the way technological progress is enforced through necessity.

In technological systems, like the modern industrial system, no one person or group cannot easily be held responsible for a technological problem because the technology itself operates autonomously of human control. For example, who will be responsible when an algorithm in an autonomous vehicle kills someone—the programmers, the producer, the car insurance company, the person behind the wheel, or some other entity? And who is responsible when a dam breaks and floods a nearby city—the creators of the dam, the engineers who came up with the technology, or the governments who funded its creation?

Oftentimes it is so difficult to assign responsibility for an event because all or most of the involved parties were compelled by necessity or obligation rather than choice. This is called the technological imperative. In other words, we have become so dependent on the technological system that we are obligated to concern ourselves not with the need for food or warmth or mobility, but with oil and energy and manufacturing. The interest is in providing for the technological system itself; the potential human risks are viewed as less important.

Lastly, technological autonomy is produced by a phenomenon called technological somnambulism, or indifferent attitudes toward technology. Somnambulism is the result of the technological system forming the world around us. We therefore walk through this world of roads and electricity and computers with a sort of obliviousness, as though we were sleepwalking.

The Good Comes with the Bad

It is undeniable that certain modern technologies are appealing for various reasons. Industrial medicine, for example, is able to cure a large amount of diseases, and losing it would not be an easy thing to accept. However, it is important to note that the good parts of technology cannot be separated from the bad parts. Industrial medicine may be the key to curing cancer, but it is also the product of the system that is the primary cause of cancer. Similarly, you can’t have industrial medicine without the techniques of advertising and propaganda, advanced communication systems (for scientific research), and so forth. Therefore, you can only get rid of the entire technological system, not just the bad parts.

The Uniqueness of Industrial Society

With coal gone, oil gone, high-grade metallic ores gone, no species however competent can make the long climb from primitive conditions to high-level technology.

—Sir Fred Hoyle

Industrial society is unique in that it has globalized the world. This makes it a particularly dangerous threat, since its destruction and domination is not contained to a single geographic area. Rather, it threatens the entire biosphere and, should something go wrong, it could easily eradicate all complex life on earth.

But industrial society is also unique in that it is a technological society that can be destroyed and not rebuilt. Egypt or Rome were products of their particular geography, time-period, and culture, but civilizations like them could easily be built again in a non-industrial context. However, industrial society is a one-time experiment because it depends on certain physical prerequisites that can no longer exist without already- existing infrastructure in place. For example, surface coal has been depleted, as has easily accessible oil, which means that now coal and oil are only accessible through machines that themselves rely on coal and oil. Therefore, if this delicate mechanism were stopped for long enough, the entire system would begin falling in on itself. It is likely that threats to these infrastructures will occur at some point from impending ecological and economic turmoil.

The Necessity of Revolution

“Revolution” is not a term to throw around as though it means nothing. Revolutions are often chaotic affairs with unfortunate elements. However, there are certain times in history when revolutions are the best option, and this is one of those times. Climate change, mass surveillance, rapidly spreading diseases, mass extinctions and other global problems testify to the incredible overreach of the technological system, and it won’t be long until one of those ticking time-bombs goes off, leaving room for Luddites to make a radical change. So if you are a person placed on the side of wild nature, the time to organize is now.

References

  • Cookson, Lawrence J. “A definition for wildness.” Ecopsychology 3, no. 3 (2011): 187–193.

  • Dunn, Christopher James. “Beyond Wilderness: Wildness as a Guiding Ideal” (2009).

  • Ellul, Jacques, John Wilkinson, and Robert King Merton. The technological society. Vintage books New York, 1964.

  • Godesky, Jason. “Thesis #29: It will be impossible to rebuild civilization.” Thirty Theses (2006). http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/jason-godesky-thirty-theses.

  • Hill, Doug. Not So Fast: Thinking Twice About Technology. 2013.

  • Lindquist, Christopher R. “Wild Practices: Teaching the Value of Wildness.” PhD diss., University of North Texas, 2004.

  • Martin, Heidegger, and William Lovitt. “The Question Concerning Technology, and other Essays.” New York & London: Harper and Row Publications (1977): 152–156.

  • Winner, Langdon. Autonomous technology: Technics-out-of-control as a theme in political thought. Mit Press, 1977.