Preface to “Industrial Society and Its Future”
ISAIF (Industrial Society and Its Future) was first published in 1995 by the Washington Post. Unfortunately, the Washington Post’s version was carelessly transcribed and apparently was never proofread. Consequently, what came out in print was riddled with errors, including the omission of parts of sentences and even of whole sentences. Within the next few months several other versions of ISAIF were published in print or on the Internet, but all were based primarily on the Washington Post’s version, and the publishers transcribed the Washington Post’s version as carelessly as the Washington Post had transcribed the original, so that further errors were added to those of the Washington Post. Every time ISAIF was transcribed more errors were added, and the result was that ISAIF was widely distributed in severely mutilated form, while the original remained publicly unavailable. In 2008, at last, an almost correct version of ISAIF appeared in a collection of my writings titled The Road to Revolution, which was brought out by the Swiss publisher Xenia; and then in 2010 Feral House, in the United States, published under the title Technological Slavery an improved version of The Road to Revolution that included the first truly correct version of ISAIF to become publicly available. It is this version that appears here.
In ISAIF I certainly did not foresee everything; since 1995 I’ve had to modify my views in several ways. But in general terms this little book has stood the test of time. I often get letters from people who tell me that it is now more relevant than ever, and perhaps many readers will agree. Still, it will be worthwhile to point out here some of the most important ways in which ISAIF went astray.
First, in Paragraphs 163, 171–77 I speculated about the future of the technological society. I no longer think these speculations have any value; they have been superseded by Chapter Two of my book Anti-Tech Revolution: Why and How.
Second, in Paragraphs 4, 167 and Notes 31, 32, I allowed for the possibility that the technological society might be eliminated through a gradual process of breakdown and disintegration. But I now think such a course of events is so improbable that it need not be taken into consideration. The technological society may undergo a gradual process of deterioration, but only until a point is reached at which the vital systems that keep the society functioning break down all at once; just as a human body may decline through a long illness until it reaches a point at which its vital systems close down all at the same time, so that it dies.
Third, in Paragraph 154 and Note 29 I considered the possibility that advanced techniques could some day by used to identify children who might become criminals, and to suppress their criminal tendencies through a combination of psychological and biological treatments. This may actually be done in a limited number of individual cases, but I no longer think it is likely to occur on a mass basis. It now seems clear that techniques for controlling human behavior will be excessively difficult to apply on a large scale, if those techniques require individualized decision-making by the people who apply them. Much more effective are techniques that can be applied to the population in general and without distinguishing between individuals, such as the techniques of propaganda. If individualized control of behavior ever occurs on a large scale, it will probably be carried out through sophisticated computer programs that respond to individual differences without any need for individualized decision-making by human beings.
Fourth, in Paragraph 139 I wrote, “It is conceivable that our environmental problems… may some day be settled through a rational, comprehensive plan… .” This may be done with some particular environmental problems, as has actually happened in the case of ozone depletion. But I no longer think there is any chance whatever that all of our most important environmental problems will some day be settled on a worldwide basis through a rational, comprehensive plan. See Chapter Two of Anti-Tech Revolution.