The term “Luddite” emerged in early 1800s England. At the time there was a thriving textile industry that depended on manual knitting frames and a skilled workforce to create cloth and garments out of cotton and wool. But as the Industrial Revolution gathered momentum, steam-powered mills threatened the livelihood of thousands of artisanal textile workers.
Faced with an industrialized future that threatened their jobs and their professional identity, a growing number of textile workers turned to direct action. Galvanized by their leader, Ned Ludd, they began to smash the machines that they saw as robbing them of their source of income.
It’s not clear whether Ned Ludd was a real personor simply a figment of folklore invented during a period of upheaval. But his name became synonymous with rejecting disruptive new technologies – an association that lasts to this day.
Questioning doesn’t mean rejecting
Contrary to popular belief,