Remarks From Remarksman

February 24, 2009

The Unabomber Was Right

Filed under: Uncategorized — BrianB @ 6:58 pm
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Ted Kaczynski, the convicted bomber who blew up dozens of technophilic professionals, was right about one thing: technology has its own agenda.

Kevin Kelly takes a look at some of the Unabomber’s writings about technology in his article, The Unabomber Was Right.

I too argue that the technium is guided by “technical necessity.” That is, baked into the nature of this vast complex of technological systems are self-serving aspects – technologies that enable more technology, and systems that preserve themselves — and also inherent biases that lead the technium in certain directions, outside of human desire. Kaczynski writes “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.”

Kelly finds some truths in Kaczynski’s writings, but sees other points to dispute. Many of the comments at the end of the article are also quite interesting. I don’t agree with all of Kelly’s assertions, but the article is thought-provoking.

There are many aspects of technology that are not subjected to real scrutiny in terms of what is given up when adopting the new technology. Cars are an example – it wouldn’t be hard to argue that there are currently more cars in the U.S. than are really needed. But automobiles are a self-reinforcing technology: The more cars there are, the more demand there is for roads and other infrastructure (drive-through windows!) to support them. As more infrastructure is created, more people see the value of owning a car. But what is given up? Local community cohesiveness. Pedestrians and bicyclists become less safe while all the transportation infrastructure spending is spent on roads for cars. Less is spent on mass transportation.

Newspapers may disappear as people get their news from the internet, but we still need quality journalism. What other things are we giving up by adopting various technologies?

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