Title: A Collaboratively Edited Discussion on Anti-Tech Politics
Date: First published: November 2022. Last updated: March 2024.
Notes: This is a live wiki page that anyone can edit directly by clicking the little writers pen symbol below to join in the discussion. Or, you can join one of these discord, reddit or matrix spaces to have discussions and potentially have some of them be added by someone else.

    1. Contributors

      Pro-Tech

      Anti-Tech

      [Insert other label for a more nuanced position here if you so desire]

    2. Defining our Terms

      Technology

      Nature/Wilderness

      Progressivist

      Ideology

      Morality

      Technique

      Technics

    3. Kaczynski’s Ideas

      Our evolution

      Jacques Elluls’ influence on Kaczynski

      Can people choose how society is run when machines are involved?

      Does modern life erode our freedoms?

      Is modern life unfulfilling?

      Has technology increased suffering?

      Would industrial society re-emerge?

      What level of violence is justified to achieve this anti-tech revolution...

    4. Getting down to the core issues

      A. Is primitive society superior to modern society?

        Positive & Negative Liberties

        The Cloud Virtue Hypothetical

      B. Do the problems with modern society arise due to Technology or are they due to other factors such as Capitalism/the state/Hierarchy.

      C. Is Anti-Tech Revolution Justified?

        The Trolley Problem and Revolution

        Flipping the hypothetical

        Any doubts or sadness related to revolution?

        Tribal vs. Ideological Allegiance in War

    5. Preventing Unjustified Violence

      What disclaimers should we use when talking about Kaczynski?

      Preventing the Fascist Creep

      The case study of ITS

      The case study of Jacob Graham

    6. Broader Questions

      General Agreements & Disagreements

      How could industrial society protect wild nature long-term?

      Ted’s Predictive Capabilities

      Would you still use domesticated animals in a peaceful world?

    7. Alternative organizing principles other groups are using such as left-anarchists

      How would you hope to bring down current governments like the US?

      Terms of the debate

    8. About the Discussion Participants

Note: This is a collaboratively edited conversation that anyone in the world can join in on, by simply pressing the writers pen symbol at the top of this page.

You simply have to add a name or nickname to the contributors list and put your name in bold at the beginning of any paragraph where you want to enter the conversation.

Try to make your contribution at the end of text dialogues, so as not to break up back and forth responses. But there's no hard rules, for example, if one person writes an extremely long text block of questions, you can suggest an edit that would break their text block of questions up into parts and answer them one at a time.


1. Contributors

Pro-Tech

  • Theo Slade — A pragmatic left-anarchist who advocates dual power campaigns and direct action up to the point of property sabotage under representative democracies during non-revolutionary periods.

  • Clay


Anti-Tech

  • Normandie — An ex-marxist who is now a bio-primitivist, with pre-industrial communist principles when it comes to caring for those in one’s own community.

  • Potash — An ex-anarcho-communist who is now a bio-primitivist.

  • Wake — A bio-primitivist who moderates a server called ‘Neo-Luddite Hub’ and helps put up posters to promote Ted’s books.

  • John Zerzan — The most widely known anarcho-primitivist author of our time. His dialogue is from a longer conversation he had with Theo.

  • Jorge — A bio-primitivist who has helped with selling Ted’s books.

  • John Jacobi — A bio-primitivist who started a few anti-tech journals.

  • David Skrbina — An anti-industrialist & long time pen pal of Ted’s, who helped publish the first collection of Ted’s writings.


[Insert other label for a more nuanced position here if you so desire]

...


2. Defining our Terms

Theo: I don’t think using a few secondary unpopular definitions for words necessarily need be a problem, so long as both parties in the discussion are aware of what definition each person is using. That way when you make a counter-argument against a person’s position you can show you’ve understood it correctly.

I’ve added some definitions used by an anti-tech advocate John Jacobi which helps show the way many anti-tech people use common terms which come up when discussing anti-tech issues.


Technology

Theo: How I understand technology is well explained by the Corporate Watch book on Tech:

Despite a very long history of tool use and ‘technological’ development, the word technology only became widely used in the 20th century. It is formed from a combination of Greek τέχνη, techne, “art, skill, cunning of hand”; and -λογία, -logia, roughly translating as “science of craft”, and originated as a translation of the German word technik.

In discussions around technology, certain ideas are frequently repeated. Most definitions refer to things (tools, machines or techniques) being used to solve problems or satisfy human needs or purposes. It is also generally accepted that the tools and machines need not be physical, that things such as organisational methods or computer software fall under the definition of technology. So does this mean something like language counts as a technology? Maybe, maybe not. Some, such as W. Brian Arthur, use extremely broad definitions, extending the meaning of ‘a technology’ as far as “a means to fulfil a human purpose”.

