A Brief History of People Resisting Technological Advancement

Look at how often change is fought in history. Here’s an example that always tickles me. The chain of events back in the twelfth century that set Europe going economically after the Dark Ages was essentially the textile revolution. A new loom came in from Arab Spain. It had foot pedals, which left the weaver’s hands free to weave faster and make more cloth cheaper. The Dutch weavers smashed the thing up because it would have put people out of work. (That was a new idea in the twelfth century.)

A generation later, when the dust had settled, in came the spinning wheel from left field-a total surprise from China. It made thread very much faster than before. When the wheel and the loom were put together, the production of cloth skyrocketed. So there were more riots, because the cloth was linen, which was made from a plant and was cheaper than feeding sheep and making wool, so the rioters were sheep farmers.

But soon everybody was wearing linen, because it was cheap, and throwing it away when they wore holes in it. So there was this giant pile of linen rag lying around fourteenth-century Europe. The price of paper dropped like a stone, because linen rag paper was the best you could make. There were more riots-sheep farmers again, because parchment was sheepskin, and it had become too expensive to use.

So here was enough paper around to put on the walls, and the scribes were going like gangbusters and pretty soon they were on strike for higher wages because it was a seller’s market. Everybody wanted their paperwork done because the Black Death was just over and everybody was inheriting like crazy. There just wasn’t enough writing ability to go around, until Gutenberg came along in 1450 with the printing press.

Now this was something the Church wanted like a hole in the head, because it would encourage free thinking-until they realized that you could print indulgences with it. People bought the indulgences, because when they did that they got remission of some sins. With all the demand for instant salvation that followed, the Church made a million-money to build the Vatican, pay Michelangelo’s bill, and generally get involved in prestigious projects that made certain German clerics really mad at this consumerist, moneymaking approach to religion. One of these Germanic chaps nailed up his criticisms, and there was the Reformation.

It’s a little oversimplified, maybe, but you get my drift. People in general would rather fight than switch.


Even though the advances ultimately benefit society as a whole, people resist and riot because they are put out of work or may lose power from the change.

Folksonomies: change progress luddite resistance

linen rag paper (0.932941 (neutral:0.000000)), field-a total surprise (0.919021 (positive:0.204307)), certain German clerics (0.868427 (negative:-0.447936)), Dark Ages (0.747583 (neutral:0.000000)), Brief History (0.747375 (neutral:0.000000)), Dutch weavers (0.743549 (neutral:0.000000)), Technological Advancement (0.743046 (neutral:0.000000)), Arab Spain (0.742768 (negative:-0.329752)), textile revolution (0.742101 (neutral:0.000000)), new loom (0.739916 (neutral:0.000000)), foot pedals (0.737394 (neutral:0.000000)), twelfth century (0.736782 (neutral:0.000000)), Germanic chaps (0.734631 (positive:0.533807)), weaver’s hands (0.728497 (neutral:0.000000)), riots-sheep farmers (0.727466 (neutral:0.000000)), fourteenth-century Europe (0.724326 (negative:-0.673135)), new idea (0.721677 (neutral:0.000000)), sheep farmers (0.716717 (negative:-0.347261)), giant pile (0.715524 (negative:-0.673135)), prestigious projects (0.714461 (positive:0.305324)), people (0.714457 (negative:-0.649305)), higher wages (0.712544 (negative:-0.475101)), Black Death (0.711727 (negative:-0.584933)), writing ability (0.703089 (positive:0.534510)), pay Michelangelo (0.702022 (positive:0.305273)), instant salvation (0.696556 (positive:0.559088)), everybody (0.659898 (neutral:0.000000)), cloth (0.647837 (positive:0.288138)), indulgences (0.602701 (neutral:0.000000)), work (0.585160 (negative:-0.649305))

Europe:Continent (0.783524 (neutral:0.000000)), Arab Spain:Country (0.705640 (negative:-0.329752)), Michelangelo:Person (0.676905 (positive:0.305273))

Weaving (0.953855): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Protestant Reformation (0.807574): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Printing press (0.774903): dbpedia | freebase
Middle Ages (0.773759): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Printing (0.719098): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Riot (0.698479): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Textile (0.635441): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Renaissance (0.627776): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc

 The Legacy of Science
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book Chapter:  Burke, James (1985), The Legacy of Science, Langley Research Center, Washington, DC, Retrieved on 2011-06-19
  • Source Material [history.nasa.gov]
  • Folksonomies: science society progress