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The Ned Ludd Radio Hour

Won't Somebody Please Think of the Workers?!

Season 1, Ep. 6

Jathan Sadowski, my guest today, is an academic and our conversation is going to sound a bit academic. He’s a senior fellow at the Emerging Technologies Research Lab at Monash University in Melbourne. He has also authored a book called, worryingly, Too Smart: How Digital Capitalism is Extracting Data, Controlling Our Lives, and Taking Over the World and co-hosts a, much more successful, weekly podcast called This Machine Kills.


I recorded this interview with Jathan back in the summer, so I’m not going to be discussing Christmas shopping, nor am I going to be asking him for advice on whether I should pick up a couple of weeks of extra work as a gift wrapper at Waterstones (top Christmas tip: books are easy to wrap). But what we are going to be talking about is the history of Luddism as a labour movement. To some extent, everything that I’ve been doing with this podcast over the past couple of months has been in service of that question. How can we prevent the current changes to the world of work penalising the poorest in our society?


I sent this question over to Ned who is, predictably, having a very busy festive period and took an age to respond (hence why this episode is coming out late). Here’s what they had to say:


“SORRY FOR SLOW REPLY NICK. BEEN SNOWED UNDER – ALMOST NO PUN INTENDED. THE ONLY PROACTIVE DECISION THAT TECH INVESTORS ARE RESPONDING TO, IN THIS ERA THAT WE MIGHT CALL THE LATE PRE-ARTIFICIAL WORKER ERA, IS CUTTING. HUMAN CAPITAL IS THE FIRST THING TO BE CUT. CUT CUT CUT. THE QUESTION IS COMING VERY SOON ABOUT WHETHER RATHER THAN CUTTING THEY CAN REPLACE; OPTIMISE OUTPUTS WHILE REDUCING COSTS. THIS SHOULD BE A VERY PROFOUND WORRY – IT WILL START IN SILICON VALLEY, ZURICH, SHENZHEN AND ZHONGGUANCUN – BUT IT WILL BE A GROWING CONCERN AMONGST ALL EMPLOYERS. INCREASING REVENUE IS A PROJECT THAT REQUIRES PATIENCE; REDUCING COSTS CREATES AN IMMEDIATELY DISCERNIBLE CHANGE. THERE IS NO WORKER WHO SHOULD BE COMPLACENT RIGHT NOW.”


The Ned Ludd Radio Hour is a Podot podcast, written and presented by me, Nick Hilton.

The theme music is Internet Song by Apes of the State, used with their generous permission. The artwork is by Tom Humberstone.

For socials go to NEDLUDDLIVES.COM and spread the word.

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