Sunday, 23 March 2014

The Kaczynski Syndrome

I would broadly define the Kaczynski Syndrome as a syndrome, a feeling of  righteous anger directed at the surfeit of technology that has been steadily leaching away the human capability for creativity. ‘Kaczynski is known for having become so enraged by the impact of modern technology on human society, that he decided to kill to make his point.- . The post mentioned above reads, ‘A central and perhaps the most revealing part of Kevin Kelly's recent book What Technology Wants, is his discussion of the argument of Theodore J. Kaczynski, a.k.a. The Unabomber.‘ An article published by Dr. Keith Ablow on the 25th June, 2013 on Fox News. com titled, ‘Was the Unabomber correct?’ reads, ‘Kaczynski’s ideas,… described in a manifesto entitled, "Industrial Society and Its Future," cannot be dismissed, and are increasingly important as our society hurtles toward individual disempowerment at the hands of technology and political forces that erode autonomy. “Industrial Society and its Future” was published on September 19, 1995 by The New York Times and The Washington Post, to comply with Kaczynski’s demand, in exchange for him stopping the bombings.’ Ted Kaczynski, a terrorist by profession cannot be forgiven for the trail of terror that he had unleashed before being apprehended, but then, the so called anger that he had, was aimed at a section of the society that was deliberately exploiting technology so as to make inroads into the privacy of individuals living in one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world.
The Kaczynski Syndrome is the results  from a feeling of disgust for the  overwhelming impact of technology on individual freedom to lead a private life in peace! While popularity and fame are thrilling at times,  privacy and anonymity might prove most welcome at other times! The resulting  rebellion is directed at a world that is becoming more and more claustrophobic and limiting because of the fact that we are becoming more and more wired. Social networking sites, and increasing use of information technology has meant that we are becoming more and more exposed to the  prying eyes of  hackers, mischief mongers, newsmongers, and  inquisitive eyes of ‘Big Brother’. In many cases, our inclinations, likes and dislikes are shared by social networking sites to those willing to pay in the interests of market research, propaganda techniques, and marketers. The twenty-first century might as well be labelled as the century in which individuals have had the least privacy when compared to their predecessors in the previous centuries. The age of cyber-snooping, phone hacking, and cyber tracking has left well meaning individuals most vulnerable and insecure. Some of the most innocuous comments or posts made on social networking sites are known to have resulted in the most acrimonious and public spectacles of divorce, and at times loss of jobs. The sharing of profiles by social networking sites with marketing agencies that sell insurance and other services has meant that you receive pesky calls from telemarketers  who want to sell you an insurance scheme that you are least interested in, or for that effect, a financial planning scheme, or perhaps even a loan that you really don’t require. How do ‘they’ get your contact number? Or for that effect, how do they get your e-mail address? Well, all the information is out there on the net – don’t be surprised if they know how old you are, or your marital status, or perhaps even what your credit rating is. The introduction of the Aadhar Card in India is an attempt to create a database on all the citizens living in the country, a commendable task no doubt, but then wouldn’t the sharing of so much information on the web and such databases make you a target of the most inquisitive of mischief mongers? A technologically advanced life in the twenty-first century has meant that you can’t live without technology, whether it is in the form of your smartphone, or that tablet, or for that effect your laptop which is wired to the internet 24X7!
T.V. viewing has become rather addictive what with the loads of titillating and melodramatic stuff, gore, and violence that is being broadcast. The question is do we need all this stuff all the time? Hasn’t technology reached a point where it has become an overkill of sorts? Imagine my chagrin when my students keep grumbling about the amount of writing that they have to do, which in any case is lesser than the amount of writing that my parents did when they were in school or even when I was in school too! What is the start of a protest in the form of grumbling then changes into requests that I should send the questions on the net and check their answers on line! They just don’t want to write anything on paper! Do I blame my students? No, I can only blame a technology that has made them so helpless and easily fatigued that they cannot write a few sentences in their notebooks without  sighs  of helplessness and flexing of fingers in order to take up the strain! Have the advantages of technology somehow meant that we are ready to sacrifice our individual rights of determinism just because we are lazy and lack initiative. By readily succumbing to the ease and comforts of technology aren’t we all somehow losing our right of determinism, right to choose, and make an individual stance? By using technology excessively, especially information technology, we might, in fact be playing into the hands of unscrupulous organisations that are out to make inroads into our private lives. Recently while reading a book by Clive Cussler and Paul Kemprecos titled, Polar Shift, I came across the following lines, ‘The organization of Elites that he was part of knew that political ends were not achieved by guns alone but by close surveillance and total control of all communication.’ The book itself contains elements of what I would define as the Kaczynski Syndrome in the villains, Gant and Margrave who, ironically want to destroy the hold that corporations have over individual freedom and determinism by inducing a Polar Shift. They call this project ‘The Freedom Project’ although Gant’s motives are suspect. The villains in the book advocate ‘anarchism’ as an antidote to the slavery and lack of freedom in a world of technology and scientific advancement.
This brings us back to the Kaczynski Syndrome-is it an expression of disenchantment with technology that that is too invasive? Can we, therefore equate the syndrome with a ‘Back to Nature movement’ that advocates minimalism and a life of hardships bereft of the comforts of technology? I guess, it is! This sense of rebellion against the benefits of technology is expressed very clearly in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and it finds voice in the Savage and the Savage Reservations in the book. The Kaczynski Syndrome is clearly an expression for freedom and determinism as opposed to the conformism imposed by technology. If the syndrome is an expression of rebellion against the conformism imposed by technology, what then could be the antidote? Well I guess the first thing to do would be to unplug. The second would be to resort to a minimal use of technology, walk that extra mile to your destination. The third would be  probably to meditate/pray. Yet another  thing to do is to take regular periods of break, go to places where you have no internet connectivity, be close to Nature, appreciate the beauty of Nature as opposed to the artificial beauty of technology. Take up a hobby that binds you to nature, photographing the splendour of Nature could be self-fulfilling.
It is ironical however that the very technology the the writer is terming to be invasive is the technology he is using to reach out to his readers. A clarification to this effect is that the writer of this article doesn’t intend to condemn technology outright, rather he means to warn his readers about total dependence on technology which might turn out to be harmful in the long run! While the writer doesn’t advocate minimalism or extreme self-denial, he doesn’t however also advocate being connected to the internet 24X7! What he advocates is a proper balance between the comforts of technology and the hardships of minimalism. While the Kaczynski Syndrome might find its extreme expression in actions of the Una Bomber, it might be however be also evident in the discontent expressed in other less harmful ways. In any case a further study of the syndrome might help understand how technology is impacting human endeavour,  freedom and the essential humanness for dissent, non-conformism and creativity.
Sources/Suggested Reading:
2. Dr. Keith Ablow - ‘Was the Unabomber correct?’25thJune, 2013, Fox News. com
3. Huxley, Aldous- Brave New World-Flamingo Modern Classics 1994 edition
4. Cussler Clive and Kemprecos Paul- Polar Shift-Penguin Fiction 2007 edition
Note-Those who would like to go through the actual manifesto of the 'Una Bomber' might click on the link given below:


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