Technology & Being a Luddite.

I have a tiny fossilised sea shell from way down in the crust of the world. It came from the northern reaches of Canada, and it’s (probably) millions of years old. I met a man who worked on oil rigs, drilling into the earth, and he gave it to me, as well as a book by Milan Kundera. I haven’t read it yet. He talked to me about how he felt he couldn’t be proud of his job, despoiling the earth. But man is a mercantile creature.
I never saw him again.
That tiny, clam shell- like animal was alive once, literally ages ago. Could there really have been an ocean in Canada once, where now there are fields of ice?
The world is constantly changing. During the Industrial Revolution, people hated the new machines that took over their livelihood. In many ways, it was an exciting world, with fast shifts in technology. They hated it. They smashed the machines in the hope of stopping them. They were known as the Luddites.
There is something so humorous about people who hate progress in technology. Those of us who do, have playfully been labelled Luddites ever since. I’ve never set fire to a factory or blown up a mechanised loom (though blowing up anything has a certain adventurous charm), but I refuse to purchase a Kindle. I see a level of practicality in them, but I’m a sensualist. I need the new book smell, or the notes in the margin from a previous reader. And not running out of battery halfway through a train trip.
I handwrite letters to people, all over the world. It does little good, my handwriting is illegible, often even to myself, but people write back. I get all sorts of exotic mail from far flung places. I have people’s cares and thoughts in their own handwriting. People give so much more of themselves in a letter. I’m not a huge fan of email. Sifting through the straw to find those rare needles: emails that have some use or meaning to me.
I’m not complaining about mechanised life. I love being able to do a lot of things online, though I like to be able to solve problems with an old fashioned phone call. I love that MIT and other universities publish their lectures, and a lot of literature online. I love the immediate access to information. However I like that a book has reputable references, unlike websites.
I suppose that it’s because I’m a tactile person. I love sitting here, with my tiny fossil, I love being in the world, sensing, tasting, travelling. I accept that machines mean I have free time that I never would have had if I’d been born a generation or two earlier, but don’t expect me to get excited about them. A washing machine or a computer is generally quite ugly, and has no intrinsic value, since it will be replaced by a later, more efficient model. These things have no beauty for me.


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