At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, English weavers protested the arrival of mechanized looms by smashing them with hammers. They viewed the new technology as a threat to their livelihood and way of life. The concept of mass production, in all its dehumanizing efficiency, was an anathema to these craftsmen.
In the wake of destroyed machinery, industrialists would find the names "King Ludd", "Ned Ludd", "Ludlam", or "Ludlum" scribbled on the walls. The protesters became known as "Luddites". In that mercantilist age, the emerging class of industrialists who purchased the looms enjoyed the support of the crown. Consequently, the Luddites' protests brought harsh retribution, and resulted in the hanging of 14 of the ringleaders.
The origin of "King Ludd" and the other similar names has been lost to the shadows of history, but the name "Luddite" denoting a person who fears technology has endured. However, what the Luddites feared, was not the technology itself, but the loss of individuality, and self-sufficiency it represented.
The Luddite movement was a watershed event at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. We look back on it now from the end of that era. The Industrial Revolution was a fascinating period that brought about profound changes in the human condition. In addition to the labor unrest the Luddite movement foreshadowed, we saw increased urbanization and mechanization. And we coined new terms like anomie and alienation to describe what we were experiencing.
While many today blindly fear technology, Neo-Luddites embrace it. We see the personal computer as a great emancipator. Within each computer is the power to fulfill a dream. We no longer need to work to enrich others, because we have limitless opportunities to work for ourselves. Like those Luddites who spun garments in their cottages, we present unique creations to a community of intellect from our own homes. We have come full-circle. It is Capitalism much the way Adam Smith envisioned it, with information as the medium of exchange.