Friday, May 02, 2003

Unravelling the Unabomber

There's a debate as to whether the Unabomber's cabin should be preserved. The Unabomber, whose real name is Ted Kaczynski was a Havard-trained professor of mathematics. He become notorious for launching a 17-year bombing campaign against other academics whom be believed to be part of a slow takeover of the world by modern technology.

The Unabomber was living alone in the cabin in question in Montana when he was surrounded and apprehended by the police. The cabin was located at a remote mountainside with no electricity or water supply. It was there that he wrote his Unabomber Manifesto, condemning the evils of technology. It is strange for someone trained in the sciences to be condemning technology, but some of the things he pointed out in his Manifesto warrants reflection. His views are those echoed by the Luddites - people who think technological advance is bad for mankind.

The Unabomber and many Luddites think that we take technological advances for granted and are unaware that they are slowly taking over our lives, robbing us of our essential humanity. An example pointed out by the Unabomber in his manifesto is how we build roads to give priority to cars and not pedestrians. People, who's natural habit is to walk, has to give way to noisy polluting vehicles. We have become very unquestioning in our acceptance of technology. For instance, is it really necessary for us to travel that fast? At the price where one cannot walk 100 meters in straight line without being knocked down by a moving vehicle? Our lives have already been constrained by technology. Were people a few centuries back a lot more deprived than us in terms of conveniences? Do we really need cars, television and cellular phones?

Many Luddites do not reject technology outright. Technology does bring benefits to mankind. Healthcare has benefited a lot from technology. Computers have helped to automate many menial and repetitive tasks. The point that bears listening to from the Luddites is: are we being too casual in the way we allow technology to take over our lives without considering the price that we have to pay?

Ted Kaczynski was a sick man to have resorted to terror to bring his point across. But maybe the preservation of his cabin will at least be a reminder to us that perhaps there are simpler ways of living which are no less richer than the technology-enhanced one which we in our ignorance embrace with so much pride.

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