Science also often comes up in writing about technology and many definitions of technology refer to the the application of scientific knowledge to do something. They are certainly closely related to one another, with scientific discoveries allowing the creation of new technologies, and technological development allowing further observation, measurement and analysis. In fact, science and technology are so intimately connected that it is often difficult to distinguish between them.

Stemming from this, the understanding of nature through observation and measurement, and the ability to influence or even control natural processes and our environment are other common themes in technology.

Technology also concerns the interaction between the technological tools and techniques and the people and systems that create, use or are affected by them. The idea of technology includes a social context and there is a continually evolving relationship with other aspects of society or culture. Technologies are hugely influenced by ideologies and social structures, such as capitalism, and act as real world manifestations of the ideas behind them.

So technology includes tools and machines, needs and desires; it involves science, society and nature, and it is inherently political.


Jacobi: Material means of harnessing energy from nature; can apply to human as well as non-human animals.


Skrbina: I favor a very general definition. A very broad definition. Technology is; tools, machines, devices, databases, products, procedures, organizations, institutions, human beings, animals.

I think it’s summed up nicely by Jaques Ellul. His definition of technology is; ‘the total ensemble of means to achieve any end whatsoever.’[1]

And here’s another one by Kaczynski; ‘technology is a global industrial system which functions primarily to degrade and enslave nature and humanity.’


Nature/Wilderness

Jacobi: Everything not made or controlled by humans or their technical systems.


Artifice

Jacobi: Everything made and controlled by humans or their technical systems.


Progressivist


Jacobi: People who espouse the idea that civilization has improved, is improving, and will improve the human condition.


Civilization

Jacobi: The way of life based around cities.


Theo: The society, culture, and way of life of a particular area which is technologically advanced.


Ideology

Jacobi: A connected set of ideas, values, and beliefs.


Morality

Jacobi: The rules that govern behavior.


Technique

Jacobi: Methodological means of harnessing energy from nature; can apply to human as well as non-human animals.


Technics

Jacobi: The set of techniques, technologies, and engineering knowledge possessed by a society; alternatively, “both techniques and technologies,” i.e., “biotechnics”.


3. Kaczynski’s Ideas

Our evolution

Theo: I’m sceptical that just because we did something for a long time in our evolution that it means it would provide us the most meaning in life to keep doing it, it may be less stressful in the same way that challenging yourself to read complicated philosophy might be frustrating at times, but I still view passion for technical fields as producing more important happy flourishing for most people, regardless of suffering.

Evolution is a process of tinkering, finding whatever new mutated DNA will do the job of solving a problem. Our closest relatives chimpanzees and bonobos both have radically different social structures, which can’t clearly be explained by a long evolution of settling on a rigid psychology which is the most advantageous for each, but instead by theory of mind and how their brains have developed the capabilities to chose to form different social structures to manage social problems specific to their biological capabilities and their environment.

So the evolution of our biological capabilities created values, the ability for things to matter to us. But, what values we choose is up to us and it’s mostly going to be a case of grappling with why our parents and neighbors structured the environment in such a way for our development, whether we learn to agree with that choice or develop on their or someone else’s ideas to change things for the next generation.


Normandie: The position regarding the way we evolved to be fulfilled is not an argument that there ought be a rigid psychology or way of doing things. It is that creatures evolve very gradually over a long period of time. Human beings have been essentially thrust into the industrial age, which is so much different in all aspects of life that it does have an impact on people. While everyone certainly has differences in what they seek in life and the archetypes they become, there are general things which are crucial to human well-being. Some of these are basic, such as regular exercise (the importance of which cannot be overstated), healthy sleep, exposure to nature, a healthy diet, etc. Just with the sedentary lifestyle of the modern man, most people are lacking in a major factor for our psychological health. However, one of the most crucial aspects of fulfillment is nearly totally deprived from us industrial civilians, that being the ability to go through what Kaczysnki called ‘The Power Process’. In short, people need to have goals whose attainment require effort, and they need to have reasonable success in attaining at least some of these goals, and some portion of the population has to have autonomy in the selection and attainment of their goals. Of course most people have goals whose attainment requires effort, but the basic necessities of life are so easily attained by going through the motions to get and work a job, that these serve little to no fulfillment of the power process. The means to secure our physical necessities are so alienated from what we have evolved to do that they leave one empty, even when these are attained, and people have little to no autonomy in these goals. They work the orders of their boss handed down from above. Even freelancers and business owners are beholden to the demands of their economic niche. So, people select surrogate activities to try and emulate the power process, which are ‘artificial’ goals that one sets for themselves in an attempt to emulate the power process. Surrogate activities are not inherently bad, and they do offer some amount of filling for the hole left by the absence of the power process, but the problem is when surrogate activities alone try to completely replace the power process.

