Published June 25, 2013
Ted Kaczynski, aka the Unabomber, was rightly imprisoned for life in 1998 for sending bombs that maimed and killed three people and injured 23 more, from 1978 to 1992. No one can excuse his terrorism.
Kaczynski’s ideas, however, described in a manifesto entitled, "Industrial Society and Its Future," cannot be dismissed, and are increasingly important as our society hurtles toward individual disempowerment at the hands of technology and political forces that erode autonomy.
“Industrial Society and its Future” was published on September 19, 1995 by The New York Times and The Washington Post, to comply with Kaczynski’s demand, in exchange for him stopping the bombings.
Kaczynski, who is still alive, wrote that the increasing industrialization of America and the world, and our increasing reliance on technology, would end up short-circuiting the ability of human beings to think for themselves and act on their own ideas and abilities.
He saw the political “left” as embracing these technologies with special fervor, because they were in keeping with the “leftist” ideology that centralized power was the way to govern men.
He saw these “leftists” as psychologically disordered—seeking to compensate for deep feelings of personal disempowerment by banding together and seeking extraordinary means of control in society.
Well, Kaczynski, while reprehensible for murdering and maiming people, was precisely correct in many of his ideas.
Watching the development of Facebook heighten the narcissism of tens of millions of people, turning them into mini-reality TV versions of themselves, I would bet he knows, with even more certainty, that he was onto something.
Witnessing average Americans “tweeting” about their daily activities as though they were celebrities, with fans clamoring to know their whereabouts, he must marvel at the ease with which technology taps the ego and drains the soul.
Thinking about the widespread use of GPS, he must wonder whether anyone realizes that following illuminated maps to get where you are going actually erodes your real sense of direction—on highways and, perhaps, in life.
Hearing about Google Glass – a new device that will only sap the ability of users, in my opinion, to see anything clearly, Kaczynski might even prefer the reality of the iron bars and solitude of his cell.
At least they, he may be thinking, are real.
And having seen Barack Obama elected, in part, by mastering the use of the Internet as a campaign tool, then watching his administration preside over eavesdropping on the American public, monitoring their emails and tapping their phones, denying them their due process and privacy, and making a play to disarm them, Kaczynski, must wonder what it will take for Americans to wake up to the fact that their individuality and autonomy—indeed, what constitutes the core of a human life—is under siege (by the very forces he predicted—technology and leftist political leaders).
What the Unabomber did was reprehensible. And he was wrong: Killing people to bring attention to his ideas ended up making most people lock up his ideas, along with him. They became unmentionable, for politically correct folks.
Well, I would rather be correct, than politically correct. And it is time for people to read “Industrial Society and its Future,” by convicted serial killer Ted Kaczynski. His work, despite his deeds, deserves a place alongside “Brave New World,” by Aldous Huxley, and “1984,” by George Orwell.