Who is Ted Kaczynski?
Ted Kaczynski was a genius child prodigy, brilliant mathematician, social critic, technophobic neo-Luddite, extreme environmentalist and murderous terrorist who was responsible for a series of bombings targeting universities and airline companies. His nickname the Unabomber originates from the FBI acronym "UNABOM" which stands for "UNiversity and Airline BOMber." (Left: The widely disseminated FBI forensic sketch of the Unabomber, by Jeanne Boylan)
Born in Chicago (Illinois), in the family of second generation Polish immigrants, Theodore John Kaczynski excelled academically from an early age. He completed high school at 15 and was accepted to Harvard University at 16. At Harvard Kaczynski participated in a CIA sponsored multi-year personality study which consisted of an extremely stressful and prolonged psychological attack during which the subject was strapped to a chair and filmed while being consistently exposed to bright lights and mirrors. According to Kaczynski's records he was emotionally stable when the study was conducted.
Kaczynski graduated from Harvard in 1962 and subsequently attended the University of Michigan. There he earned a PhD in mathematics by solving in less than a year a problem that was unsolved by one of his professors. That same professor - George Piranian, later commented by saying that "It is not enough to say he [Kaczynski] was smart." (Below: Ted Kaczynski as a young professor at Berkeley, 1968)
At 25 Kaczynski became the youngest assistant professor ever to be hired by the University of California, Berkeley, but only two years after his appointment he resigned and moved to a cabin with no running water or electricity in the wilderness of Montana.
Kaczynski's goal in Montana was to move out to a secluded area and become self-sufficient. He began learning survival skills such as tracking, edible plant identification, and the construction of primitive technologies. However, after watching the destruction of the wilderness around his cabin Ted Kaczynski realized that he could not permanently escape from industrial society and technology. It was at this moment that he decided to undertake a neo-luddite anti-technological eco-terrorist campaign which lasted from 1978 to 1995. During that period Ted Kaczynski blew up 16 bombs and was responsible for the death of three people and the injuring of 23.
In a 1995 letter to the New York Times Kaczynski promised to desist from further terrorist activities if his manifesto was published. In Industrial Society and Its Future (aka the "Unabomber Manifesto") he tried to explain, justify and popularize his militant resistance to technological progress.
The Unabomber manifesto started with the premise that:
"The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race."
Even worse was that, according Kaczynski:
"The continued development of technology will worsen the situation. [and]...advance toward its logical conclusion, which is complete control over everything on Earth, including human beings and all other important organisms."
Therefore Ted Kaczynski decided to "advocate a revolution against the industrial system. [...] This is not to be a POLITICAL revolution. Its object will be to overthrow not governments but the economic and technological basis of the present society."
In order to accomplish the above goal Kaczynski argued that two tasks need to be confronted:
"First, we must work to heighten the social stresses within the system so as to increase the likelihood that it will break down or be weakened sufficiently so that a revolution against it becomes possible. Second, it is necessary to develop and propagate an ideology that opposes technology and the industrial society if and when the system becomes sufficiently weakened. And such an ideology will help to assure that, if and when industrial society breaks down, its remnants will be smashed beyond repair, so that the system cannot be reconstituted. The factories should be destroyed, technical books burned, etc."
Similarly to Samuel Butler , the source of Ted Kaczynski's technophobia was his fear that:
"... the human race might easily permit itself to drift into a position of such dependence on the machines that it would have no practical choice but to accept all of the machines decisions. As society and the problems that face it become more and more complex and machines become more and more intelligent, people will let machines make more of their decision for them, simply because machine-made decisions will bring better result than man-made ones. Eventually a stage may be reached at which the decisions necessary to keep the system running will be so complex that human beings will be incapable of making them intelligently. At that stage the machines will be in effective control. People won't be able to just turn the machines off, because they will be so dependent on them that turning them off would amount to suicide."
"Imagine an alcoholic sitting with a barrel of wine in front of him. Suppose he starts saying to himself, "Wine isn't bad for you if used in moderation. Why, they say small amounts of wine are even good for you! It won't do me any harm if I take just one little drink..." Well you know what is going to happen. Never forget that the human race with technology is just like an alcoholic with a barrel of wine."
"[...]industrial society cannot be reformed... [because] modern technology is a unified system in which all parts are dependent on one another. You can’t get rid of the "bad" parts of technology and retain only the "good" parts. Take modern medicine, for example. Progress in medical science depends on progress in chemistry, physics, biology, computer science and other fields. Advanced medical treatments require extensive, high tech equipment that can be made available only by a technologically progressive, economically rich society. Clearly you can't have much progress in medicine without the whole technological system and everything that goes with it."
The main issue here is: Was Ted Kaczynski just a murderous neo-luddite technophobic psychopath? Or, was he also among the first people to foresee the dangers of and act against the rise of AI, the coming Technological Singularity and the demise of humanity?
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