The new Luddites

Alix Paultre, Editorial Director, PSD


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Alix Paultre, Editorial Director, PSD

The current atmosphere of development in the United States is one of odd imbalances and initiatives, a place where advanced technologies are being embraced or rejected in a piecemeal fashion based more on ideologies and politics than needs and capabilities. This sad state of affairs has placed the USA in a very dangerous situation in developing world technology markets.

One easy example of the dichotomy of opinion on technology is Google Glass. The same people who live with a cell phone pressed into their hands while staring up at public surveillance cameras   are also somehow intimidated by a device that is no different in basic functionality beyond the face-oriented form factor.

I have a pair of Glass I use for blogging at events, and have had several altercations with “anti-Glassers”, one surprising argument occurred recently with a fellow tech editor (talk about cognitive dissonance). In this case privacy uncertainty (a joke today where everyone has a camera in their hand and on every building) and a feeling that they are on a non-level tech playing field seem to be the driving forces, as nobody I talked to could properly express exactly why they hated my wearing them (all of these discussions happened in public places).

Mostly, however, the pushback on technology development is not due to fear of tech (true Luddism) but a clinging to legacy markets and technologies purely for profit’s sake. This type of neo-Luddism is behind almost every single market swing and disruption in history. This legacy pressure is not new, extending back to the first disruptive automation technology that prompted Ned Ludd and his fellow Englishmen (& women) to protest. Ironically big business is the primary motivator of tech resistance today.

Solar and alternate energy creates the battlefield for these neo-Luddites, as the oil & gas industry has no desire to give up any of their market. They cling to their legacy tech and lobby government to put ridiculous counter-productive legislation in place that effectively stifles US development and deployment of advanced alternate-energy solutions. In their desire for short-term gain they fail to see the market collapse and destabilization they are leading the country into.

The rest of the world isn’t taking America’s lead in not developing alternate energy, unsurprisingly. They see that alternate energy is not only better for the environment, renewable, and technologically advanced, it is also a liberation from the political pressures of energy-producing countries that may not have a complementary world agenda. The sad result of this unequal development effort will almost certainly be America’s taking a back seat in the international alternate-energy industry and falling even further into backwater status as a market for these advanced technologies.

This is not to say that I am against oil, coal, and gas, those and their related energy technologies will be around in this world long after I am not. But we can stop using fossil fuels in applications that we can serve with other energy technologies.