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Aleksandr Shoronov
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Glitchy Da Vinci. "Nedd Ludd"

Audio #

In audio is being used soundtrack Savestate — Leaving the Atmosphere

Transcript #

To Mr Smith Shearing Frame Holder at Hill End Yorkshire

Sir

Information has just been given in that you are holder of those detestable Shearing Frames, and I was desired by my Men to write to you and give your fair Warning to pull them down... if they are not taken down by the end of next Week, I will detach one of my Lieutenants with at least 300 Men to destroy them and furthermore take Notice that if you give us the Trouble of coming so far we will increase your misfortune by burning your Buildings down to Ashes and if you have Impudence to fire upon any of my Men, they have orders to murder you, & burn all your Housing

Signed by the General of the Army of Redressers

Ned Ludd

Hey-Yo! This is the Glitchy Da Vinci podcast!

At the beginning of the show, you've heard the letter that was addressed to one of the prominent users of the shearing frames: Mr George Smith, the owner of the factory in Huddersfield, England. Shearing frames, machines with shears (large scissors) which could cut off fuzz from the cloth, during the beginning of the 19th century became very popular in the cloth-making industry of that time alongside other machines invented here and there. The Industrial Revolution made significant progress and become a threat to dozens of workers. Let me explain: at that time cloth were expensive and every household couldn't afford many clothes because of the price. The reason for that was quite prosaic: most of the cloth-making process was very complicated, required a lot of specialized steps and mostly was done by skilled artisans. Someone needs to take raw wool or cotton and spin it into yarn, someone will weave it usually with handloom, and other ones will take twenty-kilograms shears (large scissors) and will crop fuzz out the cloth. I would say that artisans were paid quite well, and they even had the freedom to work for themselves (hello, freelancers!). They could easily waste money and come to bars on Sundays and get out of the hat five-pound note and drink alcohol for sake of good perks and a nice workweek. Artisans even had a tradition called "St. Monday". As you can guess it's hard from time to time to come back to work from the wild party that happened the last weekend, that's why not take a day off for blue Mondays.

So, the labour market for that type of workers was like fertile soil, but for employers of that time it was usually a nightmare and the seed of reflection: "Why do I need to pay to all of these spinners, weavers, croppers if I could just replace them with some automatization?". And it actually comes to life: the Industrial Revolution gave birth to many of machines that slightly started replacing human labour from places where it was possible to do this kind of replacement.

Careless average craftsman of that time realized that this movement might put him or her out of work and decided to act. Newspapers of that time were full of anonymous messages from workers to owners of factories with the "enemy" machines. People, in reality, started organising groups that raid factory buildings and tried to destroy factories' equipment. These groups of people even created a secret oath-based organization named the Luddites. Origin of it covered by the fog of uncertainty: some legends are talking about an apprentice Nedd Ludd who in 1779 allegedly smashed two stocking frames. This name becomes a basement for folks about General Ludd and King Ludd who was like a Robin Hood for Luddities and was often the author of signatures of anonymous newspaper messages and written threads to factories' owners. He was said, to even holed up like a leader of noble robbers in Sherwood Forest. But that was invented more likely, which helped people be more organized.

Apogee of the Luddites movement was the introduction by the British Parliament of the Act 1812, Destruction of Stocking Frames. Actually, there already was an active act from 1788, but authorities were terrified by the Luddites, especially in light of recent revolution movements from the neighbour country, France. The last significant violation action was a smashing of Heathcote's lacemaking machine in Loughborough in 1816.

Why I'm talking about Luddites? Actually, recently we are all in the IT community become witnesses to a new AI revolution with neuro networks with large language models. This week was a significant one in light of the appearance of an open letter "Pause Giant AI Experiments". Authors and all signed persons (one of them are Steve Wozniak and Elon Musk i.e.) suggest pausing the training of networks more powerful than GPT-4 to half of a year to "develop and implement a set of shared safety protocols for advanced AI design and development that are rigorously audited and overseen by independent outside experts. These protocols should ensure that systems adhering to them are safe beyond a reasonable doubt" because "powerful AI systems should be developed only once we are confident that their effects will be positive and their risks will be manageable". At the moment of the recording of this episode, this letter already got almost two hundred signatures. In reality, it's not the first letter about this topic. In 2015 there was another open AI letter even with almost the same concerns and with almost the same group of signatures. So, I've decided to tell the story of Luddites to make some parallels in the history of humanity. We are in the moment of another important revolution in the World, but should we be like the Luddites of the 19th century and be scared about the future without human engineers in IT? I am pretty sure that we shouldn't. At least I think nobody could stop progress and everybody should try to think about how to use tools and systems that will be developed, and integrated into the real world as a result of this revolution. For example, I've started to develop more with the help of the Copilot system. And sometimes this symbiosis makes my everyday job easier and I think that modern Neo-Luddites, especially in IT could lose these advantages of the upcoming revolution. The only thing that makes me upset is a monopoly of such things that becomes very popular, and I agree with this point of the letter which I've talked about. I think that in the nearest future, we won't expect significant changes in the manner of development, but it's hard to predict what will happen in the distant future and I hope this future brings as not only the power of AI but their freedom.

If you had the pleasure to listen to this episode, please like it, share it with your friends and leave a comment if you want: what do you think about the future of IT engineers with AI? Will AI put us out of job, or leather bugs will be useful yet? See you later, buy!