Luddites and climate activists, unite!

I encourage you to read Ben Tarnoff's piece in The Guardian from a couple months back: "To decarbonize we must decomputerize: why we need a Luddite revolution." The very worst approach to technology is fatalism: it's inevitable; it's the future; we just have to accept it. The second worst approach is denialism: it's not so bad, since (obviously and necessarily) nothing so central to our lives could as bad as the naysayers suggest. The third worst approach is a failure to make connections. This last characteristic is one oddly ubiquitous among liberal folks I talk to about this issue. If either free-market liberalism or the digitization of our lives is so good, then why are the effects so bad for the environment? And what brakes stand in the way of further ecological harm? Denial underwriting technological fatalism certainly won't do the trick.

Perhaps climate activists are allies in waiting for Luddites, and vice versa. As Tarnoff observes, both perceive the costs of technology in the present tense. In a time obsessed with either moment-to-moment minutiae that don't matter or a utopian future that doesn't exist, the present problems bearing down on us, in the form of both climate change and technological takeover, seem like the right place to begin.


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