Re: Fw: Ted Kacyznski, brainwashed by OSS Psychiatrist Henry A. Murray

Date: Tue Jun 20 2000 - 23:22:20 MDT

> J U N E 2 0 0 0
> Alston Chase is the author of Playing God in Yellowstone (1986) and In a
> Dark Wood (1995). He is at work on a book about Theodore Kaczynski.
> In the fall of 1958 Theodore Kaczynski, a brilliant but vulnerable boy of
> sixteen, entered Harvard College. There he encountered a prevailing
> intellectual atmosphere of anti-technological despair. There, also, he was
> deceived into subjecting himself to a series of purposely brutalizing
> psychological experiments -- experiments that may have confirmed his
> still-forming belief in the evil of science. Was the Unabomber born at
> Harvard? A look inside the files

That was an interesting article, although I don't think the author really
was able to make the case effectively that Kaczynski's path towards
violence was set during the psychological experiments that he volunteered
for at Harvard. The experimental situations were intentionally traumatic,
but they were somewhat "staged" and it's not clear that they would have
had a lasting impact.

The Unabomber is a fascinating and perplexing character. He has come
back into relevance recently with Bill Joy's article on the dangers of
future technology, where he quotes the Unabomber in a favorable way.
But this Atlantic article puts a different twist on his views:

> But the truly disturbing aspect
> of Kaczynski and his ideas is not that they are so foreign but that they
> are so familiar. The manifesto is the work of neither a genius nor a
> maniac. Except for its call to violence, the ideas it expresses are
> perfectly ordinary and unoriginal, shared by many Americans. Its pessimism
> over the direction of civilization and its rejection of the modern world
> are shared especially with the country's most highly educated. The
> manifesto is, in other words, an academic -- and popular -- cliché. And if
> concepts that many of us unreflectively accept can lead a person to commit
> serial murder, what does that say about us? We need to see Kaczynski as
> exceptional -- madman or genius -- because the alternative is so much more
> frightening.

It's not that surprising that Bill Joy finds much to agree with in
the Unabomber Manifesto. They are both approaching the question from
similar philosophical stances and come to much the same conclusion.
It may be unusual for a "technologist" to use this liberal/humanitarian
perspective, but all we really know about Joy is that he's written some
useful software. My guess is that his personal philosophy has always
been more in line with the "intellectuals" who believe that the effects
of technology are harmful. Reading the Atlantic article we are reminded
of how pervasive this view was and still is in the liberal arts colleges.

The real question is, as the paragraph above says, do these philosophical
views, followed to their ultimate conclusion by someone with the courage
of his convictions, lead to destructive ends? I think the answer is, yes,
inevitably. Kaczynski's mail bombs, Joy's call for an end to progress,
the violent activism of environmentalists and creationists alike, all
are part of the same pattern. If modern technology is harmful, and if
it seduces us onto a path to even greater and more powerful technologies
which will produce greater harm, then the only way to force people off
this path is by violence. Technology is too seductive, too attractive
for persuasion to succeed. Inevitably force must be used.

Joy may not fully realize this yet. In calling for the relinquishment
of technological progress, he may be adopting the classic liberal view
that government enforcement is equivalent to voluntary cooperation
by "society". If he can get the U.N. to agree to embargo certain
technologies, he can look the other way when coercive means are used by
the state to punish citizens who dare to dream of bettering their lives
through technology.


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