Waymo vehicles driving around Chandler, Arizona were surprised recently when rock- and knife-wielding residents launched a series of attacks. Google’s self-driving car fleet suffered slashed tires and bruised bodies. As the NY Times put it,
In ways large and small, the city has had an early look at public misgivings over the rise of artificial intelligence, with city officials hearing complaints about everything from safety to possible job losses.
I recently chatted with Nathan Schneider about the Luddites, as we share a fascination with this early 19th century group in England that traveled around destroying the cotton and woolen mills that were stealing away their livelihood. Unfortunately for the mill owners, many were injured or killed in the process, as this machinery was not self-driving.
While today we use Luddite as a term to laugh at technological curmudgeons refusing to evolve with the times, Kirkpatrick Sale puts it best in his history of the group, Rebels Against the Future:
Beware the technological juggernaut, reckon the terrible costs, understand the worlds being lost in the world being gained, reflect on the price of the machine and its systems on your life, pay attention to the natural world and its increasing destruction, resist the seductive catastrophe of industrialism.
Need we lose our technology to save our soul? Not if we change the economic system governing it. I’ve learned a lot reading Nathan’s work, including his latest book, Everything for Everyone: The Radical Tradition that is Shaping the Next Economy, as well as the book he co-edited, Ours to Hack and Own: The Rise of Platform
During our talk we discuss the value of public and private blockchains and how even in the decentralized thrust of many blockchain projects, the old rules are just being pasted onto new ventures; how co-ops actually foster a true culture of individualism while the corporate model demands a sort of mass conformity; and interesting bits of history, such as the fact that credit cards were basically a dead industry until Bank of America launched a co-op model for banking. Only after the success of that project did privatization—and the continual debt crisis—ensue.
Ten percent of the world’s employees work for cooperatives in some capacity and, to my surprise, the United States leads the world in number of co-ops at 40,000. After hearing Nathan talk, you won’t want to smash your smartphone, but you just might question who you’re buying it from and what service provider you’re paying off every month.