Some have little to no distressing symptoms of modernity, and this is mostly because there is a segment of the population which adapts easier to these industrial conditions. Industrialized nations have an incredibly high rate of suicide, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, copious mood disorders and ‘personality disorders’, etc. Within those nations, just being in an urban area doubles the rate of schizophrenia. Some people are better at adapting to the industrial world than others, but for those who aren’t and exhibit natural symptoms of incongruity between the way we evolved to live and the way we live today, the diagnosed get separated, labeled, processed, and dealt with by being pharmacologically neutralized with drugs like antidepressants, which are a chemical lobotomy. On top of that, we are provided with a myriad of distractions to placate us, entertainment media, drugs, consumerism, etc, that many are able to pacify their distress their entire lives without being significantly disrupted by psychological distress in their functions in the industrial economy.

I do not claim that technical skills cannot be fun and enjoyable because many of them are. However, given what I just outlined regarding the power process and the fact that technical skills necessitate the techo-industrial system which I believe has inevitable terminal dangers, I don’t think that the fun of some of these technical skills are worth the disastrous fatal effects of industrialism for the ecology of the Earth, human freedom, or human existence, not to mention the overwhelming negative effects of industrialism on people’s mental and physical health.


Jacques Elluls’ influence on Kaczynski

Ted’s manifesto is to a large extent a condensed American vernacular version of Ellul’s The Technological Society which Ted zealously re-read and loved, but this book was meant to be read in tandem with Autopsy of Revolution which Ted really didn’t like. He wrote to Ellul about the latter book in a way that I think showed he didn’t fully understand how Ellul’s arguments all tied together. As I think he simply read into the text what he wanted to be there and not what was actually written.

Quoting Ted:[2]

In the section Aims of Revolution you say, “the issue is not technology per see, but the present structure of society.” In the section Focus of Revolution, you say that the revolution must be “against the technological society not against technology).” Further on, you indicate that we must “master technology”. This seems to suggest the notion that we can have an advanced technology and still avoid the bad aspects of the technological society. If this is what you meant, then the idea is probably incorrect, and very dangerous.

Also, quoting Sean Fleming, a political science research fellow:[3]

I think what’s interesting about the relationship between Kaczynski and Ellul is not just that Ellul influenced Kaczynski, but also that Ellul anticipated a lot of Kaczynski’s arguments and tried to pre-empt them. He anticipated that someone much like Kaczynski would eventually come along and try to use his arguments to justify a violent revolution against technology. He tried to head that off in advance.

So, I think Ellul is a great person to read for both a critique of technological overconsumption and an antidote to the rigid position of Kaczynski:[4]

If we see technique as nothing but objects that can be useful (and we need to check whether they are indeed useful); and if we stop believing in technique for its own sake or that of society; and if we stop fearing technique, and treat it as one thing among many others, then we destroy the basis for the power technique has over humanity.

I’m also grateful to Ellul’s actions as part of the French resistance and agree wholeheartedly with his social anarchist ideals:[5]

In 1944, at the Liberation, I was part of the Movement of National Liberation, I even held certain positions in it, and had begun to believe the dream we had been dreaming during the last few years of the Resistance, often expressed by the saying that we were going to move from Resistance to Revolution. But when we said that—and I would like to point out that Camus first used it in 1943 in combat groups—we did not mean a Communist, Stalinist, Soviet revolution. We meant a fundamental revolution of society, and we made great plans for transforming the press, the media, and the economic structures. They all had elements of socialism, to be sure; but I would say it was more of a Proudhonian socialism, going back to grassroots by means of a federative and cooperative approach.

I would like people to use technology sparingly in their personal life through the concept of minimum viable technology and setting up community tool sheds to have a much lower impact on the environment.

I don’t think efficiency should be the goal and I think we should advocate eco-centrist philosophy and policies which starts with the foundation of; in order to even know where it is ethical to draw a line in the sand on where and what amount of territory can be taken up by human development, we need to look to where environmental processes can and cannot support sentient life and to what degree.


Normandie: I think that Ellul’s work, The Technological Society, is an incredibly important work for understanding a lot about the techno-industrial system. However, I disagree with his conclusions about what must be done and find his idea that we can take some parts of industrialism and leave the rest to be naive. This is where Kaczysnki comes in, who has written about why this is not the case in a robust way in Anti-Tech Revolution: Why and How.


Can people choose how society is run when machines are involved?

Theo: Kaczynski has a view of history where when society changes, and the side-effects are unknown, we rationalize that we desired those side effects in the first place and planned for them through a desire for efficiency or the pursuit of knowledge, but that we begin to reflect systems of machines, rather than them being simple tools of our own desires.

I agree that there can be a kind of manufactured consent situation going on in the way a kid can through social pressure be coerced into buying the latest iphone.

But, I disagree that we need to return to the middle or stone ages levels of technology to solve this problem. I would always want to put time and effort into building assembly lines for life changing items like penicillin and seeing glasses.

