Has Technology Actually Made the World a Better Place?
Dr. Theodore Kaczynski is a beloved contradiction. While he is a criminal for his bombings that spanned nearly two decades, he is also an enigma who basically flipped the bird at The System. Like D.B. Cooper and many other outlaws, Dr. Kaczynski stuck it to the man.
“Industrial Society and It’s Future” is a document that requires being read over multiple times. For those of you who don’t know, this is the infamous “Unabomber Manifesto”, that led to internet darling, Dr. Theodore Kaczynski being identified as the Unabomber. If you haven’t read it yet, you can read it here.
When I read this, part of me wonders if I’m missing something. Is he talking about consumerism, mass technology, the big tech companies, massive industrialization, or all technology including technology necessary for human advancement? When you think about it, technology is everything. One could even argue that a basic pencil counts as technology since different instruments were used to write in the past.
The Unabomber Manifesto made sense during its publication in the early nineties. The United States, as well as most other Western Countries, were coming off of a cocaine-fueled drive to produce as much as possible at any cost. The environmental, human, and societal costs didn’t seem to matter. All that seemed to matter was how much and how quickly production could occur across the board. Quality flew out of the window.
This translated to other aspects of society too. Work wasn’t satisfying anymore- it was simply a way to buy more. Marriages no longer seem like they are about love- they simply seem like a way to “Keep Up With the Joneses”. With the introduction of dating apps and social media, even dating is so commoditized that many of us have simply opted out and have faith that our special person will find us by some miracle.
Most people consume overly processed crap mentally, physically, and emotionally across the board. Then, they wonder why they’re sick. Mass produced fast fashion and cheap trinkets fill landfills everywhere that kill the environment. People consume mass produced media across the board that is simply garbage and wonder why they feel depressed. It is no secret that the system is broken.
It’s also no secret that most people are cogs in a machine that doesn’t serve or care about them. We live in a world where mediocrity is put on a pedestal and everything is commodified. There is an industrial complex around everything.
In recent years, people increasingly consume fast, mass produced junk. They make poor choices to “keep up with the Joneses” and look good on social media. People are inscreasingly making purchases they can’t afford- whether student loans, homes, weddings, children, etc. This has caused “industrial complexes” to pop up in society and cause more stress. While myself and many others have opted out, people still fall prey to these traps that are set to get people to make unnecessary purchases. Technology has also pushed this message that no one and nothing is good enough. Due to technology, people seem to constantly seek out the next bigger, brighter prospect across the spectrum. This is true when it comes to almost any major life milestone.
As someone who is an advocate for old fashioned courtship, I am baffled by some of the displays of so-called “love” that are pushed on young women. While I believe that a man should take care of anything related to taking a woman on a date and should be a gentleman, there is so much pressure on relationships due to the commoditization of modern dating.
While dating apps have increased options for many people, they have also commoditized finding love to an algorithm. Where is the magic of meeting someone when the timing is right? While you can go on as many overrated coffee dates as you want and the odds tend to be good, the goods tend to be an odd waste of time. If you want to read more about why I quit dating apps, you can check it out here. Maybe I’m just a hopeless romantic. However, I feel like dating apps turn dating into a numbers game that some of us have no desire to play.
For argument’s sake, let’s say that one of those Tinder dates goes somewhere. Does an engagement ring that doesn’t cost more than ten thousand dollars or the lack of extravagant displays of “love” by buying his beloved something mean he doesn’t love her? While I appreciate a bouquet of flowers and a pretty card, I never understood the overgifting that comes with modern dating.
While I am aware that this is an unpopular opinion and I do not fault a woman for wanting a huge engagement ring, I would rather be with someone who sincerely asked me to marry him without a ring than someone who planned a half-baked couch proposal with a huge ring that cost more than most of my travels. While the average engagement ring costs $4,000, most of the people that I know who are married or engaged received engagement rings that were a minimum of $10,000. According to this article in The Atlantic, De Beers created an ad campaign that created the guidelines around engagement rings that are still practiced today. Some of these ridiculous guidelines are that an engagement ring should be expensive, precious diamonds. If diamonds made love last forever, many of your friends and celebrities that you follow who flashed their huge diamonds on social media would still be together today.
With the average wedding costing nearly $20,000, this excess and consumption translates there as well. Instead of focusing on marrying someone that they love and having a small ceremony (if they decide to get married at all), people increasingly have these ridiculously huge weddings to try to prove something. Weddings have increasingly become less about love and more about showing off how much money someone has. In the process, many wedding traditions are wasteful displays of overconsumption that really kill the romance for me.
In regards to technology, showing off a courtship, engagement, or wedding as much as many people do on social media kill most of the romance for me. While I don’t mind seeing the occasional cute photo of a couple, I don’t want to invite people into something that is so private. Some reading this may think that this statement comes from a bitter, single woman. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am incredibly happy for my friends who are taken and like all of their respective partners. However, I do not understand people who share that much on social media. Why invite everyone into your business?
