Thursday, October 17, 2013

Food for Thought

Please read the following excerpt, written by someone you already know:

"A technological advance that appears not to threaten freedom often turns out to threaten it very seriously later on. For example, consider motorized transport. A walking man formerly could go where he pleased, go at his own pace without observing any traffic regulations, and was independent of technological support-systems. 

When motor vehicles were introduced they appeared to increase man's freedom. They took no freedom away from the walking man, no one had to have an automobile if he didn't want one, and anyone who did choose to buy an automobile could travel much faster than the walking man. But the introduction of motorized transport soon changed society in such a way as to restrict greatly man's freedom of locomotion. 

When automobiles became numerous, it became necessary to regulate their use extensively. In a car, especially in densely populated areas, one cannot just go where one likes at one's own pace one's movement is governed by the flow of traffic and by various traffic laws. One is tied down by various obligations: license requirements, driver test, renewing registration, insurance, maintenance required for safety, monthly payments on purchase price. 

Moreover, the use of motorized transport is no longer optional. Since the introduction of motorized transport the arrangement of our cities has changed in such a way that the majority of people no longer live within walking distance of their place of employment, shopping areas and recreational opportunities, so that they HAVE TO depend on the automobile for transportation. Or else they must use public transportation, in which case they have even less control over their own movement than when driving a car. 

Even the walker's freedom is now greatly restricted. In the city he continually has to stop and wait for traffic lights that are designed mainly to serve auto traffic. In the country, motor traffic makes it dangerous and unpleasant to walk along the highway. (Note the important point we have illustrated with the case of motorized transport: When a new item of technology is introduced as an option that an individual can accept or not as he chooses, it does not necessarily REMAIN optional. In many cases the new technology changes society in such a way that people eventually find themselves FORCED to use it.)"

Another excerpt of his that I found quite interesting:

"The conservatives are fools:  They whine about the decay of traditional values, yet they enthusiastically support technological progress and economic growth. Apparently it never occurs to them that you can't make rapid, drastic changes in the technology and the economy of a society with out causing rapid changes in all other aspects of the society as well, and that such rapid changes inevitably break down traditional values."

He actually saves most of his vitriol for "Leftists" (which I find somewhat less interesting!), but much of which contains some element of truth. 

The author has an IQ of 167, was admitted to Harvard at 16, and completed his graduate work at the University of Michigan, where he received his PhD in Mathematics.  One of his professors noted, "It's not enough to say he was smart".  Another professor commenting on his thesis, noted, "I would guess that maybe 10 or 12 men in the country understood or appreciated it".   He was the youngest professor ever hired by UC Berkely, though he didn't remain there long.   Though you already know him, I would guess you've never written a word he wrote.

Both of these excerpts are taken from what you probably know of as "The Unibomber Manifesto", published by the NY Times and written by the now infamous Ted Kaczynski.  While I wouldn't condone his means of obtaining fame, there is clearly some unique insight in his writing, which I would encourage anyone to check out.  

According to his Wiki page, Ted's bombing campaign was inspired by destruction which he found unbearable.  In his words:

"The best place, to me, was the largest remnant of this plateau that dates from the tertiary age. It's kind of rolling country, not flat, and when you get to the edge of it you find these ravines that cut very steeply in to cliff-like drop-offs and there was even a waterfall there. It was about a two days hike from my cabin. That was the best spot until the summer of 1983. That summer there were too many people around my cabin so I decided I needed some peace. I went back to the plateau and when I got there I found they had put a road right through the middle of it... You just can't imagine how upset I was. It was from that point on I decided that, rather than trying to acquire further wilderness skills, I would work on getting back at the system. Revenge."

I've often found that whenever someone does something extraordinary (or extraordinarily bad, in this case), there's often more to the story.  Kaczynski's story is no exception.   A blog written by his brother notes that Ted was subjected to knowingly harmful psychological experiments during his time at Harvard (believed to have been initiated by the CIA), and offers some potential insight into the actions which landed him at the federal penitentiary with 8 life sentences.  

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