Is technology evil?
Ted Kaczynski, the convicted bomber who blew up dozens of technophilic professionals, (killing three of them) thought so. In Kevin Kelly’s book “What Technology Wants” there is a whole chapter on Ted Kaczynski – also known as the “Unabomber” and Kevin says that Ted was right about one thing: Technology has its own agenda.
But Ted Kaczynski believed that technology reduces our freedom.
so .”..Ted Kaczynski went to the mountains to escape the clutches of civilization and then later to plot his destruction of it. His plan was to make his own tools (anything he could hand fashion) while avoiding technology (stuff it takes a system to make). His small one-room shed was so well constructed that the feds later moved it off his property as a single intact unit, like a piece of plastic, and put it in storage (it now sits reconstructed in the Newseum in Washington, D.C.). His place was way off the road; he used a mountain bike to get into town. He dried hunted meat in his tiny attic and spent his evenings in the yellow light of a kerosene lamp crafting intricate bomb mechanisms. The bombs were strikes at the professionals running the civilization he hated. While his bombs were deadly, they were ineffective in achieving his goal, because no one knew what their purpose was. He needed a billboard to announce why civilization needed to be destroyed. He needed a manifesto published in the major papers and magazines of the world. Once they read it, a special few would see how imprisoned they were and would join his cause. Perhaps others would also start bombing the choke points in civilization. Then his imaginary Freedom Club (“FC” is how he signed his manifesto, written with the plural “we”) would be a club of more than himself”
“Until the industrial system has been thoroughly wrecked, the destruction of that system must be the revolutionaries’ ONLY goal. Other goals would distract attention and energy from the main goal. More importantly, if the revolutionaries permit themselves to have any other goal than the destruction of technology, they will be tempted to use technology as a tool. for reaching that other goal. If they give in to that temptation, they will fall right back into the technological trap, because modern technology is a unified, tightly organized system, so that, in order to retain SOME technology, one finds oneself obliged to retain MOST technology, hence one ends up sacrificing only token amounts of technology.
success can be hoped for only by fighting the technological system as a whole; but that is revolution not reform… . While the industrial system is sick we must destroy it. If we compromise with it and let it recover from its sickness, it will eventually wipe out all of our freedom.”
Kevin Kelly does not agree that technology limits freedom. He says: “I can only compare his constraints in his cabin to mine, or perhaps anyone else’s reading this today. I am plugged into the belly of the machine. Yet technology allows me to work at home, so I hike in the mountains, where cougars and coyotes roam, most afternoons. I can hear a mathematician give a talk on the latest theory of numbers one day and the next day be lost in the wilderness of Death Valley with as little survivor gear as possible. My choices in how I spend my day are vast. They are not infinite, and some options are not available, but in comparison to the degree of choices and freedoms available to Ted Kaczynski in his shack, my freedoms are overwhelmingly greater.”
And Kelly points out something else: “At first glance his (Kazynski’s) story seems promising, but on second look, it collapses into the familiar conclusion: He was living off the fat of civilization. The Unabomber’s shack was crammed with stuff he purchased from the machine: snowshoes, boots, sweatshirts, food, explosives, mattresses, plastic jugs and buckets, etc.—all things that he could have made himself but did not. After 25 years on the job, why did he not make his own tools separate from the system? Based on photographs of his cabin’s untidy interior, it looks like he shopped at Wal-Mart. The food he scavenged from the wild was minimal. Instead he regularly rode his bike to town and there rented an old car to drive to the big city to restock his food and supplies from supermarkets. He was unwilling to support himself without civilization.”
Kaczynski faced up to some facts that some technocritics do not: “For those who realize the need to do away with the technoindustrial system, if you work for its collapse, in effect you are killing a lot of people. If it collapses, there is going to be social disorder, there is going to be starvation, there aren’t going to be any more spare parts or fuel for farm equipment, there won’t be any more pesticide or fertilizer on which modern agriculture is dependent. So there isn’t going to be enough food to go around, so then what happens? This is something that, as far as I’ve read, I haven’t seen any radicals facing up to.”
