Slack and Wise Ch 5-7

Chapters 5-7 in Slack and Wise are referred to as the intermezzo, short movement between major sections of a composition, of the book. The main focus in chapter 5 is the Luddites, people who were accused of being rabidly and ignorantly anti-technology and anti-progress. The Luddites are hard to study though because they were: illegal, there is no surviving written record, there were different autonomous movements rather than a single movement, and there were different political moments where the view of technology and culture were at stake. Luddism is the movement of skilled workers or artisans in the textile industry that were mad because their wages were being lowered and machines were replacing their jobs. The Luddites believed industrial growth should be regulated to ethical priorities and pursuit of profit should be subordinate to human needs. The Luddism movement was slightly effective because they helped repeal the Corn Laws which kept corn prices high making the working class starve, provided a potent alternative to the concept of technology and culture, and other reform bills helped alleviate deplorable working conditions so the working class would not start a revolution. The things learned from the Luddites are: the possibility of resisting progress blindly, recognizing political nature of technology, and understanding and critiquing integration of technology into everyday life.

Appropriate technology (AT) is discussed in chapter 6, which is making technology choices resisting development of technology at any cost but to make an acceptable or appropriate match between technology and everyday life. The AT movement emerged and was founded by E.F. Schumacher. He wanted to bring technology into 3rd world countries but did not want it to only benefit the elite. Therefore, he realized he needed to reorganize the workplace as a start by: building workplaces where people live currently and not in the metro area, the workplaces must be cheap to build so multiple can be built, the production methods must be simple so people without skills can work, and the production must be local materials. Ivan Illich founded a program that trained volunteers to work in Latin America and he focused on an alternative development, like schools, energy, and transportation. Counterculture focused on creating alternative political structures based on anticapitalist and anti-industrialist values, like pleasure, creativity, and personal growth. Counterculture connected with AT because they are anti-big industry. People of counterculture were diverse, they did not work 9-5, they lived lightly on the land, they resisted consumer culture, and they used alternative energy sources. Countercultures focus was on the individual complements and AT’s focus was on human-tool interaction. Convivial tools are tools that are easy to use and anyone can use them, an example is the telephone. Anyone can dial someone else as long as they have a coin to do so.

Chapter 7 overviews the details of the Unabomber, he sent bombs to people at universities and airline industries killing 3 and wounding others. He was a hermit that lived in the woods without power, running water, and grew and killed most of his food. He wrote a 35,000 word manifesto to be published and his influence was Jacques Ellul. Slack and Wise stated, “The Manifesto itself has been presented alternatively as the ramblings of a madmen or a work of genius” (2007).  He was already a proven genius by going to Harvard at the age of 16, but unfortunately he turned to violence and his argument was that violence was the only way to get attention. The themes of his manifesto were transformation of humans to the needs of the machine, transformation of the environment, and destruction of human dignity and autonomy.

The Myth of the Machine goes into detail about the story of humans, how they lived, how they ate, how they became dominate over the animals, and the tools they used to survive. Some human skulls have evidence of the brain being pulled through the bottom as form cannibalism. Humans were powerful over animals because of their brains. Knowing these facts allows humans to learn where they came from and how they advanced. Mumford states, “if we do not take the time to review the past we shall not have sufficient insight to understand the present or command the future: for the past never leaves us, and the future is already here.” Researching the past is one of the best ways to find out how to move forward because either way time will keep going.

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