Terrible Technology: Bad News for Luddites

Meg Ryan’s live-in in Sleepless in Seattle 2 (aka You’ve Got Mail) was a Luddite of the first degree. He was a writer who eschewed the computer for his beloved typewriter. He was making a valiant stand against a formidable foe.

A couple of things can be said about advances in technology: They will change us and they cannot be withstood.

The digitizing of music files and their easy dissemination in an mp3 format has forever changed the way we listen to music (there may never be another Dark Side of the Moon). But no effort to stop this change has proven successful, Napster’s demise notwithstanding.

I write sermons differently now that I do the whole process on a computer. I have been irretrievably changed by the process. But I can’t go back.

Technology will always have curses mixed in with its blessings. But there is simply no way to stand in its way, and so we adapt to it.

I’m stimulated in these thoughts by the technological advances of the Middle Ages. According to Barbara Tuchman in her book A Distant Mirrora major advance incorporated in 14th century structures was invented sometime in the 11th: the mantled chimney.

I think most of us looking back would say that this structural improvement was a huge step forward over the typical ‘hole in the ceiling’ approach popular before then.

But this advance was not without its social consequences. As Tuchman notes:

As distinct from a hole in the roof, these chimneys were a technological advance of the 11th century that by warming individual rooms, brought lords and ladies out of the common hall where all had once eaten together and gathered for warmth, and separated their owners from their retainers. No other invention brought more progress in comfort and refinement, although at the cost of a widening social gulf.

Surely someone should have stood in the gap and have opposed this technological advance.


Note: One can expect occasional posts stimulated by this wonderful book as I read it over the next, oh, 18 years or so. My grandson saw it and said, “Wow! That book must have a thousand pages!” He wasn’t far off.


One thought on “Terrible Technology: Bad News for Luddites

  1. Packing books tonight and came across that one. In the fall, the boys will probably be studying that time period, so I'm planning on reading this book then. Thanks for the recommendation.

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