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Kirkpatrick Sale is at the tumultuous center of a technology backlash, actively challenging Bill Gates on the one hand and the Unabomber on the other. The subject of bets, barbs, and grudging praise in the pages of WIRED, The New York Times, Newsweek, and The New Yorker,Rebels Against the Future takes us back to the first technology backlash, the short-lived and fierce Lud Kirkpatrick Sale is at the tumultuous center of a technology backlash, actively challenging Bill Gates on the one hand and the Unabomber on the other. The subject of bets, barbs, and grudging praise in the pages of WIRED, The New York Times, Newsweek, and The New Yorker,Rebels Against the Future takes us back to the first technology backlash, the short-lived and fierce Luddite rebellion of 1811. Sale tells the compelling story of the Luddites' struggle to preserve their jobs and way of life by destroying the machines that threatened to replace them; he then invokes a new-Luddite spirit in response to today's technological revolution and calls for another sort of rebellion: not one of violence but rather of intellectually and ethically sound protest.


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Kirkpatrick Sale is at the tumultuous center of a technology backlash, actively challenging Bill Gates on the one hand and the Unabomber on the other. The subject of bets, barbs, and grudging praise in the pages of WIRED, The New York Times, Newsweek, and The New Yorker,Rebels Against the Future takes us back to the first technology backlash, the short-lived and fierce Lud Kirkpatrick Sale is at the tumultuous center of a technology backlash, actively challenging Bill Gates on the one hand and the Unabomber on the other. The subject of bets, barbs, and grudging praise in the pages of WIRED, The New York Times, Newsweek, and The New Yorker,Rebels Against the Future takes us back to the first technology backlash, the short-lived and fierce Luddite rebellion of 1811. Sale tells the compelling story of the Luddites' struggle to preserve their jobs and way of life by destroying the machines that threatened to replace them; he then invokes a new-Luddite spirit in response to today's technological revolution and calls for another sort of rebellion: not one of violence but rather of intellectually and ethically sound protest.

30 review for Rebels Against the Future: The Luddites and Their War on the Industrial Revolution: Lessons for the Computer Age

  1. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    The Luddites were a loose confederation of textile workers living in 1800s England (in the same area where Robin Hood became famous) who saw their way of life destroyed by the coming of technology. They worked out of their cottages or small craft shops. There was pride in their work. There was no boss or time clock to consider, so there were occasional ale breaks. They weren’t rich by any means, but, being part of a centuries-old tradition, they made a living. Machines came along which allowed on The Luddites were a loose confederation of textile workers living in 1800s England (in the same area where Robin Hood became famous) who saw their way of life destroyed by the coming of technology. They worked out of their cottages or small craft shops. There was pride in their work. There was no boss or time clock to consider, so there were occasional ale breaks. They weren’t rich by any means, but, being part of a centuries-old tradition, they made a living. Machines came along which allowed one person to do the work of many. They were housed in multi-storied factories on the edge of town. Many textile workers lost their jobs, were forced off their land, and had no choice but to go to filthy, overcrowded cities to look for work (read Charles Dickens). The Luddites (they took their name from their "leader," a mythical Ned Ludd) are thought of as some sort of anti-technology fanatics. Their problem was not with technology itself, but with technology that destroyed their way of life, technology that was for the benefit of the few, and to the detriment of the many. They rebelled in the only way they knew how, by smashing the machines that had destroyed their way of life. This went on for about 15 months, during which time no one snitched to the British Government, showing that the Luddites had a lot of sympathy among the public. The British stationed several thousand troops in the area, and eventually lowered the boom, with hanging judges, snitches, night time arrests, executing the innocent, etc, putting an end to this threat to industrial progress. Today, there is a large and growing movement of people who do not believe that technology is automatically a good thing. Some believe that the entire concept of technology and society needs some radical re-thinking, while others are actively opposing particular pieces of "progress," like asbestos, nuclear weapons, aspartame or NAFTA/GATT. This is a very interesting and well-done book. For anyone who believes in technology for the sake of technology, reading this book is a really good idea. It is time well spent.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Alicia Fox

