Covid-19 and the XXI century Luddites, by Sebastián García

Pyxis Comunicación

Friday August 7th, 2020


IDATHA co-founder Sebastián García, shares a new entry on his blog with an analogy of the Luddite Movement in the middle of the Industrial Revolution, where workers organized a movement with the aim of destroying machines that threatened their jobs, and a current event, which he classifies as “Neo-Ludism of the XXI century”, where some are trying to stop any technological applications and advance, pushing their arguments, as if it was a dogma.

“A reasoning tinged with political ideology, the presentation of a future with an absolute lack of individual freedoms and a profound lack of technical support, is what prevails in this new Neo-Ludism”, says Sebastián.

This logic, he adds, seeds distrust in the audience and an automatic reflection of resistance to the application of technologies, which could eventually benefit societies in the middle of this pandemic.

To learn more, follow Sebastián on his blog on Medium and learn about his valuable contributions by clicking here.


The Luddite movement

During the Industrial Revolution in the UK, textile workers feared for their jobs. Industrial looms and spinning machines were presented as substitutes for artisans. It would be enough with low-skilled workers to operate them, a fact that would result in a notorious decrease in wages.

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Between 1811 and 1816, the Luddites, organized with the aim of destroying the machines that threatened their jobs, confronting even the British army. The Luddite logic was simple. The destruction of their jobs was of a higher order than any economic benefit that society could receive as a result of costs reduction in production of fabrics. We will return to this topic later.

The pandemic

The pandemic associated with Covid-19 has been an impulse for the development of technologies and processes as it was a space race or a war conflict. The spreading rate of the virus made a variety of scientific areas work against the clock. It is not only imperative to develop vaccines, it is also necessary to prevent health systems from collapsing before they are ready for massive application.

The countries have adopted different measures, from the most absolute indifference, to strict mandatory quarantines, with imminent physical and psychological impact on the health of the population. The confinement and the unexpected economic shock is affecting millions of human beings.

Governments around the world have set their sights on information technologies as a tool that allows humanity to cross this path in the least painful and fastest way possible. We could affirm that this is the first pandemic in history that finds humanity with such a high degree of technological development.

The press media has filled their spaces with information related to the pandemic. This seems to attract the public, generating deep contradictions. The ratings on radio and TV increase, as well as clicks on digital media, however revenues fall due to the lack of sponsors. Raw expression of a violent domino effect.

In these spaces, offered to politicians, medics, scientists, sociologists, philosophers, political scientists, economists, recovered patients and the general public, a not so visible effect has emerged, a 21st century Neo-Ludism. A not organized movement that tries to stop all advances and technological application, pushing its arguments, as if it was a dogma.

The analysis seems to be based on the people’s data and privacy protection and the sovereignty of nations; objectives worthy of the most solid and serious analysis possible, but when viewed from an arbitrarily distorted perspective, in a sanitary emergency context, they become a dangerous enemy of public health.


A reasoning tinged with political ideology, the presentation of a future with an absolute lack of individual freedom and a profound lack of technical support, is what prevails in this new Neo-Ludism.

New figures seek to become media references, a tasty honey, at the cost of impacting the population’s health, sowing false concepts and fake news. The logic is simple. Denial on use of technologies that may threaten the privacy.

In general, there is no technical foundation, but excessively superficial comparisons with similar experiences, which proved they did not respect any regulations on the use of personal data. This logic cause mistrust and an automatic reflection of resistance to the application of technologies, which could eventually benefit people during this pandemic.

The application of Digital Contact Tracing solutions, image processing to alert the population about public spaces that should be avoided, alert systems for use of a masks, assistance solutions for medics, are just a few examples.

All of them are approached as a threat, like a copy of applications carried out in countries that do not respect the privacy of their citizens. Fear is resorted to, setting the sights on the wrong enemy, which in many cases is nothing more than a perception, based on contexts imported from other cultures. A fear not very different from Luddites, two centuries ago.

Societies must always apply a critical vision, which allows them to objectively analyze the impact of new technologies and their applications. Any analysis should never lack objectivity, serious study from different points of view and social sensitivity. When any of these elements is absent, the result of the analysis is myopic and its dissemination irresponsible.

“Men love abstract reasoning and well-elaborated systematizations, to the point that they don’t mind distorting the truth; they close their eyes and ears to all the evidence that contradicts them in order to support their logical constructions. ”, Fyodor Dostoevsky.

Pyxis Comunicación

Friday August 7th, 2020