We don’t need to conceive of society as a network of rational social contracts either for using technology to make sense. From ‘The Politics of Postanarchism by Saul Newman’:[6]

However, can we assume that the possibilities of human freedom lie rooted in the natural order, as a secret waiting to be discovered, as a flower waiting to blossom, to use Bookchin’s metaphor? Can we assume that there is a rational unfolding of possibilities, driven by a certain historical and social logic? This would seem to fall into the trap of essentialism, whereby there is a rational essence or being at the foundation of society whose truth we must perceive. There is an implicit positivism here, in which political and social phenomena are seen as conditioned by natural principles and scientifically observable conditions. Here I think one should reject this view of a social order founded on deep rational principles. In the words of Stirner, ‘The essence of the world, so attractive and splendid, is for him who looks to the bottom of it – emptiness.’ In other words, rather than there being a rational objectivity at the foundation of society, an immanent wholeness embodying the potential for human freedom, there is a certain void or emptiness, one that produces radical contingency and indeterminacy rather than scientific objectivity. This idea has been elaborated by Laclau and Mouffe, who eschew the idea of society as a rationally intelligible totality, and instead see it as a field of antagonisms which function as its discursive limit. In other words, what gives society its definitional limit at the same time subverts it as a coherent, whole identity. Therefore, they argue, ‘Society never manages fully to be society, because everything in it is penetrated by its limits, which prevent it from constituting itself as an objective reality.’ Antagonism should not be thought of here in the sense of the Hobbesian state of nature, as a war of everyman against everyman, but rather as a kind of rupturing or displacement of social identities that prevents the closure of society as a coherent identity.


Normandie: Kaczysnki’s views on the development of human societies is that they cannot be rationally controlled, that is that people cannot impose a change on society for the long-term unless it is in line with a pre-existing historical trend, such as the gradual ‘democratization’ of the west. It is not just when machines are involved, but It is my opinion that the primary force driving human society in the modern world is not men or men’s profits. What drives humanity is an encompassing motivation, it is something that is a religion in the hearts of most men today. That is the technological system, technical development in all fields, in all facets, in all aspects of living, at all costs, for whatever end, and with whatever means, simply for the sake of doing it; if it can be done it must be done. Most technological developments appear to have more upsides than downsides in the immediate effects, so they will always be pursued whether or not they will be disastrous later on, which is hardly capable of being predicted. Men are not the shepherds of technology in the modern world, but are shepherded by the technological system. All technical developments are advantageous in natural selection, and are pursued. Industrial economies are a means to pursue, coordinate, plan, and engage in this totality of technical development.

The world is a large supersystem composed of many competing subsystems. In the short term, natural selection favors those that recklessly pursue advantages, even if those advantages are destructive in the long term. Those that are prudent for their long-term future are beat out by those that pursue advantages with little to no regard for long-term consequences. Let’s say for example that an anarcho-communist society with an attempt at rational prudence were to form successfully. Movements are always corrupted when they achieve their goals and can offer members of it status or power in some way. The idea that all people can be made to care about this altruistic prudence and not pursue reckless advantages at some point is a fantasy. Some actors at some point will pursue the destructive short term advantages for power, and they will beat out the prudent actors. If a movement is to achieve its goal, it needs to have a clear, concise, and concrete objective that once obtained will be irreversible, and it needs to achieve its goal quickly before corruption sets in. A convoluted vision of society that is easily reversible, such as keeping the ‘good parts’ of the industrial system and not utilizing the rest, is doomed to fail.


Does modern life erode our freedoms?

Theo: I campaign for people to have the autonomy to choose their own means in life, I want people to have the option of loads more wildlife habitat than currently exists, to live in if they want to. But I also want people to have the freedom to go to a worker owned business to fulfil their intellectual passions.


Normandie: I would absolutely love to spend my life minding my own business on my land with my community and not paying mind to how others live their lives. If I didn’t truly believe that industrialism has inexorable, terminal dangers for the future of humanity and the Earth, then I would just live my days on my homestead. I’m not a revolutionary because I don’t like cities or factories and want to impose my preferences on others. It is because I genuinely believe that if the industrial system continues to its conclusion, my children won’t have a place to live, they will be subjugated and changed beyond the point of any remaining human dignity or they will be extinct, along with the rest of the Earth’s ecology.


Is modern life unfulfilling?

Theo: He thinks people are trained to be over-socialized as a form of entertainment in service to technology, so political advocacy is just a surrogate activity, where people are trained to feel guilty for not helping people, to waste their time advocating others become more invested in the collectivist system.

I just disagree that it’s an unfulfilling project or we should do it out of guilt. Being able to reach a point in our social evolution where we can care for the basic needs of everyone to a basic extent is a beautiful and satisfying goal to work towards and to sustain through living those communal relationships.


Has technology increased suffering?