    The first 2/3 of this book is a thorough history of the Luddites; the last 1/3 is about modern applications of Luddism. If you like history, you'll probably like this. Most histories of the Industrial Revolution focus on the inventors and industrialists, and when the masses are covered at all, it's not until they're already jammed into urban tenements. This has industrialization's effect on people right at the start. My top way of judging someone's thinking is by something I consider pretty obvio The first 2/3 of this book is a thorough history of the Luddites; the last 1/3 is about modern applications of Luddism. If you like history, you'll probably like this. Most histories of the Industrial Revolution focus on the inventors and industrialists, and when the masses are covered at all, it's not until they're already jammed into urban tenements. This has industrialization's effect on people right at the start. My top way of judging someone's thinking is by something I consider pretty obvious--was the person right? This book was published about twenty years ago, just as the internet was becoming a "thing," and Sale is predicting things which have come to pass. The proof is in the pudding, if you will. It's the same theme you see in writing by people like Jarod Lanier--the growing redundancy of human beings. It boggles my mind that more people don't see where this is going. Or are we collectively ignoring the elephant in the room? Then again, my impassive predictions tossed out during otherwise pleasant conversations have earned me comparisons to Hans Beinholtz from The Colbert Report. Snippets: "There aren't enough resources in the world to bring everyone up to the Western standard of living, so industrialization will never bring about worldwide economic equality and fairness; it will always create and perpetuate the opposite." "Technology has always and always will lead to increased unemployment. People at the bottom become easily replaceable and redundant, making them poorer and poorer."

  3. 4 out of 5

    Aurélien Thomas

    The Luddites came to be known as a bunch of technophobic vandals, stuck in a dying past and destroying machines in a vain attempt to stop progress. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth as Kirkpatrick Sale shows here in a very interesting retelling of their story. Putting their protest back into the troubled context of the time (a burgeoning Industrial Revolution while the whole of Europe is in political turmoil) he sheds a new light upon their motivation, goal and ultimately, if not The Luddites came to be known as a bunch of technophobic vandals, stuck in a dying past and destroying machines in a vain attempt to stop progress. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth as Kirkpatrick Sale shows here in a very interesting retelling of their story. Putting their protest back into the troubled context of the time (a burgeoning Industrial Revolution while the whole of Europe is in political turmoil) he sheds a new light upon their motivation, goal and ultimately, if not predictably, doomed failure and impact. How Luddism itself evolved during its short-lived period and, how it was then perceived, makes thus for a fascinating read: '(...) the workers' grievance was not just about the machinery -it never was just the machinery throughout all these years- but what that machinery stood for: the palpable, daily evidence of their having to succumb to forces beyond their control, beyond their power even to influence much, that were taking away their livelihoods and transforming their lives.' My only issue was that, he uses the last chapters to draw parallels with the computer age we are going through, venting his concerns about how technology is abused by what he sees as a capitalist system exploitive of both people and the environment. You may agree or not with his stance -strong and very engaged. I personally felt that, although interesting, he was here just ranting about, throwing thousand-times-heard complaints without any solid evidence to substantiate them, as if preaching to converts. Now, of course if you are one of those converts then, surely you will find it all very relevant and straightforward. As I am not (at least to some extent) I believe it was off the mark and even unfair to link the disparate worries of various anti-this and anti-that to the Luddites, who at least had a clear concern in mind! In a word, 'Rebels Against the Future' brings a new understanding of Luddism but, as a supposed 'Lessons for the Computer Age' I found it over simplistic.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Brooks

    This is a history of the Luddite Rebel in England in 1812 with three chapters tacked on about how this applies to current technology trends. King (or General or Ned) Luddite was a fictional leader of the rebellion. All letters and threats were in his name but no such person can be identified nor the exact origin of the term. The cottage industry of weavers and spinners was rapidly being replaced by factories in the midlands area of England with upwards of 100,000 workers replaced by factories hi This is a history of the Luddite Rebel in England in 1812 with three chapters tacked on about how this applies to current technology trends. King (or General or Ned) Luddite was a fictional leader of the rebellion. All letters and threats were in his name but no such person can be identified nor the exact origin of the term. The cottage industry of weavers and spinners was rapidly being replaced by factories in the midlands area of England with upwards of 100,000 workers replaced by factories hiring vastly fewer women and children. This was made worse by the high taxes to fund the war against Napoleon and the embargo by the US from the War of 1812. Groups of men would go to factories at night to bust up machines, some assassinated factory owners, and there were food riots. This was stopped by the massive occupation of the area by the British army, spies, and making frame breaking a capital offense. The history is excellent however the end chapters comparing the situation in 1812 to today is a bit on the over-dramic side. It is filled with the horrors of displaced manufacturing jobs and the looming horror of computer invasion of privacy.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Shaun

