The Four Quadrants Of Ludditism

  1. Passive Optimism: Technology removes low-rent D-grade activities bogging us down, letting us focus on value-added tasks that are more in keeping with our ridiculously overpowered PFC. Dishwashers and washing machines got rid of boring household tasks so I could get a job. Computers did away with file-keeping, file-retrieving, and file-shredding so I could actually process them. Calculators did away with all those painful sheets of rough paper that I could now use for differential calculus instead. Every technology is a solution to a task I either cannot do or do not enjoy doing. It isn’t like the Kindle reads itself to itself, Autotune doesn’t listen to its own songs or sing on my behalf during Karaoke. I am outsourcing all that is boring, monotonous, oppressive about my labor, and keeping only that sliver of labor I am actively proud of.
  2. Active Optimism: Technology will let us level-up, but not by accident, we will have to actively design that paradigm where we are operating on a level above the technology, by discovering, or frequently inventing, that new level. There are many foreseeable disadvantages that this technology might subtly inflict on us over a long enough term or diffuse enough method that it might go unnoticed. Before we implement it, we have the opportunity to transcend it. Plato was a Luddite. He was fatalistic about how the technology of the written word might damage humanity. People will lose the art of listening, remembering the spoken word, and repeating the remembered word with high fidelity. He also realized it was unstoppable. To combat what would be lost when face to face discourse and dialogue were replaced rapidly by the neutral, impersonal written word, he actively sought to develop, strengthen and perfect the language of logic. Math did not lose anything when transferred from the spoken word to the written, it was one layer of abstraction higher. Through Plato and Aristotle reacting to the disruptive technology of writing, we received the system of logic that allowed us to transcend the era of auditory epistemology.
  3. Passive Pessimism: What if we cannot transcend the technology we create. What if it’s wrong to assume that we are only biologically capable of creating technology that we could biologically transcend, that it is a subset of our own abilities, but exaggerated in certain ways that would be unsustainable for a biological entity to display in a complicated trade-offs of traits, like the physical force and stamina of a steam engine, the repetitive fidelity of a computer, and the vocal cord of Pavarotti. What if technology is created on abstract concepts that transcend our biological form in a way that separates its current performance and future potential from the constraints that our biology might place on us. If the technological concept has transcended our biology, say a hypothetical General A.I that will improve itself, then there is no space left for us to transcend that technology ourselves. But then are we capable of conceptualizing a technology that transcends our biology? Regardless of whether this paradox is resolved or not, my passive pessimism means I don’t believe it possible to do in the wake of General A.I what Plato did in the wake of writing.
  4. Active Pessimism: This is the classic Luddite. The technology must not exist. The cat can certainly be put back in the bag. Coffee and Milk can certainly be unmixed. All it takes is a sufficient number of pickaxes, torches and retweets. Burn the witch.




A novel insightful exercise to determine the pragmatic difference in intellectual payoff between a novel insight and an obvious fact mistaken for novel insight.

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