A Neo-Luddite is someone who believes that the use of technology has serious ethical, moral, and social ramifications. Operating under this belief, Neo-Luddites are critical of technology and cautious to promote its early adoption. While they are not necessarily opposed to technology, they would prefer to see a more serious discussion of the role of technology in society. Some Neo-Luddites actually dislike technology, opting for a life of "voluntary simplicity," but this is not always the case.
The term "Luddite" comes from a political movement during the Industrial Revolution. The Luddites disliked the spread of mechanical devices such as mechanized looms to accomplish tasks which were formerly performed by people. They held marches, destroyed factories, and engaged in other types of activism in an attempt to prevent further technological development. Ultimately, the Luddites were unsuccessful, but when people started to question technology in large numbers again in the 1970s, they revived the concept, calling themselves the "New Luddites," and the Neo-Luddite movement was born.
In many cases, people who have questions about the use of technology do not necessarily refer to themselves as Neo-Luddites, although some do. Instead, it is often used in a deprecating way by advocates of technology, to suggest that the thinking of Neo-Luddites is outdated and outmoded. The fantastic failure of the original Luddite movement is sometimes cited as an argument that opposition to technology is ultimately fruitless.
The Neo-Luddite position is that rather than assuming that technology is always neutral or even beneficial, people should think about the ramifications of technology. For example, advanced life support systems now allow people to live much longer than was possible in previous eras, but these lives are not always fulfilling or happy. Technology is also used in a variety of ways which could be perceived as harmful; for example, several cities use extensive surveillance systems to keep an eye on the populace, which many people see as a breach of privacy.
Members of this movement are quite diverse, although many are activists and academics. They share a similar distrust or wariness of technology, especially the role of corporate profit, rather than human need, in propelling technological change. Some Neo-Luddites are also opponents of globalization for the same reasons.
Most people would not argue with the Neo-Luddite idea that technology is changing human society, and sometimes even shifting what it means to be human. Stopping to think about the effect of technology on society is the main goal of many Neo-Luddites, some of whom freely admit that some technology can be very beneficial. As often happens with small movements which are critical of a larger social trend, the voices of Neo-Luddites are often overwhelmed by a fringe minority, making it hard for the voice of reason to be heard. Proponents of technology criticize the Neo-Luddite position, arguing that the benefits of advances in technology far outweigh the potential problems and risks.