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Anti-Tech Revolution: Why and How is a 2016 non-fiction book by Ted Kaczynski.

anti-tech non-fiction

1. Book Structure

There are four chapters and six appendices in the book:[1]


  1. The Development of a Society Can Never Be Subject to Rational Human Control
  2. Why the Technological System Will Destroy Itself
  3. How to Transform a Society: Errors to Avoid
  4. Strategic Guidelines for an Anti-Tech Movement


  1. In Support of Chapter One
  2. In Support of Chapter Two
  3. Stay on Target
  4. The Long-Term Outcome of Geo-Engineering
  5. Thurston's View of Stalin's Terror. State Terrorism in General.
  6. The Teachings of Jesus Christ and Their Effect on Society

2. Synopsis

In the book, Kaczynski criticizes modern technological society (or "world-system" in Kaczynski's terminology) as a "self-propagating system" (which is a "self-propagating supersystem" consisting of various "self-propagating subsystems") that only seeks short-term benefits due to natural selection. He also argues that "the development of a society can never be subject to rational human control" (also the title of the first chapter) due to the unpredictable nature of the self-propagating system's evolution. As the self-propagating system continues to evolve, it will become ever more tightly coupled and highly complex, which are factors that greatly increase the risk of a catastrophic breakdown happening due to cascading failure.

Chapter 2 provides a detailed explanation of "why the technological system will destroy itself," and predicts that due to progressive collapse, modern globalized society will completely collapse and destroy all life on the planet if allowed to continue developing in the "business as usual" scenario. Government policies will not be able to stop these self-propagating systems, since the pressures of natural selection would cause them to circumvent such policies by any means possible.

Chapters 3 and 4 provide guidelines for an "anti-tech movement." However, there is no explicit mention of violence, since the book was written at the ADX Florence supermax prison and had to pass through prison censors.[2][3]

3. Summary

Chapter 1: The Development of a Society Can Never Be Subject to Rational Human Control

The first chapter of the book presents the following reasons why the human society can never be subject to rational human control.

  • Unintended Consequences
    • Sumptuary law of Rome during the second century BC
    • Lucius Cornelius Sulla's purge
    • Laws to limit the oppression and exploitation of peasants in Italy during the 9th century AD
    • Simón Bolívar's prediction
    • Worker-housing projects in the United States during the late 19th century
    • The social reform programs of the mid-1960s in the United States by President Lyndon Johnson
    • Emergence of the Internet
    • The legislation of the Athenian statesman Solon (6th century BC)
    • Otto von Bismarck
    • 1919 Prohibition Law in the United States
    • Green Revolution of the latter part of the 20th century
    • Atoms for Peace program by President Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • Conflicts among many individual wills
  • Tragedy of the commons
  • Even if we formally empower a small number of political leaders to solve the problems of the commons, the real power of such leaders is very much less than the power that is formally assigned to them because of internal conflicts among leaders, resistance by the people under their command, and purely technical, economical factors which limit the choices available to the system's leaders.
    • President F. W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela
    • Clinton Rossiter's Analysis on the power of American Presidents
    • The failed reform of Emperor Shenzong of Song and Wang Anshi
    • Louis XIV of France
    • Emperor Joseph II of Austria
    • Joseph Stalin of Soviet Union
    • Adolf Hitler of Nazi Germany
    • Frank Norris' novel, The Octopus
    • 1830s American textile manufacture industry
    • The article "Making It in America (2012) by American journalist Adam Davidson
    • Economic failure of Francisco Franco's regime
    • Economic failure of Fidel Castro's regime
  • Every complex, large-scale society will produce self-propagating systems through natural selection. These systems will compete for power without regard to the objectives of any government that may try to steer the society. They will constitute uncontrollable forces that will render futile in the long run all efforts to steer the society rationally.
  • Even if we make the unrealistic assumption that techniques for manipulating the internal dynamics of a society will some day be developed to such a degree that a single, all-powerful leader (Philosopher king), it runs into difficulties of a fundamental kind. Who is going to choose the philosopher-king and how will they put him into power? And when the philosopher-king dies, how to ensure a long, unbroken succession of rulers who is not only competent and conscientious but also has goals and values closely approximating those of his predecessor?
  • The series of assumptions that we have had to make in order to entertain the possibility of rational guidance is so wildly improbable that for practical purposes we can safely assume that the development of societies will forever remain beyond rational human control.

