Dylan Evans, sometime Lacanian psychoanalyst, popular science writer, and robotics lecturer, is trying to establish a time-limited low-tech sustainable utopia in Scotland from next March: “In a word [sic], think of a cross between Plato’s Academy and The Beach.” The FAQ gives the most detailed rundown of what it’ll be like (yes to internet access, maybe to mobile phones). To explain his anti-technology rationale:
Theodore Kaczynski – to give him his real name – was, for a while, the most wanted terrorist in the US. Between 1978 and 1996 he conducted a sporadic letter-bomb campaign, killing three people and wounding 29 – many of whom were involved in computers in some way. But Kaczynski was not just a terrorist – he was also a brilliant writer, and it is for this that he deserves to be remembered.
Few people today read Kaczynski’s essay on “Industrial society and its future” – otherwise known as the “unabomber manifesto”– which is a shame, because in my opinion Kaczynski’s essay is the most incisive critique of modern civilisation ever written, even more penetrating in its analysis of modern life than the works of Marx, Durkheim, or Weber. As such, it deserves to be widely read, regardless of the author’s crimes. Many people have remarked on the crispness of the style and the clarity of the arguments. In the year 2000, the co-founder of Sun Microsystems, Bill Joy, was so impressed by Kaczynski’s arguments that he published an influential essay warning against the dangers of artificial intelligence. A few years later, Joy decided he could no longer continue “working to create tools which will enable the construction of the technology that may replace our species”, and quit his job in Silicon Valley. It was reading Joy’s article that first made me aware of the unabomber’s manifesto. I read it, and like Joy, I too was so persuaded by the arguments that I decided to abandon my research in artificial intelligence.