Unlike the sentiment that led to the Silesian Weavers' Uprising of 1844, the kind of Maschinensturm introduced in and advocated by the following pamphlet does not derive from fear of technological progress (in the sense of loss of the current status as a sacrifice to advanced means of production/productivity, in exchange for an at least temporary downgrade of one’s individual existence) but stems from enthusiasm for real progress, defined as improvement/betterment of the conditio humana in terms of equality in rights and supply. Or, if you see fear as the underlying motivation of any endeavor, this kind of Luddism is fueled by fear of regress disguised and propagated as progress.
As the capitalist social-economic system and its mutations have more than sufficiently proven, cultural progress in regard to mankind does not directly correlate with progress of science or efficiency, nor with progress of production and the refinement of technologies, and is at the very least equal to progress in accumulation of wealth or materialistic increase in value. While these types of progress - all of them mechanisms currently actively disintegrating our social fabric and individual wellbeing - represent the advancement of inequality and are in truth types of cultural regress, real human progress seeks the accumulation of health.
Long recognized to span across all aspects of life, far beyond the integrity of our individual bodily functions, the term health includes the gradual presence and actualization of concepts and conditions like freedom, liberty, independence, mutualism - a healthy environment outside and within ourselves, including our relations to others and the universe around us.
Following this doctrine, all technologies should be assessed with regard to their ability to contribute to global health instead of being assessed with regard to their projected market value.
Toward each and every object and abstraction mankind has ever invented, every innovation to surface we should ask: Is it a Tool of Oppression, or a Tool of Enablement and Liberation?
What to embrace, what to oppose? In the accelerated post-capitalist era, there are probably more technologies (products, innovations, inventions and abstractions) oppressing us or contributing to oppression - at least by their current mode of use, even though they may not have necessarily intentionally been designed to oppress - than there are tools that are liberating us or enabling liberation.
To counter the ultimately catastrophic development of individual-level tech ultra-dependency and the ongoing gradual erosion of our human core substance - the rhythm of our heartbeat, the time of a thought - driven by xenomorph abstraction levels entailed by the commodification and digitization of environments, these Tools Of Oppression need to be identified, singled out, destroyed and banned for all eternity.
How to tell the difference? By what definition can any technology considered to be a TOOP or a TOELI?, one will ask, and rightfully so, as our future will be heavily influenced by decisions for or against any certain tool.
To aim for true change, it is crucial to understand that everything is, or can be, technology. In contrast to a modern conception of technology as denominator for all things electronic, mechanical, digital - at least material, as in physically engineered - an effective definition must include immaterial and cultural crystallizations within language, symbolism and imagery, memes and ideas, traditions, stories, narratives.
For example, the question: “What do I want?” could turn out to be a TOOP, while the question “What do I need?” may well be a TOELI.
As complex as the assessment process will prove to be in many cases, the benchmark is clear and simple: Each and every tech, be it physical, digital or cultural, needs to be evaluated & addressed following one single premise: does it [unambiguously] facilitate the attainment and establishment of total equality in rights & supply for all mankind under inclusion of mutualism with planet earth? If the answer is “yes”, it’s a TOELI. If the answer is “no”, “not really” or “yes but”, it’s a TOOP.
For an increasing number of instances, several aspects and functions of a tool will be found positive while others will need to be remodeled, restricted or entirely prohibited. What’s more, some aspects will be incredibly hard or impossible to decipher to either contribute to the status of a TOOP or a TOELI, due to an myriad of unknowns and variables.
That is especially relevant for technologies enabling or incorporating other subsidiary technologies, like any connected/”smart” object or process accessing or providing access to applications and networks that themselves again incorporate technological leverage embedded in secondary and tertiary networks.
The levels of agency become rhizomatic beyond prognostic capacities, rendering any attempt for evaluation futile. In this case - when it’s impossible to say that the respective (superordinate/overarching) technology is harmful to our species, but it’s equally impossible to state it’s not - said tech seems to be a) too powerful b) hard to make safe (unexploitable) due to its complexity and c) too abstract and extensive to control; and for these reasons alone either be flagged as a TOOP or carefully observed and, if necessary, tested long-term within a safe and contained environment.
It may seem a clear confliction that some of these complex technologies will be needed to provide a panhumanist reality, while at the same time being at least partially categorized as harmful to mankind. Technology, being a means to an end, will always have negative leverage potential. However, considering the entirely transformed circumstances, purpose and way of use (inherent by design of both tool and system) as well as equal distribution and access, the impact of these technologies (on our environment and on ourselves alike) is also bound to change.
A smartphone under (x-)capitalism is nothing like a smartphone under panhumanism will be. Most applications that are oppressively dominating in our current times will become obsolete, useless in a global society of total equality in rights and supplies. A majority of functions and time spent with current “hi-tech” devices are used to cope with the current system and its impact on our fragmented societies and daily lives, or driven by substitute desires invented by marketing.