Chapter 2: Why the Technological System Will Destroy Itself

The second chapter of the book presents the following seven propositions:[1]

  • Proposition 1: In any environment that is sufficiently rich, self-propagating systems will arise, and natural selection will lead to the evolution of self-propagating systems having increasingly complex, subtle, and sophisticated means of surviving and propagating themselves.
  • Proposition 2: In the short term, natural selection favors self-propagating systems that pursue their own short-term advantage with little or no regard for long-term consequences.
    • Evolution of land animals
    • Steven LeBlanc's argument on primitive societies.
    • 1920s Soviet Union which imported technological equipment from the Western capitalists.
    • Subprime mortgage crisis
    • International Trade
    • Environmental recklessness of United States and China
  • Proposition 3: Self-propagating subsystems of a given supersystem tend to become dependent on the supersystem and on the specific conditions that prevail within the supersystem.
  • Proposition 4: Problems of transportation and communication impose a limit on the size of the geographical region over which a self-propagating system can extend its operations.
  • Proposition 5: The most important and the only consistent limit on the size of the geographical regions over which self-propagating human groups extend their operations is the limit imposed by the available means of transportation and communication. In other words, while not all self-propagating human groups tend to extend their operations over a region of maximum size, natural selection tends to produce some self-propagating human groups that operate over regions approaching the maximum size allowed by the available means of transportation and communication.
    • Nile river of Egypt
    • The Mediterranean sea and roads of Roman Empire
    • Canals, Royal Road, postal relays of Persia
    • Canals, roads, bridges, postal relays of Imperial China
    • Messenger pigeons, messenger posts of Mongol Empire
    • Roads and bridges of Inca
    • The absence of long-distance transportation/communication technology in Aztec Empire and Maya
  • Proposition 6: In modern times, natural selection tends to produce some self-propagating human groups whose operations span the entire globe. Moreover, even if human beings are some day replaced by machines or other entities, natural selection will still tend to produce some self-propagating systems whose operations span the entire globe.
    • Global Superpowers like the United States and China
    • Multinational Corporations
    • Global political movements
    • Global religions
    • Global criminal networks
  • Proposition 7: Where (as today) problems of transportation and communication do not constitute effective limitations on the size of the geographical regions over which self-propagating systems operate, natural selection tends to create a world in which power is mostly concentrated in the possession of a relatively small number of global self-propagating systems.

From these propositions, the author suggests that the logical conclusion of the development of the worldwide technological system is that the planet Earth becoming the dead planet by Holocene extinction.

The author analyzes the cases below according to his seven propositions.

  • Benjamin Franklin's argument that human groups have a tendency to fall into an internal struggle when they have gained enough power and therefore no longer faces an immediate external threat
  • Charles Perrow's study on catastrophic accidents that are inevitable in tightly coupled and complex systems
  • Jared Diamond's study on collapse of civilizations
  • Drug Cartels of Mexico
  • Terrorist Organizations
  • Haredi Judaism
  • Bureaucracy of Soviet Union
  • Military Governments of Pakistan and Egypt
  • Struggle between the left and the right in the United States
  • Evolution of mammals
  • Holocene extinction
  • Environmental effects of mining
  • Environmental impact of the petroleum industry
  • Environmental impact of nuclear power
  • Environmental impact of renewable energy
  • The Law of Accelerating Returns
  • Climate Change
  • Genetic pollution

In the final part of this chapter, the author criticizes the idea of achieving technological immortality, especially that of Ray Kurzweil. The author argues, that just because rejuvenation, mind uploading, and cyborg become technologically feasible in the near future, it does not mean that the system to which humans belong will be willing to keep them alive forever. The technological system will support and take care of humans only when the system needs human labor to function. When all humans become useless, natural selection will favor systems that eliminate them. The author says that the major systems around the world are already callously eliminating useless individuals to some extent, since in the United States and Europe, welfare budgets for retired, disabled, unemployed, and other unproductive persons are being substantially reduced.

Even if humans becomes cyborgs (or man-machine hybrids, in Kaczynski's terminology) by connecting themselves to machines, natural selection will force them to purge all human qualities such as love, compassion, ethical feelings, esthetic appreciation, or desire for freedom, since the technological systems do not need human weakness. The same applies to human minds uploaded into machines.

According to the Law of Accelerating Returns proposed by Ray Kurzweil, technological progress accelerates exponentially and the technological singularity will arrive in the near future. This means that the natural selection process accelerates exponentially too, and the rate of appearances of new species and the rate of extinctions of existing species are greatly increased. Therefore on the basis of the exponential acceleration of technological development, the life-expectancies of cyborgs or human minds uploaded into machines will be quite short.

Chapter 3: How to Transform a Society: Errors to Avoid

The third part of the books presents the four postulates and the five rules for every radical movements to consider. And from these postulates and rules, the author concludes that the anti-tech movement should aim to bring about the total collapse of the worldwide technological system by any means necessary.

