Podcasting “Gig Work Is the Opposite of Steampunk”

Why today’s Luddites should be smashing apps.

Cory Doctorow
6 min readMar 20, 2023


A woodcut of a weaver’s loft, where a woman works at a hand-loom. Out of the window opposite her looms the glowing, menacing red eye of HAL 9000 from Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey.’ On the wall behind her is the poster from Magpie Killjoy’s ‘Steampunk Magazine’ that reads, ‘Love the machine, hate the factory.’ Image: Cryteria (modified) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:HAL9000.svg CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.e

Today (Mar 20), I’m doing a remote talk for the Ostrom Workshop’s Beyond the Web Speaker Series.

On Weds (Mar 22), I’m doing a remote talk for the Institute for the Future’s “Changing the Register” series.

This week on my podcast, I read my recent Medium column, “Gig Work Is the Opposite of Steampunk,” about the worst-of-all-worlds created by bossware, where an app is your boss, and you live at work because your home and/or car is a branch office of the factory:

https://doctorow.medium.com/gig-work-is-the-opposite-of-steampunk-463e2730ef0d link to it on pluralistic.net, my surveillance-free, ad-free, tracker-free blog:

As with so much of my work these days, the column opens with a reference to the Luddites, and to Brian Merchant’s superb, forthcoming history of the Luddite uprisings, “Blood in the Machine”:


As Merchant explains, the Luddites were anything but technophobes: they were skilled high-tech workers whose seven-year apprenticeships were the equivalent to getting a Master’s in Engineering from MIT. Their objection to powered textile…