For some years now I have been sort of a Luddite. Occasionally I get into arguments about this with people, and hit a wall when they accuse me of dreaming of a non-existant pre industrial romantic ideal. So I was wondering can anyone here provide some evidence that things used to be better?
My views on this, as many views on complex matters can be, have been cobbled together somewhat haphazardly from experiences, evidence and various intuitions.
It began just over 5 years ago when I began an undergraduate course at a supposedly fine British university. It was maybe the most obvious time ever to be a Luddite. In the space of a few months filesharing and social networking had gone from being the preserve of a few nerds to being totally ubiquitous. 5 years prior a laptop had been a rare luxury for an undergraduate; affordable only to the rich for writing their essays on. Now it was very much essential. I watched those around me spend a great deal of their waking lives in their bedrooms, downloading films, clicking aimlessly on facebook, playing video games, and watching anonymously hardcore pornography; all of this was an easy alternative to talking to people they didn't really know. Facebook became the new social reality, breeding a new kind of vanity and self consciousness never before seem; literally 2-dimensional. I wondered how many similar revolutions had gone before, which I had not been present to witness.
I read a few Kurt Vonnegut essays, and suddenly I was seeing the world through a Luddite's eyes; half convinced (which is a long way to be convinced of such a radical idea) that society could not cure itself of its ills until it returned to a more basic, primitive way of life.
But is there any evidence? you need evidence; one to prove to others that you are right; but more importantly to not actually be wrong yourself! Are these just the broodings of a dissaffected boy; or the naiive romanticisms of an idealist? Part of me blames not technology but the pathological agencies that wield it.
Or have I got it all wrong? is progress simply gruelling and problematic; afterall technology is an attempt by humans to solve problems. You see a problem and solve it. Thats natural. Thats right. Perhaps.