Some years ago (more than a decade, anyway) I attended a National Semiconductor conference called "Communicating the Future." The presenters were talking all about how, in the years to come, technology was going to allow such breakthroughs as worldwide wireless Internet access via satellite.
Then, a representative of the FCC spoke, pointing out to the assembled crowd that this technological dream had a flaw. There were some countries that didn't want their people to have that kind of access, because they controlled their populations by controlling information flow. The crowd was warned that such a country might actually shoot down the offending communications satellite in order to maintain its own hold on power.
Fortunately, both sides were a little off. It turned out that cellular telephony networks became the premier wireless link to the Internet, and the countries with satellite-killing weaponry found they could control information flow via the servers if they desired. More importantly, they found that a relatively free flow of information was essential to their economic health. The anticipated resistance to new technologies simply didn't arise.
More recently, though, I encountered indicators of resistance on the consumer, rather than governmental, level. Looking at the comments following an Engadget article about MCU-based medical devices -- linked to by a Microcontoller Central reader on our message board -- I see a lot of anti-technology remarks about what a bad idea this medical device is, despite its manifest benefits.
I don't know if these folks are cynical, paranoid, ignorant, or some combination of the three. Perhaps they were trying to show how clever they were, or were being critical just to hear themselves talk. But perhaps their comments are an indicator of a rise in Luddite mentality.
The Luddites fought against the technologies that were changing the economy around them at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution by destroying machinery in factories. Well, we're in the business of changing the world now, using microcontroller-based designs. The rise of smart devices connected through wireless networks, for instance, has the potential of making huge changes in the way society functions. Will the Luddites of the 21st century be trying to undermine that work?
Outright violence is unlikely, but how about nuisance lawsuits and ridiculous new laws and regulations? These may be the avenues for today's Luddites to kill innovation. On one of the Canadian news channels my TV picks up, folks in Vancouver were angry about the installation of new "smart meters" the power company was installing. They were suing to have them removed because they feared the radio emissions so near their homes might be dangerous.
Have you observed Luddite mentality in either your personal or professional encounters? Let us know. As foolish as some of these Luddites seem, they may have the power to interfere with our work and neutralize what we are trying to do.