Navigating the AI Revolution: AI, Capitalism, & Finding our Focus

Jamie Arpin-Ricci
5 min readMay 11, 2023

All too often we hear the term “Luddite” being used to describe someone who is anti-technology or facetiously not adept at technology. In truth, the Luddite movement was far more complex and has a LOT to teach us today.

The Luddites were a group of 19th-century English workers (such as textile workers and weavers, among others) who are often portrayed as being anti-technology. Their resistance started in the early 1800s when the Industrial Revolution had a half-century behind it. Needless to say, it was a time of incredible innovation, but all economic and social instability. The introduction of new machinery in the textile industry, for example, was decimating the market for skilled artisan labour and displacing many workers, exacerbating already widespread unemployment and poverty.

This was very true of the textile workers, where handmade items that took individuals significant time and skill to create were suddenly being produced quickly, cheaply, and at a massive scale. The companies that utilized the machines could undersell the weavers (who they had already fired) because their profit margins were so improved, which was seen as a necessary development to remain competitive in an increasingly industrialized market.

So when the Luddite revolt led to the destruction of these machines, it was not simply because they hated or feared technology (though that sentiment was most certainly present). Rather, it was far more of a reaction to the economic displacement caused by the new technology. They were concerned with issues of fairness, workers’ rights, and the preservation of their way of life. Destroying the technology was a desperate means to an end.

Interestingly, capitalism was both a cause and a consequence of the Industrial Revolution. It was a cause insofar entrepreneurs invest in new technologies to increase personal wealth accumulation like never before. And it was a consequence insofar as that very investment led to the expansion of industrial businesses in what was previously a largely agrarian economy.

What might this teach us today? There is much to glean from these historical events as we seem to be facing the emergence of what might be called the Artificial Intelligence Revolution. This time, with…

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Jamie Arpin-Ricci

Jamie Arpin-Ricci is a bisexual author & activist with more than 25 years experience living at the intersection of faith, sexuality, and justice.