Says Kelly: “Presumably Kaczynski personally “faced up to” the logical conclusion of taking down civilization; it would kill billions of people. He must have decided that murdering a few more people up front in the process would not matter. After all, the techno-industrial complex had snuffed out the humanity from him, so if he had to snuff out a few dozen humans on the way to snuffing out the system that enslaves billions, that would be worth it. The death of billions would also be justified because all those unfortunate people in the grasp of technology were now soulless, like he was. Once civilization was gone, the next generation would be really free. They would all be in his Freedom Club.”
In my own view, technology has two faces. Lets take what happened on 9/11/2001. Nineteen men managed to kill almost three thousand men, women, and children in a short period. Technology let them do that.
Technology permits population growth, and in some places hugely overcrowded cities grow, full of unemployed and presumably angry, stifled individuals.
Technology permitted a friend of the talk show host, Laura Schlesinger, to take a thirty year old private photo of her, modify it with computer programs so that she was naked and with disgusting attributes, and spread it. The consequences, as she says were that: “the idea that a ‘conservative’ commentator had posed in the nude turned into a media shark frenzy.. the pictures are all over the internet… Saturday Night Live used a comedian to play my minor son discovering these photos.”
In real life, Laura’s son had to cope with this in school.
Now think of the following situation. Suppose someone invents a drug that can affect behavior. Perhaps it can raise a person’s sex drive, such as the drug bremelanotide. Or perhaps it can put a person in a daze so they can be led away or robbed, like “Rohypnol” (the ‘date rape’ drug). Or perhaps it can make a person talk – like the “truth drug” code-named SP-17 that a Russian defector says is highly effective and is used to interrogate detainees in the former Soviet Union. Perhaps there are drugs that can put you in an altered state where you are suggestible. According to Jeff Nyquist, the Russians have a “friendship inducing drug”, which might seem unlikely, but a little knowledge of biology tells us about substances like oxytocin, which cause a feeling of bonding.
I claim that not only do the above drugs exist, but so do other behavioral drugs we have never heard of. And they are being used. Some were used on me.
There would be a problem in getting the drugs into victims, but I claim that this has been cleverly solved – chemicals can be absorbed through the skin, and even inhaled. I claim this is a huge problem. You can affect politicians, businessmen, and anyone who stands in the way of your agenda.
Think of the frustrated white supremacists, thwarted Marxists, greedy Mafiosi, and other alienated folk who feel the world is not the way they like it.
Technology like this can do more than just kill people, it can change them, it can ruin their reputations, and it can affect the course of history. (As you can well guess, I have a big problem convincing law enforcement that this is true.)
So yes, technology can be evil, and can do things to people who no normal force of nature can do, and I would say that Ted K used it for evil, with his hand-crafted bombs and the good people he killed.
The word Yale scientist David Gelernter used to describe Mr. Kaczynski, after a bomb in the mail blew up and did a lot of damage to him, was “evil”.
The post used to end here, but I saw a speech by Israel’s PM – Netanyahu where he talks about another technology and its relationship to evil:
I think that the development of nuclear weapons by Iran will be a pivot of history, will change the balance of power irrevocably in the world. When people with unlimited ambitions of aggression get unlimited weapons, what they believe are weapons of unlimited power, the demon is uncorked, and it’s happened before.
Up to the point when they think that they’ve got the power to work out their mad designs, up to that point, they’re careful, even though they can be quite aggressive and they are, they can use terror and they can use subterfuge and they can use many other acts of violence, but this is nothing compared to the point where they think they’ve assumed the critical mass of power necessary to carry out their fantasies. This is the greatest mistake of history – to assume that people will behave rationally when they’re fundamentally irrational when you give them the power of mass death. Iran is seeking the power of mass death…
And never mind Iran, North Korea by itself, with its missiles, satellites, and nuclear weapons, will soon be able to cause an EMP blast that could fry anything electronic in much of the United States. These are relatively small countries, at least compared with the U.S., but they have lots of hatred, and they can do lots of damage – with technology. In 1850, neither country could stand up to America – in 2020, they may be able to destroy it.
1. For what North Korea can now do, see: http://www.ruthfullyyours.com/2013/02/26/understanding-north-korea-and-iran-by-dr-peter-vincent-fry/
2. What Technology Wants – Kevin Kelly
3. I recently read a book that confirms the use of sprayed drugs by criminals – Future Crimes by Marc Goodman (2015). The drug he mentions is Scopolamine. If you want to be scared, read the various internet articles on it (not wikipedia).