Note — Nov 28, 2021

Science Fiction Is a Luddite Literature

Seen in → No.198

Source →

This one is Doctorow on Luddism as science fiction, which could hardly be more in my ballpark. Yet I wasn’t sure about including it since he rethreads ideas I’ve covered before. However he does a great job of showing how “in truth, their goal was something closely related to science fiction: to challenge not the technology itself, but rather the social relations that governed its use,” which lines up very very well with co-management systems in Piketty’s piece above.

What were they fighting about? The social relations governing the use of the new machines. These new machines could have allowed the existing workforce to produce far more cloth, in far fewer hours, at a much lower price, while still paying these workers well (the lower per-unit cost of finished cloth would be offset by the higher sales volume, and that volume could be produced in fewer hours). […]

We’re living in quite a Luddite moment, as it happens. Many of us are contesting the social relations surrounding our technologies: should we continue to subsidize big agriculture? Should our cities continue to be organized around cars? Should tech giants be permitted to continue to gobble up each other and their small competitors, reducing the internet to “five giant websites, each filled with screenshots of the other four?” (to quote Tom Eastman). […]

Democratizing access to the means of production isn’t intrinsically anti-labor — it’s only bad for workers when the bounty of automation is disproportionally allocated to a small number of capital owners, and not workers.