Theo: It may have done, but I’m not a utilitarian who only cares about pain vs. pleasure, I think suffering is necessary for self-actualization, so achieving your goals and feeling a deeper happiness, which the stoics called eudaimonia which just means happy flourishing.

The foundations for any pleasure at all for disabled people and other innocent victims of disease and lack of basic security would be denied in any anti-tech revolution which took us backwards.

Ted thinks primitive man can handle these issues stoically, but why then cannot modern man do the same with technology in order to reap the benefits of innocent items like penicillin and seeing glasses?


Would industrial society re-emerge?

Theo: I’m sceptical of Kaczynskis’ confidence that a new industrial revolution wouldn’t simply re-emerge, especially with people passing down memories and books of all the benefits to modern life.

Firstly, the harm to the environment would be much worse than us simply transitioning to renewable energy and rewilding areas as we depopulate as is the trend in advanced countries. Secondly, I would argue the probability that we will achieve a long-lasting, mostly peaceful, technologically advanced, left-anarchist society is far more valuable to me than returning to an either never ending series of warring feudal societies or feudal societies that repeats the industrial revolution and has another series of world wars for resources.

Primitive life is more appealing to me personally than feudalism in that I could be born into a fairly egalitarian tribe like the Penan or that I wasn’t but I wouldn’t know any different life or if I had some of the egalitarian ideals I had now, the possibility would be there to strike out on my own and form an egalitarian tribe. But bar convincing everyone to be hunter gatherers, or technological incentives to have fair and democratic communication among societies who trade with each other, you just are going to recreate feudal era societies, where you’d have to be very lucky to escape from conscription and tyrants and the environmental destruction could be far worse.


Normandie: Even if society were to at some point in the future begin the process of industrialization again, it is not sensible for us to worry about that. We must deal with the problems facing our time just as they will have to deal with the problems facing their time. If society were to industrialize again, it would most likely be some 500 or 1,000 years in the future. There are some people who even believe that it would not be possible to industrialize again because the conditions and resources that allowed for industrialization in the first place are no longer there. I’m not one of these people who think it is impossible, but it would certainly take hundreds of years or more to rebuild the system, both because the development of the system is a long and convoluted process and because of the lack of plentiful natural resources that were consumed in our time.

Just because there is a possibility that society industrializes again does not mean we should give up, because the alternative is destruction. The larger the system grows, the more disastrous the effects of its breakdown will be. If we do not bring it to collapse in time, we are facing a technological crisis that entails total ecological destruction. If we carry out a successful revolution in time, then there is at least a chance of humanity, and other complex living organisms, surviving.


What level of violence is justified to achieve this anti-tech revolution...

... & How do you determine what direct action targets are justifiable today?

Zerzan: I’m much more interested in critique than I am in tactics, but to me what’s really at the base of it, as it usually is, is the question of violence. What is violence and what is not violence? And I think my position is rather simple, it’s not violence if it’s not directed at some form of life, in other words you can’t violate a building in my view.

I mean friends of mine might disagree, I mean they would say yes it’s violence and we don’t shrink from violence and that’s a position too.

So, I just think that in general there are a lot of targets and you know I don’t think you can get too far finding answers to that question in the abstract, but I could be wrong.


Theo: It’s a complicated problem, I know some websites try to put together an aims and principles list to explain what actions they’ll report on and then I think that can influence what actions people take and what actions people think are justified.

You have people using slogans like ‘by any means necessary’ going all the way back to Malcolm X & Franz Fanon in the 60s, which I guess is an attempt to say we’ll go as far as we’re pushed, so be careful what state terror tactics you use on us.

I’ve experimented with writing up a list of principles for what direct action principles are necessary for different stages in history, in terms of peace time and when social tensions are at their height, of which one principle is; during a non-revolutionary period “never physically hurt people in order to achieve political goals as it runs counter to our philosophy on the left that material conditions create the person and so we should make every peaceful effort to rehabilitate people.” So, what do you think about those as an important foundation?


Zerzan: Well I’ll just mention that Kaczynski did refine his own view on that, I mean he apologized for that early crude bomb on the jetliner, he renounced that. I think the targets were relatively more appropriate as he went along, as they became more lethal, on that level anyway, I think you could argue that that’s the case.

And where is the effectiveness? I mean what success are you having or not having? I mean that can tell you something about what things to do or what things to avoid.”


Theo: And what would be the measurements of success for you do you think?


Zerzan: Well, I would say advancing the dialogue. I think that if your thing is mainly critique, it’s a question of the conversation in society, is there some resonance? Is there some interest? Is there some development going on there? In other words, I’m not afraid of certain tactics that people commonly shrink from. and they say well, ‘you’re just turning everybody off’, but sometimes I think you have to go through that stage if you will, I mean sometimes that comes with the territory, in other words, people will be defensive and horrified or whatever at first and then they won’t be. You know? Then it becomes part of the dialogue, you know then things change, they don’t remain the same. In other words, there can be shock at the beginning with some tactics, but that wears off, I think, I would assert that’s likely to be the case.


