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David F. Noble draws valuable parallels between our era of burgeoning technology and the technological advances of the industrial revolution. Proponents of technology during both eras, says Noble, argued that technological advancement was an essential, unstoppable force that would be inherently beneficial to humanity. Noble's counter-argument looks at the human costs of unchecked technological growth, along the way re-examining and redefining the meaning of Luddism. Noble stands in “defence of Luddism” and moves accusations of irrationalism to “the religion of technology” on which modern society is supposedly based. According to him, “in the wake of five decades of information revolution, people are now working longer hours, under…show more content…
He argues that, while many processes were developed to improve metalworking after the war, the ones that ultimately prevailed were not the ones which were most efficient. He demonstrates how several alternate techniques actually had better results more quickly that the NC (Numeric Control) machining which eventually came to dominate the industries, and in fact the NC machines were often slower for a significant period of years. So why was there so much investment in the less efficient machines? Simple: the owners paid the R & D costs, and the owners were more concerned about control that about pure efficiency or quality. NC machines held the promise of being able(eventually) to manufacture high quality goods WITHOUT SKILLED LABOR (precisely like the looms that the Luddites objected to). If you depend upon skilled workers, those workers have some control, most obviously because they can't be easily replaced. If the workers are minimally skilled, they can be more easily replaced, hence the owners have more control. Is there anything in common between the age of automation now upon us and the first industrial revolution long ago (circa 1790-1840)? Yes. Both surged ahead with technical progress and production, and eliminated jobs without jobs for the workers. Both claimed that technological progress was inevitable and would automatically put things right.
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