Author Brian Merchant suggests that Luddites pose a greater threat to the wealthy than Robin Hood.

From 19th Century Luddites to Modern Tech Backlash: Brian Merchant’s Blood in the Machine Examines the Parallels and Implications of Labor Struggles with Technology

Brian Merchant’s book, Blood in the Machine, explores the Luddite movement in 19th century England and draws parallels with current technologies. The author began his research a decade ago, seeing the resurgence of the term Luddite amid the growth of Uber and its impact on taxi drivers. Merchant clarifies that the Luddite revolt was actually a labor struggle, not a movement against technology itself.

Merchant criticizes the undemocratic nature of technological development, where a small group of corporations dominate new technologies with access to capital. He argues that this pattern has been consistent for 200 years, with technology often advancing without regard for social stability. The book discusses the potential for future unrest or backlash against big tech companies.

In recent years, discussions around a universal basic income in response to automation have taken place in Silicon Valley. Merchant views this as a superficial solution to a larger structural problem. He notes that while new jobs may be created by technology, vulnerable jobs are eroded over time, leading to social and economic challenges.

Merchant suggests that recent events, such as the destruction of a Waymo self-driving car, may be indicative of growing anger towards big tech companies. He also highlights the potential for collective action, citing the recent strike and negotiation by Hollywood screenwriters as an example of pushing back against abusive uses of technology.

Overall, Blood in the Machine delves into the history of the Luddites and their struggle against technology, drawing parallels with modern challenges in the tech industry. Merchant’s book raises important questions about the impact of technology on society and the need for democratic oversight in technological development.

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