NPR notes that we're approaching a major milestone in the history of man's relationship with machines:
Nearly 200 years ago, workers in England took up arms against technology. Weavers protested the advent of mechanized looms with violence. Named for weaver Ned Lud, the Luddites feared machines would make hand weaving extinct. The people of Huddersfield are rising up again, but this time to commemorate the city's 19th century weavers.
The first incident during the years of the most intense Luddite activity, 1811-13, was the 11 March 1811 attack upon wide knitting frames in a shop in the Nottinghamshire village of Arnold, following a peaceful gathering of framework knitters near the Exchange Hall at Nottingham. In the preceding month, framework knitters, also called stockingers, had broken into shops and removed jack wires from wide knitting frames, rendering them useless without inflicting great violence upon the owners or incurring risk to the stockingers themselves; the 11 March attack was the first in which frames were actually smashed and the name "Ludd" was used. The grievances consisted, first, of the use of wide stocking frames to produce large amounts of cheap, shoddy stocking material that was cut and sewn into stockings rather than completely fashioned (knit in one piece without seams) and, second, of the employment of "colts," workers who had not completed the seven-year apprenticeship required by law.
Frederic Bastiat, the great French economist, put it best in his satirical 1845 "PETITION From the Manufacturers of Candles, Tapers, Lanterns, sticks, Street Lamps, Snuffers, and Extinguishers, and from Producers of Tallow, Oil, Resin, Alcohol, and Generally of Everything Connected with Lighting." Bastiat anticipated the arguments against "Free!" by proposing that the legislature ban unfair competition from that pioneer of unfair competition, which "dumps" its product on the market for nothing, ruining hard-working producers of lighting products... yup, you guessed it: the Sun!
A new front in the fight between techno-optimists and Luddites has opened in the debate over the Internet. Check out Adam's great essay: Are You An Internet Optimist or Pessimist? The Great Debate over Technology's Impact on Society.