Luddites - Financial Crisis and Austerity: the Role of Technology

Ned Ludd tony at
Fri Oct 4 13:10:48 BST 2013

Dear friends,

we having problems with our Yahoo email account and so are sending 
you this update from a new address.  If you need to reply, please 
reply to the normal address: 
<mailto:luddites200 at>luddites200 at  If you get 
this update twice due to te technical problems, please forgive us.


1. Breaking the Frame 4; Financial Crisis and Austerity; the Role of Technology
2. Report on BTF3; Gender and the Politics of Technology

The Breaking the Frame series is progressing extremely well: the 
third meeting was again very lively and well attended. The idea 
behind the series is to show the commonality between different 
technology politics issues, rather than just have a series of 
meetings on disparate issues. So we want to encourage everyone to try 
to come to as many of the meetings as possible, rather than just to 
the one that you have a special interest in, or are campaigning on. 
As usual, the next meeting will be preceded at 6pm by an open 
discussion on some basic issues in the politics of technology, to 
which all are welcome.

1. Breaking the Frame 4 Financial Crisis and Austerity: the Role of Technology


The ongoing financial crisis has exposed the fragility of the banking 
and finance system, and the 2008 crash would have been impossible 
without the 'dark magic' of computer-generated derivatives. But while 
we continue to debate banker's bonuses, automated High Frequency 
Trading has taken over the stock market, creating new volatility as 
algorithms complete trades in milliseconds.  Back in the real world 
of austerity created by the crisis, automation is contributing to 
public sector job loss, as workers are replaced with machines.  How 
can we get technology to serve people not profit?

When: 7pm September 9th 2013
Where: Fairly Square Bar & Cafe, 51 Red Lion St London WC1R 4PF

Introductions from:

Dave Dewhurst, <>Occupy London Economics 
Working Group

Corporate Watch and Kaput, tbc

For more information and the full list of forthcoming events visit 
the <>Breaking the Frame 
blog or contact luddites200 at

2. Report on BTF3; Gender and the Politics of Technology

The third Breaking the Frame meeting again generated a very lively debate.

Well-known author and campaigner, Cynthia Cockburn, introduced the 
discussion, focusing on technology and work, and how it creates not 
only social class but also gender roles. Typically women have been 
excluded from jobs requiring a high degree of technical knowledge, 
and are placed in the role of operators of machinery. Cynthia's 
research showed that this pattern persisted during the introduction 
of electronic machinery, with male engineers typically being 
responsible for managing systems and hardware, even though women have 
to some degree been able to get involved in designing software. As a 
result, men still occupy the higher status and better-paid jobs in 
nearly all industries. Cynthia's talk can be found 

David King of Human Genetics Alert talked about the inherent gender 
politics of the technocratic society of the last 400 years and the 
way in which that is played out in reproductive technologies. The 
Scientific Revolution of the 17th Century marked a shift from a 
medieval cosmology that saw the world as a living organism, and 
nature as female, to the modern world-view which sees nature as 
mechanical. The key philosophers and scientists of the Scientific 
Revolution wrote of the need to dominate and control nature through 
technology, and their language was full of gendered metaphors about 
the need to pacify the unruly female. This attempt to repress and 
control the female can also be seen in the contemporaneous witch persecutions.

In the 20th Century, technocracy began to get to grips with human 
reproduction, and its first step was the eugenics movement. Again, 
the fundamental idea was to control the randomness and mess involved 
in the mixing of genes in sexual reproduction, in order to create a 
better-planned and more efficient society. The eugenics movement 
tended to target women rather than men, for example in the 
sterilization of unwed mothers and the classic eugenic texts, such as 
the study of the Jukes family, focused on pointing out how all the 
descendants of a particular woman were criminals, prostitutes, and 
supposedly of low intelligence. However, eugenics movement also had a 
benign face for women; pioneers of birth control such as Marie Stopes 
in Britain and Margaret Sanger in the US were committed eugenicists. 
This double-edged nature of technocratic progress continued 
throughout the 20th Century, for example, in the population control 
movement, which was again closely connected to the eugenics movement. 
Of course, when not being coercive, the availability of contraception 
created genuine benefits to women in allowing them to control their 
own fertility.

A series of technological interventions in reproduction, including 
contraception, pre-natal testing, the general medicalisation and 
hospitalisation of childbirth and IVF and other reproductive 
technologies, continued throughout the 20th Century, with positive 
and negative aspects for women. Reproductive technologies use strong 
hormonal drugs with major side-effects for women, the long-term 
health effects of which have been poorly studied. In the last 15 
years, the demand for donor eggs for infertile women led to the 
creation of a commercial egg trade in which Eastern European women 
were subjected to extremely high doses of hormones in order to 
maximise egg production, with some cases of major health problems. 
Surrogacy has also created an international trade with poor Indian 
women often being forced into the role of surrogates by their 
families, while Western couples simply fly in and pick up the baby 
that they commissioned. Finally, throughout much of Asia, pre-natal 
testing and the abortion of female foetuses has led to a deficit of 
over 100 million women. In the UK, there has recently been 
controversy over a decision by the Crown Prosecution Service not to 
prosecute two doctors who agreed to perform abortions on women who 
stated that the reason for the abortion was that the child was a girl.

Connie Hunter of the Women's Environmental Network intended to speak 
about GM technology and its impact on Third World women farmers, but 
was unfortunately unable to attend, so her talk was read out by the 
facilitator of the meeting, Gail Chester. Connie pointed out that GM 
crops will affect men and women differently depending on the gendered 
division of labour in different places. The research agenda of 
biotechnology is dominated by white men in developed countries and 
research is targeted towards industrial agriculture, not subsistence 
farming. In many countries, women choose and preserve seed, but their 
knowledge is not respected by the system that develops commercial 
seed. The patenting of seeds and the use of hybrid seeds can lead to 
reduction in genetic diversity and makes whole communities dependent 
upon the external source of seeds. GM crops can increase the use of 
pesticides and women can be more vulnerable to toxins at certain 
times in their reproductive cycles. Overall, instead of seeing GM as 
the solution to feeding the world, rural women tend to view GM as 
part of the corporate food-production system that undermines their 
food security. Connie's talk can be found at 

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