Theo: Right, and you’ve made the comparison between Kaczynski and John Brown in that way. The difference I would say for me though, in those two situations are that John Brown was six years away from the civil war and they were very much accepted at the time to be one of two sides fighting a guerrilla war, one for revolution and the other for conservatism. Kaczynski’s actions were in some ways asymmetrical warfare, but they didn’t have any snowballing effect, they weren’t strategic targets that scared people off from doing what they were doing.

Secondly, Kaczynski’s actions were taken during a non-revolutionary period in which I think physically hurting people to achieve political goals is bad. It’s bad precisely because the conditions weren’t right for revolutionary war.

For example, even if the revolutionary left got really good at assassinating captains of industry and getting away with it, there would be reasonable fears around the psychology of people who would take such an act against people who they could have grown up and been socially conditioned to be themselves, which would inexorably lead to a more authoritarian society and worse foundations on which to work towards a better society.


Zerzan: Well I was quite frankly surprised by the levels of sympathy that were spontaneously expressed in the US in the 90s, I was pleasantly surprised by that. Really, there was much much less horror, or there was horror at the bombings and stuff, but there was also a good deal of sympathy.

Like one case, my wife knew this woman at the business school at the university here, and this person commented on the media footage when they were taking him somewhere in Montana before they moved him to California. And he’s dressed, it’s a well-known deal, he’s got a sport coat on and you can tell he’s got a vest on underneath and he’s kind of looking up at the sky as he’s walking along. And her comment was; “why don’t they just put a cross on his shoulders?” In other words comparing him to Jesus for Christ’s sake, I mean that’s a little unexpected, especially from a rather ‘straight person’, who’s not an anarchist or anything of this sort.”


Theo: It was definitely a novel case, that’s for sure. But I think for the most part, interest in the Unabomer case is comparable to other true crime curiosities.

I’m fascinated by Aileen Wuornos case, who was this hitch-hiking sex worker in the 70s, who ended up killing and robbing some of her clients, and it was this weird juxtaposition for the time because women were getting killed all the time by men and so it flipped the script a little bit that there was actually truck drivers who had assaulted or raped women on the road before, who began to be too afraid to pick up women because they were worried about getting killed.

On hearing news on the radio of a woman sex worker killing men, one woman compared the unbelievable experience to the first time Orson Welles’ radio-play ‘The War of The Worlds’ was received by a bemused audience.

So, I’m fine with people finding a lot of value in his philosophy and he’s definitely an intellectual who has found a fairly good critique of modern civilization in 90% of his writings. I just worry that his effect on the world is going to be a stepping stone and to the right for a lot of people, so in terms of discussing his legacy we need to figure out ways to lay down some principles and say that what he did was chaotic and wrong, and we need we need these solid principles for direct action today, to lay the stepping stones for going forward today.

For example, I know you disagree with random bombings of the ITS tendency, but in terms of people agreeing with your philosophy on what kind of technology is likely bad which is very broad, this idea that any tool that requires a hierarchy of coordination and specialization is something to be avoided, are you not concerned that you could be promoting direct action which falls well outside ethical principles like the ones I laid out in my email to you, such that you run the risk of motivating someone to take direct action which makes your rebellion look insane and so lead people to wish to preserve the status quo or facilitate a move to a more authoritarian society?

I observed some important push back like the Anarchist Federations response to an Informal Anarchist Federation cell kneecapping a nuclear physicist, where AFed critiqued the terrorist project of attempting to spread fear rather than building social movements and sometimes sabotaging what stands in our way, but always with the goal of winning strategic victories. Another important critique to add here, is that I don’t think we should ever take actions based on the conspiratorial anti-industrial beliefs in the over-exaggerated dangers of industry such as fears of nuclear meltdowns in stable nations.


Zerzan: Well again, I’d say what is happening in terms of social movements now? I mean there’s very little right now, I could point to the anti-globalization years so-called, you know around 1999 to 2001 which was a pretty considerable thing, it’s kind of forgotten but I mean I don’t know, perhaps Kaczynski’s forgotten.


Theo: I still don’t think a strong argument has been given for justifying direct action which attempts to harm or kill people. And so, unfortunately I think for people who take this stance like yourself and Kaczynski, some important disclaimers need to be made whenever discussing your work if – as members of campaign groups, mutual aid networks and affinity groups – we want to recruit and maintain members or advocate others over to our political philosophy.


4. Getting down to the core issues

Potash: How about this, we have 3 different discussion points. In chronological order:

A) Is primitive society superior to modern society? Are primitive people more fortunate than people living in wealthy first world nations.

