Ted Kaczynski, also known as the “Unabomber,” was born on May 22, 1942, in Illinois. A mathematics prodigy, Kaczynski taught at the University of California at Berkeley before retreating to a survivalist lifestyle in the Montana woods. Between 1978 and 1995, Kaczynski mailed bombs to universities and airlines, killing three people and injuring 23 more. FBI agents arrested Kaczynski in 1996, and two years later he was sentenced to life in prison.

Kaczynski saw something in technology that caused him to lash out with violence. He was able to articulate that what that "something" was with surprising clarity in a sprawling, infamous 35,000-word manifesto titled "Industrial Society and its Future" (click me for the unabridged text of "Industrial Society and its Future"). In meticulous, scholarly precision, Kaczynski makes his primary claim that “freedom and technological progress are incompatible,” and that therefore technological progress must be undone.

Kaczynski ’s argument basically goes like this:

  1. Personal freedoms are constrained by society, as they must be.
  2. The stronger that technology makes society, the less freedoms.
  3. Technology destroys nature, which strengthens technology further.
  4. This ratchet of technological self-amplification is stronger than politics.
  5. Any attempt to use technology or politics to tame the system only strengthens it.
  6. Therefore technological civilization must be destroyed, rather than reformed.
  7. Since it cannot be destroyed by tech or politics, humans must push industrial society towards its inevitable end of self-collapse.
  8. Then pounce on it when it is down and kill it before it rises again.

In short, Kaczynski claims that civilization is the disease and not the cure. "Industrial Society and its Future" has been influential among radical movements that emphasize either Radical Environmentalism, Neo-Luddite notions of Tribalism or a combination of both (which includes but is not exclusive to Anarcho-Primitivists, Green Anarchists, Post-Left Anarchists, National-Anarchists and Neotribalists).

"Industrial Society and its Future" is barely known outside of these movements, however, which makes it rather difficult to find sources that approach Kaczinski's manifesto in a critical manner. So, basically, what I'm asking for is this :

If we ignore the obvious moral implications of his killing spree and focus exclusively on the theory Kaczynski expressed in his "Industrial Society and its Future", can you point out any flaws in this theory and/or reference quality sources that attempt to expose those flaws?!

(click me for the unabridged text of "Industrial Society and its Future")

  • 2
    I find it ironic that (1) he used technology (i.e. bombs, even if home made) to try and bring down society, (2) his "freedom" spree got him locked up in prison. In any case, there is much more to be said about freedom and society. (Also, please don't bomb people.)
    – Eliran
    May 27 '16 at 14:36
  • @EliranH Right, it kind of indicates that he never really accepted the point 5 above.
    – user9166
    May 27 '16 at 18:37
  • The part of point 7 "humans must push industrial society towards its inevitable end of self-collapse" seems to imply leveraging the industrial/technological society to destroy itself, but that is in direct conflict with the first part of point 7 and point 5. May 27 '16 at 21:25

One current philosopher and theologian, Robert Barron, would dispute this claim by looking at what is meant by the word "freedom." Freedom, in Kaczynski eyes is the ability to do whatever one pleases. However, another dictionary definition for the word "freedom" is "familiarity or openness in speech or behavior." As Barron often points out, familiarity or fluidity in speech or behavior actually requires constraints: eg one becomes good at piano not by mashing on keys but by learning scales.

Obviously, some societal constraints (eg: unjust laws) go against freedom, but at least in one tradition constraints are needed for freedom (eg family relationships, friendships, contracts). Seen in this light, increasing technology is morally ambiguous - it comes both with challenges and opportunities.


Point 2 seems contrary to recorded history. It is pretty clear that over a vast sweep of time from the 1600's to the 1900's technology increased alongside freedom for the vast majority of society. We escaped much of the control of the system of vassalage, the Catholic Church and various other hegemonizing institutions and greatly equalized access to resources. This seems to obvious to require any reference.

Point 3 requires the perspective that we and our technology are not part of nature, which seems odd. We are an animal species which shapes its environment to suit its goals, like ants. We are not a separate thing from nature. Consider the perspective of someone like James Lovelock.

Point 4 seems real. As noted by, for instance Ray Kurzweil and his observations about 'The Sigularity', politics changes at a much slower rate than technology, and our biology and politics have not been able to keep up with ongoing change, much less get ahead of the curve in a way that would give our social contracts leverage over the continued change.

It is not obvious that this is a bad thing, from a position like that of the Sovereignty movements or The Rainbow Family, or even mainstream Libertarianism. Attempts at human control of human activity tend to backfire due to excessive dependence upon misapplied theory, as noted by the sociologist Robert Merton, and this continuing wave may lead us to ultimately scale back and accept the internal limitations of our politics to domains where its effects can be honestly tested.

Point 5 again does not seem to follow recorded history. Soviet attempts to control technology clearly did seem to impede its progress, even though their aims were to advance it, that involved attempting to 'tame' it, and did, in fact, not strengthen it. The political ascendency of Lysenko, for instance, coupled with a planned economy that gave him power over technology planning did ensure that development resources were squandered and that progress was measured inappropriately in a major sector of the world economy.

Based on at least three flawed premises, the ensuing points are not warranted.

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