Technology

1 February 2019Review

WW Norton & Company, 2018; 576pp; £19.99

Curiosity blows things up. Or at least, it vaporises interesting rocks using a laser designed by the US nuclear bomb laboratory at Los Alamos.

I am here referring not to the intellectual motivation behind much of ‘pure’ science, but rather to Curiosity, NASA’s robotic vehicle that is analysing the chemistry of Mars. This particular sharing of technology between ‘warfighting’ and the frontiers of science is one of the many diverse and disparate facts that you might glean…

1 August 2018News

Bruce Gagnon reports on the 26th annual conference of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space

Group photo, Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space conference, 23 June, Friends Meeting House in Oxford. Bruce Gagnon in the centre with purple checked shirt. photo: PN

The 26th annual conference of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space (GN) was held from 22–24 June at the Friends Meeting House in Oxford.

Will Griffin, Mary Beth Sullivan and I went a week early to Leeds and GN board convener Dave Webb organised talks…

2 February 2018Tool

Resources from the Weaving Our Own Web dayschool in January 2018.

Peace News held the second of our Weaving Our Own Web dayschools, in January 2018, for campaigners who want to learn more about online tools that can help them with their groups, and help them win their campaigns. Here are some resources from the day:

Wordpress for campaigns by Kirk Jackson

Social media presentations are available at …

1 June 2017Tool

PN's DIY guide to meeting online

Holding a meeting by online video saves travel time, money and carbon emissions, but it does mean most people have to have access to the equipment and to the internet. (You can add someone who just has a phone, but it costs money – see below).

We’re going to talk about using Skype for internet video meetings though there are other options.

Skype has been owned by Microsoft since 2011, and Microsoft has made Skype video, audio and text messages available for capture by US…

1 June 2017Review

Verso, 2016; 160pp; £8.99

Echoing the opening lines of The Communist Manifesto, Peter Frase opens this book with the claim that ‘two spectres are haunting the Earth’: ecological catastrophe and automation.

The first is a crisis of scarcity – of fresh water (think melting glaciers), fish (think ocean acidification and overfishing), habitable places to live (think rising sea levels and rising temperatures) and so on. The second is a crisis of abundance – the prospect that our technology could soon…

1 February 2017Review

OR Books, 2016; 272pp; £13

This timely book explores how industrial co-operatives can be made relevant in our digital age. Co-operatives founded by nineteenth-century factory workers revolutionised working practices. This book proposes that digital workers must establish similar mutuals to bring about democratic governance and shared ownership of the internet’s levers of power – its platforms and protocols.

(The term ‘platform’ refers to the places where we hang out or work after we switch on our phones or…

1 December 2016Comment

What are Britain's corporate leader so worried about?

Lucas Aerospace workers proposed a bus that could run on rails as an product for their arms company. A model was built and tested, and toured the country to rally support for the Lucas Plan. PHOTO: Gillett’s Crossing [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

By the time this issue lands on your doorstep, it will probably have become clear just how much British prime minister Theresa May has been forced to back down from her signature policy of putting workers’ representatives on company…

1 December 2016Feature

Cut War, Not Jobs: an inspiring example of constructive thinking from the 1970s

The Lucas Aerospace plan was developed in the mid-1970s by workers who wanted to move the aircraft manufacturer away from military production towards socially-useful production, in order to make their jobs more secure and more productive.

Lucas Aerospace had 18,000 workers spread out over Britain in 17 different factories, making collective action a real challenge.



The workforce was also divided into 13 different trade unions, adding to the…

1 October 2016News

Alternative tech students study designs for use in Gaza and Nepal

Shelter building. PHOTO: Sam Christie/CAT

This summer, postgraduate students at the Centre for Alternative Technology explored the construction of emergency shelters as part of their MSc degree in ‘Sustainability and Adaptation’.

Led by Jamie Richardson of Shelter and Construction, the students used the examples of Gaza and Nepal to learn about sustainable construction in the context of war and natural disaster.

Though they seem simple structures, considerable thought…

1 October 2016Review

New Internationalist, 2016; 336pp; £10.99

The Bleeding Edge deftly exposes the catastrophic impacts of inequality, exploding the myth that technology has brought us ‘the best of all possible worlds.’ Examining the lives of workers at the bleeding edge of our high-tech world, Bob Hughes explains how the ‘escalating human impact on the earth has gone hand in hand with successful encroachments on egalitarian culture.’

A central argument of the book is that capitalism has given us gadgets that we did not ask for and…

1 October 2016Review

OR Books, 2015; 268pp; £12

In 2014, the renowned physicist Stephen Hawking told the BBC: ‘The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.’ ‘Whereas the short-term impact of [artificial intelligence] depends on who controls it,’ he later wrote, ‘the long-term impact depends on whether it can be controlled at all’.

Andrew Smart shares these concerns and proposes that, should superintelligent machines ever be developed, they should be given ‘the digital equivalent of LSD…

1 October 2016Feature

40th anniversary conference to revisit visionary Lucas Plan

On 26 November, a wide range of groups are organising a Lucas Plan 40th anniversary conference at Birmingham Voluntary Service Council. It is 40 years since the workers at the Lucas Aerospace arms company proposed making alternative socially-useful products, while retaining jobs.

The conference will both celebrate the achievements of the Lucas workers and, we hope, reinvigorate a movement for arms conversion and democratic control of the economy. The Lucas Plan showed that…

1 October 2016Feature

Looking back at a book that sowed seedbombs

Illustration by Clifford Harper from Radical Technology

In my early teens I picked up a book from my sister´s shelves and quickly appropriated it as my own. Unknown to me then, it was to become a profound influence on diverse aspects of my life.

At that age I was already very interested in how things worked, and in dismantling and rebuilding anything that fell into my hands, from televisions to music boxes to steam engines. The book was all about alternative technology,…

1 October 2016News

Alternative technology festival held in Wales

Janice de Haaff is proud of ‘my tiny house’. PHOTO: Lotte Reimer

On 10 September, the Centre for Alternative Technology near Machynlleth hosted the EF Schumacher-inspired ‘Small is Beautiful’ festival with an exciting mix of debates, workshops, arts and talks (spanning hydroelectricity, pee power, zero-carbon Britain, aquaponics, campaign-building, thatching, tiny homes, improvising…) with debates captured in visual minutes by Creative Connection.

Practical Action’s Paul Smith…

1 December 2015Feature

How two activists learned to code from scratch in order to build an online tool to support activist groups

Sky Christensen and Keira PatersonPhoto: eConvenor (timer photo)

About three years ago, two Australian campaigners were surprised and frustrated to discover that the next generation of student activists were making the very same mistakes in organising that they had made at university. Nothing seemed to have changed. A lot of people have had a similar realisation.

Unlike a lot of people, however, Keira Paterson and Sky Christensen decided to do something about it. ‘Sky had…