One of Yoshi’s compositions, Lament for the Rise and Fall of Handy Horn, instructs players to sound hand-held air horns until they run out of air; it was a particularly unpredictable piece, as the cheaply made horns often failed. “There’s a sense of humor in a lot of his work,” says Tashi. “It’s not something you might gather from listening to a recording, but with Earth Horns, it was a three-hour performance on these huge horns—there’s something kind of absurd about that.”
We’re living in quite a Luddite moment, as it happens. Many of us are contesting the social relations surrounding our technologies: should we continue to subsidize big agriculture? Should our cities continue to be organized around cars? Should tech giants be permitted to continue to gobble up each other and their small competitors, reducing the internet to “five giant websites, each filled with screenshots of the other four?” (to quote Tom Eastman).
The Luddites did what every science fiction writer does: they took a technology and imagined all the different ways it could be used – who it could be used for and whom it could be used against. They demanded the creation of a parallel universe in which the left fork was taken, rather than the right.
That is many things, but it is not technophobic. Using “Luddite” as a synonym for technophobe is an historically insupportable libel.
In truth, the Luddites’ cause wasn’t the destruction of technology – no more than the Boston Tea Party’s cause was the elimination of tea, or Al Qaeda’s cause was the end of civilian aviation. Smashing looms and stocking frames was the Luddites’ tactic, not their goal.
In truth, their goal was something closely related to science fiction: to challenge not the technology itself, but rather the social relations that governed its use.