    This is a well researched account of the brief and incredible Luddite uprising in England during the Industrial Revolution (specifically attributed to events between Nov. 1811 - Jan. 1813 in central England). Sale does a fine job of illustrating the rapid degradation in the lives of the working class in England during the rise of the mechanized workplace, and gives a compelling argument for the frustration and desperation that led people to band together to destroy the new machines which had put This is a well researched account of the brief and incredible Luddite uprising in England during the Industrial Revolution (specifically attributed to events between Nov. 1811 - Jan. 1813 in central England). Sale does a fine job of illustrating the rapid degradation in the lives of the working class in England during the rise of the mechanized workplace, and gives a compelling argument for the frustration and desperation that led people to band together to destroy the new machines which had put them out of work. Sale has the figures to back up his perspectives but thankfully doesn't rely on spouting a load of statistics to convince you how things were - rather he relies on passionate writing and a sharp understanding of power. One unsettling aspect of this book is in the last couple chapters, where Sale discusses the Second Industrial Revolution and the rise of the Computer Age. Written in 1996, he's still essentially pre-internet, or at least writing from a time when the internet (which he still refers to as an "information highway") isn't nearly as prevalent as it is now. His analysis is pretty chilling in this regard, although I would be more interested to read an updated afterword to the book instead of a disturbing "period piece" from only twelve years ago, although it doesn't de-value his perspectives any. It's unfortunate that the term "Luddite" is, in a contemporary sense, primarily used in the derogative - I told one friend I was reading a book on the Luddites and she laughed and said "there really were Luddites?!" Hell yes there were! And the full scope of what they were doing and why they were doing it ought to be more commonly understood.

  6. 5 out of 5

    CTEP

    I recently read Kirkpatrick Sale's "Rebels Against the Future," a book that was about two parts history and one part argument about technology's role in society, both then and now. Sale begins by describing a pivotal attack on an industrial mill near Nottingham (of course prompting many references to Robin Hood, who may be based on historical people whose quest was not all that different from the Luddites), in which the mill owner finally fought back with violence. Sale then outlines the disastr I recently read Kirkpatrick Sale's "Rebels Against the Future," a book that was about two parts history and one part argument about technology's role in society, both then and now. Sale begins by describing a pivotal attack on an industrial mill near Nottingham (of course prompting many references to Robin Hood, who may be based on historical people whose quest was not all that different from the Luddites), in which the mill owner finally fought back with violence. Sale then outlines the disastrous effects the Industrial Revolution and the introduction of "technologies harmful to the common welfare" not only put these spinners and weavers out of work, but also chipped away at their traditional society by replacing community bit by bit with impersonal isolation in a factory system where those who could find work did so for little pay, long hours and no allowance for human intereaction. Sale then continues to outline the arc of their rebellion, including Lord Byron's impassioned address to the House of Lords on their behalf, many mill attacks, political assassinations and, finally, the unprecedented military crackdown that brought it to an end. Throughout the arc, one thing is consistent: the repeated turning of a deaf ear to the Luddites' grievances by the Governement, who put almost dogmatic faith in the "freedom of labour" The last third of the book then takes all the information and patterns Sale laid out in the historical section and applies the same frame of thinking to today'y "post-industrial" world, and makes the shocking discovery that our "post-industrial" innovations are having quantitatively and qualitatively very similar impacts on our society to the impact made by the industrial revolution. Sale ties in environmental destruction, the staggering rich-poor gap that has developed in the US and around the world and the widespread destruction of traditional community-based social systems in favor of increasing isolation and the "got mine" mentality that the authors of "Your Money or Your Life" talk so much about. The source of the problem? Sale claims it is our modern technology, or, at least, the mode of thinking that gave rise to the technology and flows from it: the clean, rational logic that dictates that if there are "resources" available, it is in everybody's best interest for us to use them for new feats of scientific and industrial progress, because more is better, right? Or, put more simply, to paraphrase inventor of the computer John Von Neumann, "If we can do something, we will." Sale contends that this line of thinking is irrevocably intertwined with Computer Technology, and the creation and use of such technology demands it. Needless to say, this was quite a challenging book to read, partly due to its bleak outlook on our society, but more so because it essentially directly challenges what I try to do during my CTEP service on a day to day basis. I come to the library and every day I attempt to educate people how to use computers, following the belief that to be a fully-functioning member of today's society, one must have computer skills. This is essentially the line of thought that our entire program is built on. Would Sale, were he to comment these 15 years after the publication of his book on CTEP's goals, argue that instead of helping people by helping them to feel ownership of this technology and acquire the skills to use it and thus empower themselves, we should be working to dismantle the institution of technology and the grip it has on our society? Or put differently, have we got it all wrong? Ultimately, I had to decide the answer was "no." While the problems of our society are the same in nature but greater in scale than they were at the launch of both the Internet and NAFTA (the time of this writing) but greater in scale, technology's role has definitely changed. More and more, technology is powering the Green Revolution (the topic of another of Sale's books, which I am curious to read now) by developing very energy efficient devices and harnessing new and cleaner sources of energy. Technology may have put many of the people I help out of work (one was once a printer, for instance, a profession whose name mostly refers to a digital device today), it also creates new jobs, and instead of merely isolating people (which undoubtedly it does), the Internet had created a boundless forum for creative expression and interchange and hundreds upon hundreds of virtual gathering places from all over the world. While Sale's arguments still have weight, one has to keep things in perspective and remember that there are many mitigating factors at work, and that technology isn't going anywhere any time soon, so we should still work to empower people to use it. I would recommend this book to any CTEP member who wants to have their ways of thinking about technology challenged. While the nature of the argument isn't exactly anything new, the sheer amount of evidence Sale uses to back them up and the historical perspective he uses forces one to stop and seriously consider them. Many of his predictions didn't come true (for instance, he predicted that by 2005 there would be virtually no old growth forests left in the world. I read this book just miles from one.), and his consternation at the idea of an "information superhighway" almost sounds laughable now, but many of the other things he says bear some weight. However, this book was annoyingly one-sided in its arguments. Sale does not seem interested in having a balanced or moderate conversation about technology, but rather condemns it more harshly than almost any present-day person I've heard. A little balance in the arguments would probably actually lend his own some weight by demonstrating that he has the capacity to understand them compassionately. All the same, a worthy and thought-provoking read, as evidenced by the tremendous length of this report.