As a millennial, I can also relate to an interesting phenomenon. While all of my friends who are taken are happy about it, we all know that one couple that makes ridiculous declarations of love on social media and wants to kill each other behind closed doors. If money bought love, wouldn’t all of the money they invested in their relationship translate to dating too?
Speaking of overconsumption, let’s assume that the couple I described actually likes each other and decides to have a child. Gone are the days of the simple baby shower. Instead, there is an elaborate baby shower, gender reveal (which is regularly accompanied by an elaborate photo shoot), professional maternity and newborn photoshoots, and an expensive “push present” that are expected for the mother-to-be. Advertisers have now taken over the simple joy of bringing life into the world by adding all of these ridiculous expectations. In fact, one of these gender reveals also caused a major forest fire in California that caused the death of at least one firefighter, as well as destruction to the wilderness and wildlife in the area. You can read more about it here. While I’m not a parent and do not plan on becoming one, I know that children don’t need much to be happy. A close friend recently sent me a video of her toddler finding her father’s electric toothbrush. To everyone’s delight, the little girl was entertained for hours!
Over gifting has permeated into holidays too. This increases the destruction to the environment from pollution and using resources that did not need to be used. While I have no problem with someone celebrating Christmas, Valentine’s Day, birthdays, anniversaries, or any other major life events in a way that they see fit, many gifts are unwanted or simply end up in a drawer taking up space. Instead of reusing decorations, people simply throw them away and buy new decorations the next year. While we still have Christmas decorations from the nineties, many people do not.
As someone whose thirtieth birthday is coming up on July twenty eighth, I do not want or need a huge party, gifts, or anything to remind me that I am getting older. While I am often told that I look like I’m around a decade younger than I am, I feel and act like I’m eighty most days. With the exception of a beautiful card that I will cherish and keep until the day that I die or a happy birthday text, I do not need a reminder. If someone really wants to make me happy, they can remind me that I look like a teenager, ask for my ID, and mistakienly ask me what I want to be when I grow up. This will make me happier than any gift. Most women would probably agree with me.
While the industrial system is killing our planet, it is killing people too. The excessive plastic pollution, overproduction, pollution from everyday life, and factory farming are not helping us out. While an abundance of cheap, mass produced junk food is fueling a well- documented obesity epidemic, the cheap, mass produced society is causing a mental health epidemic as well.
While technology has made many aspects of life better, many of the big technology companies aren’t helping our mental health. As someone who has openly discussed the mental health issues that they have faced over the years, I can attest to the fact that social media does not help them.
As a woman, the message that your body, clothing, or beauty isn’t good enough is rampant on social media. While there are many headstrong women like me that have learned to simply roll their eyes, there is an increasingly visible diet culture and industry that is pervasive everywhere and telling us that we aren’t good enough. There is increasing pressure to buy the newest dress, piece of jewelry, “miracle” beauty product, and new diet that will “fix” you. Instead of accepting that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, many women are enslaved by this ridiculous belief that there is a single standard of beauty that they must attain. Since media is mass produced now, it is increasingly harder to avoid. As someone with a Bachelor’s Degree in marketing, the answer why is simple. The more that you hate yourself, the more you will buy. The more that you buy, the less happy that you will be and the more that you will kill the planet (and sanity) in the process.
Ironically, Dr. Kaczynski’s lifestyle is trendy now. Many people are sick of the overconsumption and it’s degrading effects on our mental health, environment and society in general. Like many others, I have opted out of many “normal” habits of overconsumption. People are increasingly developing habits that are eco-friendly on a growing basis- whether living in tiny homes, millennials moving to rural areas since they can work remotely, thrifting, homemaking and homesteading skills, living a zero waste lifestyle, and embracing frugality to the confusion of our consumerist parents. In many ways, Dr. Kaczynski was already practicing many of these self-sufficient skills. His lifestyle also proves that you don’t need as much as you think to live a beautiful life and be happy.
While I agree with most of what Dr. Kaczynski states in his manifesto, there are a few places where I disagree.
First, not everyone has the desire or ability to have kids. If you spend five minutes around people who have no business having kids, you will see my point. In society, there is increased entitlement, laziness and rudeness among many children. It’s not the child’s fault- it’s the parent’s. People don’t always have children because they love and want them.
While I have professional and personal reasons why I will not have children, Duchennes Muscular Dystrophy runs in my family. Since it is basically a long, slow death, I’m not comfortable potentially passing it on to a child or having them be a carrier. The odds are fifty percent that I am a carrier. I am not comfortable taking a risk that would be a certain long, cruel death sentence for a child or grandchild. There is no way I could have a child with a clear conscience.