We use tools that we do not need, because the system needs us to use those tools. In a impossibly perfect capitalist universe, every entity would use and consume everything at once, all the time, creating value in the process. Capitalist economics, contrary to what’s purported by some, do not at all resemble biological systems. It’s only where random, non-programmed otherness attacks the morphogenesis of an organism, where outsideness surfaces from within our ability to abstract, that capitalist logic becomes reality, that inequality becomes systemic - unrestricted exponential growth, chaotic greed, cancer in the flesh. All natural complex distribution systems work on the principles of efficiency and equality.
In a world driven by profit, all tools will seek to produce profit. In a world driven by equality, all tools will seek to produce equality.
As we move towards panhumanism and away from capitalism, many tools and their incorporated subtechnologies will automatically reform from TOOP to TOELI status. Still, a thorough and steady evaluation process and subsequent measures / actions will be mandatory to bring forth and support the transition process.
Only with a strong, rationally founded and emotionally acknowledged social 'belief system' we as individuals will manage to decline the amenities of entertainment and convenience offered by many of the tools that will be needed to reshape, restrict or sacrificed. We’ll have to remember that many of these technologies we’ve gotten so used to have helped to enforce and consolidate - or at least found a literal market due to - capitalist mechanisms and value subsystems that have long-term proven very harmful to human health as defined above, while not even really providing substantial short-term benefits such as happiness or relief but rather mere distraction and lukewarm pastime (“killing time”).
Indeed, technologies like news cycles, the internet and especially social media have even burdened us with a second, inherently dissatisfying and arguably “fake” life, with an ever-changing structure and of a nature almost incompatible with our way of cognition, inaccessible to our sensibility; A inherently monstrosity of abstraction and inhumane pace, that keeps us occupied throughout the day, leaving us exhausted and confused without gaining any real benefit for our lives.
We can unlearn the conventions grown from these tools, and find they are not at all necessary for sustaining our physical or mental health nor for living in a post-digital (and then, postcapitalist) future.
Another core element of Rational Luddism is the realization that the terms ‘technology’ and ‘nature’ by their current definition are severe misconceptions in another aspect, with severe effects on our conception of value, especially the term ‘high tech’, used for advanced electronic devices and components like microchips, nanotubes, robotics and consumer electronics as well as software products (from simple apps to the complex algorithm structures often referred to as Artificial Intelligence) et cetera.
We have been led so deep down the rabbit hole of capitalist ideology that we unquestioningly accept to worship slow, half-baked, error-prone parasitic surveillance machines as the most valuable things mankind has to offer - machines constantly sucking our time and energy out of us just so we can participate in the treadmill that relentlessly fosters inequality and injustice, causing a spiral of despair throughout the world.
Even after updating the firmware of your IoT KitchenAid for the third time, and scrolling through an endless list of recipes on the clumsy touch display, the thought does not occur to us that a “simple” tin pot and a wooden spoon are probably the more advanced, flexible, faster and sustainable technology, with better haptics and user experience and excellent response time.
Taking a step back, we realize that human technology after a certain point is nothing but a questionable attempt to not only copy but rebuild what nature already provides in a much more refined, incredibly superior form. In fact, nature is nothing else but already (evolutionary) perfected technology, and no matter how far into the future, a (humanoid) robot will never be any more perfectly ‘constructed’ than our organic bodies are; never will we be able to build something more efficiently organized than the metabolisms of life on earth, nor something more beautiful than the sun’s light diffusing in our planetary atmosphere. It seems to be either our urge for control or our addiction to understanding that leads us to try and replace ‘nature’ with ‘technology’, so we can make the flowers’ heads turn, the fish breathe and the birds sing as we request. As long as the world turns without our permission, we will never be satisfied - at least not within a capitalist paradigm.
Many tools of human invention have proven useful, and some will function as the great enablers of a panhumanist society. But no matter how far we’ll go in our endeavor to transform our environment and our human body and mind, shovel and spade will outlive all the rare earth tech we are pouring our lives into.
Regarding all this, Rational Luddism doesn’t ask for anything more but an increased awareness/alertness and a different approach towards ‘technology’ (and ‘nature’), incentivizing the construction of panhumanist TOELIs and inhibiting the development capitalist TOOPs.
Us humans, with our curiosity and creativity, will not simply let go of the scientific potentials and possibilities, and we shouldn’t. But on top of rocket engines and robotic mules, we need to focus on social and ecological responsibility and advancement just the same.
If technology either supersedes the human species or if we destroy ourselves in the process by our lack of competence, responsibility and foresight; from an evolutionist perspective that’s totally fine. It’s the survival of the fittest, after all, and if we don’t survive, well, we’re not fit for existence. This kind of “accelerated pessimism” is bound to eat itself once there’s no return. If there’s no point to life at all, we might as well live, and we might as well seek justice. Such is our evolutionary challenge and purpose: to make sure we persist, and just as panhumanism is the answer to the paradox that we are our single worst enemy - if tech is both antagonist and only hope, rational luddism is gonna be the way.