  7. 5 out of 5

    6655321

    If there were a (10th or 15th Anniversary) Edition of this that cut the entire second half out of the book (that is: Chapters 8, 9 & 10) this book would be vastly improved for it. I think Sale's project (showing a historical continuity between Luddites and proto-anti-civ mostly anti-certainthingstheydon'tlikeaboutmodernity groups) is laudable but the 1995 publication date makes it really drag (especially cause he takes a pretty watered down mothership earth approach to his anti-tech in the later If there were a (10th or 15th Anniversary) Edition of this that cut the entire second half out of the book (that is: Chapters 8, 9 & 10) this book would be vastly improved for it. I think Sale's project (showing a historical continuity between Luddites and proto-anti-civ mostly anti-certainthingstheydon'tlikeaboutmodernity groups) is laudable but the 1995 publication date makes it really drag (especially cause he takes a pretty watered down mothership earth approach to his anti-tech in the later chapters) while the first 7 chapters literally fly (and if you are a fan of EP Thompson, Marcus Reddiker, Peter Linebaugh, Sylvia Federichi, etc. its a nice accompaniment) but the last 3 really just ruin everything.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rick

    Pretty interesting stuff, but Sale gets a little carried away with his modern-day, computer-age comparisons. I was much more interested and entertained by his actually history and less so by his commentary.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Emerson Lima

    O termo "Ludita" chegou a mim por conta de algumas histórias de inimigos da tecnologia nos gibis do Homem de Ferro. Desde então, há em mim um fascínio por saber que tais figuras não somente já existiram de fato como reaparecem de tempos em tempos sob as mais diversas roupagens. Livro interessante sobre desemprego no Século XXI e as lições que a revolução industrial deveria ter nos ensinado. O termo "Ludita" chegou a mim por conta de algumas histórias de inimigos da tecnologia nos gibis do Homem de Ferro. Desde então, há em mim um fascínio por saber que tais figuras não somente já existiram de fato como reaparecem de tempos em tempos sob as mais diversas roupagens. Livro interessante sobre desemprego no Século XXI e as lições que a revolução industrial deveria ter nos ensinado.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Betty Taylor-Roth