B) Do the problems with modern society arise due to Technology or are they due to other factors such as Capitalism/the state/Hierarchy.

C) Is Anti-Tech revolution justified?


A. Is primitive society superior to modern society?

Positive & Negative Liberties

Theo: I think anprims are deluded in believing primitive life will be a life of egalitarian freedom, but it is what makes them anarchist in my mind, like still wanting to work towards a world of ending dominance hierarchies and maintaining positive liberties.


Potash: Primitive life has been proven to be far more free than modern life, if it is egalitarian is a different story. Positive Liberty is a vague-ry that doesn’t really mean anything.


Theo: Positive liberty is an essential concept, otherwise we’d have no frame of reference for many of the harms that people commit against each other.

At its most extreme, taking care of someone while they’re in a coma only to afterwards drop them in the middle of a desert to die of thirst is still harming them. Regardless of the fact they’d be free in a negative liberty sense of there being no government taking away their shoes for taxes in the desert or whatever.


Potash: I think the man in the desert would have plenty of freedom. He could use his natural ability to take advantage of his environment. It’s far from a death sentence. If he were able to survive, then subsequent freedom would ensure as he and no one else controls the path his life takes.


Theo: That wasn’t the kind of scenario I meant. I’ll try to be more clear:

You’re lying unconscious after being thrown from a dune buggy you wrecked. Whilst out driving a dune buggy myself I find you at the centre of these vast desert sand dunes that stretch out for 100s of miles of just pure layers and layers of shifting sand as far as the eye can see. I nurse you back to consciousness, but you’ve still got a broken leg, then rather than driving you out of the hills of sand dunes, I leave you to die.

Surely you think I’ve committed an unethical act by not offering you access to positive liberties?

You’re free from the constraints of oppressive governments in that scenario, but you’re not free to be able to do much of anything other than just waiting to die.

This is just basic tribal social contract stuff, a kid is drowning in quicksand, you can offer him a branch, which would increase his access to a tool that would increase his positive liberties to move around and breathe.

A strong and skilled hunter is all alone in the jungle having fun and able to kill lots of animals to grow fat, he comes across an emaciated kid who is going to be stunted for life due to malnutrition if you don’t share some of your hunted meat with him. You give him some meat, you increase his access to food, you increase his positive liberties in life.


Potash: Fair enough, but I don’t think positive liberty is as decisive in determining one’s level of freedom as negative liberty is in most cases.

Primitive societies certainly do not “trample” on positive liberties enough to make them less free than us. They still have far more freedom than we have.

In what ways do primitive societies deprive people of positive liberty?


Theo: No one in a primitive society has many positive liberties themselves, and so doesn’t have any ability to offer others much.

In modern societies there are often hospitals, libraries, public transit, etc. So these societies are superior by that metric.

And to take away modern people’s positive liberties and try and forever reduce people and all their progeny to a life without these positive liberties is cruel.


Potash: I don’t understand how not having access to public transit makes you a fake anarchist.


Theo: I think what would make someone a fake anarchist is the bombing people back to the stone age who don’t consent to that happening to them, whilst claiming to be an anarchist.


Potash: I think Modern society deprives us of positive liberty by taking away from us our right to live in our natural habitat, and by greatly devaluing community and relationships.


Theo: I agree it does that to a lot of people. I think we should organize to resist that, just in a way that preserves other positive liberties.


The Cloud Virtue Hypothetical

Theo: I might bite the bullet on the quality of life being slightly worse for the average person day to day in modern capitalist societies vs. a fairly egalitarian tribe in the past living in ignorance of a different way of life. I just think there’s still more virtue in striving for a society beyond capitalism and unjustified hierarchies.

Many people are concerned with remedying a net pain vs. pleasure calculus first and foremost, whereas I’m mostly concerned with people being able to express capabilities that help them achieve goals that satisfy a higher order happy flourishing vs. painful stultifying dichotomy.

Happy flourishing (eudaimonia) is what’s pursued in virtue ethics, by formulating a working balance of character virtues which help you both know what would give you some meaning at a certain stage in your life experience and help you achieve it.

As opposed to preference utilitarianism which is less willing to accept a high degree of suffering and is more interested in getting everyone to a global calculus of their interests being fulfilled thereby achieving a good degree of wellbeing.

As opposed further to by hedonistic utilitarianism, which is even less willing to accept suffering, seeks global pleasure calculus.

As opposed even further by negative utilitarians who are simply concerned with the best ways of avoiding suffering and so are most often anti-natalists.

Primitive tribes might be experiencing the most consistent access to low-level happy flourishing, a perfect balance of not seeking out too much pleasure, and not worrying about small amounts of pain. So, I can see why for example to some depressed person this low level feeling of peace and tranquillity at just being able to find consistent access to small pleasures would be super appealing.