There are also psychological reasons why I would have a hard time physically having children due to abuse that I endured from relatives that I would prefer not to discuss. I have thought and prayed about adoption and fostering but, the answer I get is “no”. If that changes or I change my mind, adoption is always a possibility. People are living longer and having kids later in life. However, I do feel that you need to lead by example and care for those who can’t care for themselves- whether children, sick, old, or animals. You don’t have to be perfect but, you need to do what you can. When it comes to children, there are ample opportunities to influence them in a positive aspect. If Dr. Kaczynski made different decisions and was a free man, there would be plenty of opportunities for him to influence the next generation whether he decided to have children or not.
While technology can be a nuisance, technology can be useful. I can grow food indoors year round. I can schedule social media posts to promote my business and build it. I can handle my bookkeeping, inventory and most aspects of my professional life thanks to technology.
Another ironic point is that Dr. Kaczynski could have built an empire in Montana thanks to technology. People can set up Wi-Fi almost anywhere and he could have easily taught himself how to start a blog, Twitch or YouTube channel, self published books, start a podcast, or make any other type of content. Then, he could have shared his knowledge about living in the backwoods of Montana and made more money than he could ever dream of. While I don’t think money is important to him, it’s good to have saved for a rainy day. He could have made content, educated others, and lived his mountain man lifestyle thanks to technology. All he would have needed is a cell phone and Wi-Fi. You can learn almost anything on the internet for free and start a business for very little money. I could slap myself for how much money I thought I had to spend when I started Simply Men and Women since the actual amount needed is way less. In all honesty, he could have been a major thought leader doing what he loved and being the change he wished to see in the world. Ironically, people are increasingly leaving cities and moving to more rural areas.
Technology breaks down barriers and eliminates excuses. I go to church online, have built a few businesses and published writing online, and can teach myself anything I want to learn and brush up on old skills for free. Instead of having to specialize in something, I can make money without a “real job”. I am also brushing up on old hobbies I abandoned- such as playing the violin for the first time in fifteen years. Resources to learn languages, how to build a business, and almost anything else that you can think of are online. If Dr. Kaczynski was a free man and gave technology a chance, he probably wouldn’t have left his cabin since he could read any book he wanted to and consume free content to learn anything that he wanted to learn.
It also goes without saying that violence solves nothing. While I can sympathize with Dr. Kaczynski’s viewpoints, he is so brilliant that he didn’t need to hurt anyone to make a point. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and many other leaders in history made more progress using nonviolent principles than any violent revolutions. Bombings aside, I respect Dr. Kaczynski for being able to back up his beliefs whether I agree with them or not.
Don’t be so quick to judge someone. Brilliance can be disguised as madness. Some of the greatest minds in history were labeled “Insane” and their ideas were later proven right. People frequently reference the fact that Dr. Kaczynski allegedly has a mental illness. Regardless of whether or not it’s true, that doesn’t take away from someone’s intellect nor does it invalidate someone’s opinions. It’s completely irrelevant. Saying that someone is less intelligent or capable in any way due to a mental illness is no different than saying someone is less intelligent because they have another medical condition. For example, I have Celiac Disease and have to be hospitalized if I eat gluten. Since it’s an autoimmune disease, I have to be careful and more disciplined than most. However, it takes away very little from my life and I am just as capable as anyone else to do what I want and need to do. A mental illness is no different. If Dr. Kaczynski does have a mental illness, what the heck does it matter? It makes no difference on his intelligence, thoughts, feelings and emotions. It’s also no one’s business and he isn’t entitled to share that if that’s something that he’s dealing with. I would like to think that the stigma surrounding mental health is declining with the amount of research that is out there now. Hopefully, mental health will be treated and viewed no differently than any other medical condition
At times, Dr. Kaczynski reminds me of that one uncle that doesn’t know when to stop talking. We all have an uncle like this, myself included. This may be why the moniker “Uncle Ted”. among his unlikely Internet fandom has stuck. Unlike my uncle who doesn’t know when to keep his mouth shut, Dr.Kaczynski is incredibly brilliant and was lightyears ahead of his time. In conclusion, I agree with about eighty-five percent of his manifesto.
Unlike many so-called “activists” that I have come across who don’t know how to behave and use their “activism” as an excuse to be a jerk, Dr. Kaczynski is a thought-provoking thought leader and non-conformist whose views I greatly appreciate.
While technology has caused issues, it has solved many as well. I am personally grateful that I live in a society where I have options. Thanks to technology, people are living longer and have more time to do what they want to do. Instead of working a job you hate to be able to enjoy a few years of retirement, people are increasingly able to do meaningful work that they enjoy. With that being said, I urge anyone reading this to be mindful with how you use technology.
The final piece of advice I have is to be patient. While most of the technology that we have now wasn’t around when Dr. Kaczynski was arrested, you never know what will happen in a few years. Everything that I do for a living was not an option when I was growing up. While times change, what makes a person happy does not. While technology has many positive aspects, it will not ultimately make you happy. Consumption will not make you happy either. Instead, doing what you love with those that you love will make you happy. Ironically, there isn’t an app for that.