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Are you a Luddite, Etiddul or Ludditeddul in the 4th Industrial Revolution?


At the dawn of the 1st industrial revolution, manufacturing was carried out in small workshops, often in people's home. Weaving was one of the crafts of that period and weavers spent their lives learning their trade and polishing their skills for their livelihoods. The invention of the weaving loom and the use of water and steam power to drive this new technology changed the face of manufacturing, heralded factories and new production methods which over a period of 20+ years made traditional weavers all but redundant.

The term "Luddite" which today has come to mean someone opposed to the use of new technologies that threaten jobs and livelihoods has its origins in a Nottingham weaver called Ned Ludd. Ned saw the skills he had built up over the year and his source of income trashed so he led a rebellion against the new weaving loom technologies, destroying machines. The situation was only "resolved" by the use of military action, executions and transportation of those found guilty of damaging the new looms.

Today's Luddites are to be found in organisations such as Extinction Rebellion (XR) and radical groups opposed to the impact of modern technology on jobs, livelihoods, humanity, economies, the environment and society.

A mirror image of a Luddite is an "Etiddul" or someone who demands, better, faster and more accessible technologies to make existing jobs less demanding, to create new jobs, boost the economy and improve the quality of life for everyone.

For the early part of my career, when I set up my first company to show how even the smallest enterprises could use digital technologies to offer innovative new services that competed with bid, well established organisations, I was definitely an Etiddul, preaching the gospel of the internet and desktop computing.


As a "Baby Boomer", I was very fortunate to have been born after the 2nd World War and the invention of the Atomic Bomb which, in some ways, brought the world to its senses. I witnessed and was a part of the 3rd Industrial Revolution, the Digital Age, which, like all previous industrial revolutions, brought about disruption to existing practices but contributed to economic growth and better and longer lifestyles.


Using data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), with adjustments for inflation, the above chart shows how average income for different types of jobs has changed during the 3rd industrial revolution. Some professions/trades have fared better than others.

It is during this period that "Education, Education, Education" became a mantra for economic success in a global economy. The UK has sought to make Higher Education available and accessible for everyone in an attempt to create a well-educated, highly skilled and highly paid workforce.


Whilst all this was going on, a tsunami of digital data was building up. It seems incredible to me that my smartphone and my desktop computer have more digital data stored than what was stored globally across all mainframes just 50 years ago!!


The exponential growth in digital data stored and the Web 2.0 phenomenon which made it possible for anyone with a computer to publish data via web sites and social media, placed growing demands on knowledge workers both in terms of training and qualifications and also for continuous learning.

The Transition from Etiddul to Ludditetiddul

My transition from being an evangelistic Etiddul to an enlightened "Ludditetiddul" began as far back as the early 1990s when, in charge of one of the leading presentation services companies in the UK, I saw desktop computer programs like Microsoft Powerpoint empowering my customers with the tools to design their own presentations. For me, it was the beginning of the embedding of human skills within consumer technologies. It was a challenge to the business I had built up with corporate clients all over the UK but I turned this challenge into a business opportunity by using a new communications technology called diskfax to establish the national Presentation Network with over 100 outlets across the UK delivering a 24hour service for digital imaging of customer designed presentations.

By 1998, the challenges of globalisation had led me to focus on the use of technology for local community development. I won a £250k award from the Govt for a project called "Comknet" – Community Commerce and Knowledge Network based in my rural community around the market town of Market Harborough. One Friday afternoon, in the early days of the project, I tuned in to a BBC Radio 4 interview with Alex Allan, the newly appointed Govt E-Envoy, charged with boosting the use of multimedia and internet technologies amongst UK SMEs. He was extolling the virtues of a new company called "Amazon" whom he said would totally transform the way we bought books and records. It was the way in which Amazon would "know" your preferences when you visited the store and give you a service just like your local record shop that he saw as the future.

The next morning (Saturday), I sent an email to Alex telling him about Comknet and asking him to reflect on the importance of using technologies which supported trade and knowledge exchange within local economies. Amazingly, I received a reply the same morning, inviting me to visit him in Downing Street to do an interview about ComKnet.

My transition from Etiddul to Ludditetiddul was complete by 2012 when I wrote my book called "Gadgets to God", reflecting on mankind's changing relationship with technology and warning of the consequences to the future of humanity.


Since then, I have been a devout Ludditetiddul, passionately implementing the latest desktop and smartphone applications whilst recognising that we are fast approaching a crossroads without the opportunity to turn back.

I am not alone in my beliefs and situations. Eminent and high profile personalities like Elon Musk caution the world about the dangers of AI whilst simultaneously investing in the technologies which we now associate with the 4th Industrial Revolution, namely Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things.

I suspect that every single person reading this article is a Ludditetiddul, trapped between a rock and a hard place, hoping that it will not all end in tears.

Reasons to be Fearful


The industrial unrest we are seeing in the UK are a manifestation of the challenges faced by knowledge professionals whose jobs have become increasingly demanding but whose salaries have not improved proportionately as much as those jobs made easier by technology.

A classic benchmark example to cause concern is the job of a railway engine driver whose role has become virtually redundant as a result of advances in technology, yet whose salary rises have outperformed those knowledge workers such as nurses, doctors and teachers whose jobs have become far more demanding as a result of technology.


The problem has been exacerbated (but you ain't seen nothing yet) by the Prosumer phenomenon. Patients visiting doctors often have access to far more information about their conditions and are disappointed by their doctor visits. Teachers are in an unenviable position of having to shape the future of the next generation when the tools are already in the hands of their pupils.

The Value of Apprenticeships

Trying to solve the problems that lie ahead is beyond me. I do know that I would advise any young person to forego the university education that shaped my life and focus on developing a career and trade around those skills which cannot be replicated by digital technologies.

I believe that our whole future education system should be built around good citizenship and the values of humanity vs the attractions of technology.