  • Postulate 1. One cannot change a society by pursuing goals that are vague or abstract. Instead, one has to have a clear and concrete goal. As an experienced activist put it: "Vague, over-generalized objectives are seldom met. The trick is to conceive of some specific development which will inevitably propel your community in the direction you want it to go."
  • Postulate 2. Preaching alone—the mere advocacy of ideas—cannot bring about important, long-lasting changes in the behavior of human beings, unless in a very small minority.
  • Postulate 3. Any radical movement tends to attract many people who may be sincere, but whose goals are only loosely related to the goals of the movement. The result is that the movement's original goals may become blurred, if not completely perverted.
  • Postulate 4. Every radical movement that acquires great power becomes corrupt, at the latest, when its original leaders (meaning those who joined the movement while it was still relatively weak) are all dead or politically inactive. In saying that a movement becomes corrupt, we mean that its members, and especially its leaders, primarily seek personal advantages (such as money, security, social status, powerful offices, or a career) rather than dedicating themselves sincerely to the ideals of the movement.
  • Rule (i) In order to change a society in a specified way, a movement should select a single, clear, simple, and concrete objective the achievement of which will produce the desired change.
  • Rule (ii) If a movement aims to transform a society, then the objective selected by the movement must be of such a nature that, once the objective has been achieved, its consequences will be irreversible. This means that, once society has been transformed through the achievement of the objective, society will remain in its transformed condition without any further effort on the part of the movement or anyone else.
  • Rule (iii) Once an objective has been selected, it is necessary to persuade some small minority to commit itself to the achievement of the objective by means more potent than mere preaching or advocacy of ideas. In other words, the minority will have to organize itself for practical action.
  • Rule (iv) In order to keep itself faithful to its objective, a radical movement should devise means of excluding from its ranks all unsuitable persons who may seek to join it.
  • Rule (v) Once a revolutionary movement has become powerful enough to achieve its objective, it must achieve its objective as soon as possible, and in any case before the original revolutionaries (meaning those who joined the movement while it was still relatively weak) die or become politically inactive.

This chapter also analyzes the historical figures, revolutions, and radical movements below.

  • American Revolution
  • The Teachings of Jesus Christ
  • Prophet Muhammad
  • Karl Marx
  • The Reformation
  • Environmental organization Earth First!
  • Feminist Movement in 19th and 20th century (Suffragette)
  • Russian Revolution
  • French Revolution
  • Chinese Communist Revolution
  • Civil-Society Movement in Mexico
  • Irish Nationalist Movement

Chapter 4: Strategic Guidelines for an Anti-Tech Movement

The fourth chapter of this book presents 30 guidelines for anti-tech revolutionaries to follow. The author recommends anti-tech revolutionaries to study the works of Leon Trotsky, Saul Alinsky, Philip Selznick, and Neil Smelser.

The anti-tech revolution the author envisions is something like below:

  1. Deeply committed core anti-tech revolutionary group will grow its internal strength. This group will build its branches in the major countries around the world such as the United States, China, Western Europe, Russia, and Latin America. They will spread anti-tech messages and prepare for the revolution. Those messages must be selected on the basis of its soundness, not popularity. They have to prove that they are the most genuine and effective revolutionaries.
  2. Some people will recognize that anti-tech revolutionaries' message has some merit, but they will refuse its solution.
  3. In the end, a major crisis or the opportunity for the revolutionaries to cause such a crisis will arrive. The technological system will not be able to support people's physical and psychological desires. Most people will fall into despair or anger. At this point, the revolutionaries must inspire and organize them for practical action.
  4. Even so, only a small minority of the general population will actively support the revolution. However most people will only try to save their own skin or their family. Therefore, people will not defend the technological system.
  5. In the meanwhile, the power structure will not be able to effectively organize its defense because of chaos. Consequently, the revolutionaries will gain power.
  6. By the time the revolutionaries seize power, for example, in the United States, the world will be far more globalized and tightly coupled than at present. If the revolutionaries destroy the technological system of the United States, the whole world will fall into economical crisis. This crisis will give the chance to the anti-tech revolutionaries around the world.
  7. When the time for revolution arrives, the anti-tech revolutionaries must recognize it. They must push toward their ultimate goal without any vacillation or hesitation.

4. Publication History

In 2016, the first edition was published.[4] A second edition was published by Fitch & Madison in 2020.[1]


  1. Kaczynski, Theodore (2020). Anti-Tech Revolution: Why and How (expanded 2nd ed.). Fitch & Madison Publishers. ISBN 978-1-9442-2802-6. .
  2. Fleming, Sean (2021-05-07). "The Unabomber and the origins of anti-tech radicalism". Journal of Political Ideologies (Informa UK Limited): 1–19. doi:10.1080/13569317.2021.1921940. ISSN 1356-9317.
  3. Li, Ivy (2016-11-10). "A neo-Luddite manifesto?". 
  4. "Anti Tech Revolution Why And How". 2021-12-20. 
Subjects: Sociology
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