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12 August 2016

The Unabomber - a study in technological insight

One man and his hut
Today's "must listen" is a fascinating programme about the Unabomber - remember him?
It focuses on the psychology of someone who was unable to relate on a calm basis with people round about him. Even his mother recognised that. Yet he was a mathematics professor at Berkeley and undoubtedly understood some fundamental truths about technology, the main one being that it is likely to destroy society and nature as we know it. 

I must say I largely agree with him there. 
However, the Unabomber's solution reflected Churchill's judgement on Lenin, of whom he said: "His aim to save the world; his method, to blow it up." 

In this case the targets were individuals who were advancing technology. He, by contrast, lived a completely reclusive life in an almost entirely natural situation. He was the ultimate sustainable individual. He was a conservationist. His was a virtuous life. His ideals were unimpeachable. The only problem was that he thought, like Sir David Attenborough, that people are the problem.
We know so much about him because he wrote diaries and letters obsessively. He did so because he did not communicate verbally. 

If you are interested in the psychological problem of people who are forced to live alone, both literally and metaphorically, because they can only broadcast and not receive, you will not be disappointed. The interesting language angle on this is how boringly he wrote. That is what egomaniacs are left with. They are not thinking of the reader. They are like Professor Zorkin - see entry below: 6 December 2013 - the Chairman of the Russian Constitutional Court. However, at least he does not blow people up. Her merely allows the state to act freely, which in some circumstances comes to the same thing.

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