    This is a GREAT book ! Everyone should read it. The Luddites are a very misunderstood group of people. Kirkpatrick Sale did a fantastic job.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    Originally picked up this book due to my interest the history of the Luddite Movement and to that extent the book was quite good and well researched. However, the book also includes sections on the applications of the lessons of which, given the book's original publication in 1995, has not aged well in the intervening years with the rise of the internet. Ultimately the authors basic thesis that improvements in technology leads to a upheaval in industry and the loss of jobs as they are replaced b Originally picked up this book due to my interest the history of the Luddite Movement and to that extent the book was quite good and well researched. However, the book also includes sections on the applications of the lessons of which, given the book's original publication in 1995, has not aged well in the intervening years with the rise of the internet. Ultimately the authors basic thesis that improvements in technology leads to a upheaval in industry and the loss of jobs as they are replaced by automation. From the standpoint of the historical research and discussion of the Luddite Movement I would give this book around four stars; however, the thesis on the applications of the lessons of that movement to the modern day only earns around two stars so I'm cutting it down the middle and calling it three stars. This is one of those books that would benefit greatly from a revised edition from the author or even being republished with the focus solely on the Luddite Movement in and of itself.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Russell

    I found that I really really liked the last three chapters of this book, as well as the Intro and first two chapters. The middle which covered the Luddites in more specific detail while interesting were a bit slower for me to get through. There's a lot in here that seems to be inline with some of the ideas I've seen elsewhere such as Jaron Lanier's "Who Owns the Future" and Jay Griffith's "A Sideways Look at Time". Having found those to be pretty engaging and as I seem to become more and more re I found that I really really liked the last three chapters of this book, as well as the Intro and first two chapters. The middle which covered the Luddites in more specific detail while interesting were a bit slower for me to get through. There's a lot in here that seems to be inline with some of the ideas I've seen elsewhere such as Jaron Lanier's "Who Owns the Future" and Jay Griffith's "A Sideways Look at Time". Having found those to be pretty engaging and as I seem to become more and more reactionary against the prevailing culture around me here, it should come as no surprise that this is stuff that I found myself thinking "huh, yeah, maybe that's a pretty good point" quite a few times in Sale's characterization of neo-Luddites. Anyway, I liked it a lot even if it is super hypocritical of me to say so.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kat

    An interesting combination of History Of British Luddites 1811-1813 and Neo-Luddite Manifesto. Has an excessively romantic view of pre-industrial societies, at least (specifically) where the Amish are concerned, although I have no first-hand experience of the other groups he mentions. The history part is well-researched and thorough; the Luddites were a fascinating movement that not a lot of people really know about--apart from the ubiquitous anti-technology epithet that has as much to do with t An interesting combination of History Of British Luddites 1811-1813 and Neo-Luddite Manifesto. Has an excessively romantic view of pre-industrial societies, at least (specifically) where the Amish are concerned, although I have no first-hand experience of the other groups he mentions. The history part is well-researched and thorough; the Luddites were a fascinating movement that not a lot of people really know about--apart from the ubiquitous anti-technology epithet that has as much to do with the actual Luddites as the epithet "Puritan" has to do with the settlers who founded my great city. (Which is to say, there is a certain general similarity but the specifics and details have been lost.) The manifesto part was interesting and gave me a lot of things to think about.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Randy

    Fascinating look at the experiences and frustrations of English cotton-workers before, during and after the industrial revolution (1810-1820s), and continues into how the lessons and experiences translate to modern society and automation.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Carl Sewall

    A fascinating glimpse at a largely forgotten or misunderstood moment in history--and an important part at that. Totally changed my views about our relationship with technology, capitalism, industrialization, and even Romantic poetry. Fantastic book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Mishap

    The telling is a bit disjointed, but an overall good history of the luddites and the rise of industrial capitalism. The second half of the book details the 2nd industrial revolutions--the computer age--and this is well worth reading.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Antonio Lopez

    The ultimate book on Luddites.

  18. 5 out of 5

    John

    Interesting discussion but enjoyed the history of the movement anyway

  19. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Frank

  20. 4 out of 5

    Anon Smith

  21. 4 out of 5

    Eric F

  22. 4 out of 5

    Gonçalo Bonelli

  23. 5 out of 5

    Leon Bailey

  24. 4 out of 5

    Wade Charlton

  25. 4 out of 5

    Eric Menninga

  26. 4 out of 5

    finn

  27. 5 out of 5

    Seth Graves

  28. 5 out of 5

    Russell

  29. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

  30. 5 out of 5

    Derek

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