The problem is the lack of complex goals. High level cultural achievement. High level critical thinking. Replaying complex conversations one had in the day and having complex feeling about these international communications. The positive liberty to experience these things. The negative liberty not to have these experiences stripped away from you by a network of anti-tech revolutionaries.

So, by different metrics primitive society is superior, but for me it’s not.

Complex tasks are conducive to my bedrock philosophical interest to have the opportunity to experience high quality happy flourishing above all else.


Potash: Imagine there are two societies, one society where people do not have the ability to transform into clouds. And another where people can transform into clouds. Some people in the second society feel that transformation into a cloud is one of the most important character flourishing aspects of life, and that to not have this ability would be a deprivation of their positive liberties. But the people in the first society feel zero need to transform themselves into clouds and feel quite content with their lives as they are. There is no objective evidence as to if the ability to transform into a cloud is beneficial, and if we are worse off without it.

And so, as an objective observer, would it make sense to conclude that the people in the first society are being depraved of their positive liberties because they cannot transform themselves into clouds?


Theo: I wouldn’t use the word deprived as they’d be simply ignorant of that possibility, but I’d say on a metric of who has access to the most positive liberties the cloud people do yes, so it’s a superior society in my view.


Potash: I think I should elaborate on the cloud metaphor a little. Imagine that the people living in the first society are substantially more content and satisfied with their lives then the people living in the second society. Lets say that most of the people living in the second society do not transform themselves into clouds regularly, and that again there is no objective evidence that suggests that transforming oneself into a cloud is beneficial. Of course, those who transform themselves into clouds don’t feel that way, but they are obviously biased.


Theo: I don’t know, I thought in the initial way you described it, the only difference in the societies was that one could turn into clouds, and that it was a challenging task to master hence the personal testimonies of most flourishing experience of their lives, so regardless of the abstract nature of the experience, feels like it’s one positive liberty they have on the other society.

So what’s the difference now making the first society so much more contented?


Potash: Knowing that the people in the first society are objectively more satisfied with their lives, do you still consider the cloud bearers to be superior?


Theo: Ignorance that some people can master the skill of turning into clouds happens to make the first society more contented, and that’s the only difference? Probably still the cloud people are superior. Because I trust their testimony that even though they don’t have as much net contentment, they’re gaining happy flourishing that is more meaningful to them.


Potash: No, lets say that the mechanism which allows people to turn themselves into clouds has several reverberating effects which lead to the second society being less contented and that impacts everyone there, even those who don’t transform themselves into clouds. Does this change your answer?


Theo: I think by the metric of ability to achieve that high-level happy flourishing it’s superior, and if I had the choice of happening to be born into that situation I would, so long as I had hope I could work to make egalitarian access to it.


Potash: Now lets imagine that the people in the second society live lives that are under the control and regulation of large organizations which they are hopeless to influence. Such as the cloud company and the CSA (Cloud Safety Agency). Would you still consider the second society superior?


Theo: Depends if there’s a reasonable chance that people can successfully rebel against this agency whilst maintaining access to cloud mastery.


Potash: Lets say that these agencies are necessary for the functioning of the cloud society. Basically, what’s more important. Positive or Negative Liberty.

Would you agree that primitive societies have greater negative liberty then modern societies?


Theo: Yeah if there’s no reasonable hope of rebelling against the company and I just had to witness the company harming people with no ability to grow a movement to at some point stop it then I’d just prefer the society where it didn’t exist at all.


Potash: Would you agree that primitive societies have greater negative liberty then modern societies?


Theo: Probably on average yeah, compared to the average modern society today.

Though there’s a certain comradery to women and men, black and white all getting fucked by corporations, whereas it would depress me for the clan chief to be decreeing that women can’t come on the hunt, and the tribe next door are savages, etc.


Potash: XD c’mon man.


Theo: It was a mostly throwaway comment lol, I agree more negative liberty to get skilled up and run away to hunt on your own for the most part and stuff.


B. Do the problems with modern society arise due to Technology or are they due to other factors such as Capitalism/the state/Hierarchy.

Theo: At what point in time do you think we lost control/opened pandora’s box?


Potash: Probably around the industrial revolution.


Theo: Good quote on technological determinism:[7]

Technology philosophers have long argued over the extent to which our technologies govern us. Martin Heidegger, for instance, embraced the view that technology is manipulative and inescapable. This approach, referred to as technological determinism, asserts that technologies are autonomous of human activity and drive social change; we are enslaved to technological evolution. Notable determinists include Karl Marx, Marshall McLuhan, Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber), and Henry David Thoreau, who all insisted that technology determines our behaviors and overrides our individual freewill. Thoreau famously wrote, “We do not ride upon the railroad; it rides upon us.” Marx felt: “The hand-mill gives you society with the feudal lord, the steam-mill, society with the industrial capitalist.” And Kaczynski’s manifesto Industrial Society and Its Future foretells that “technological progress marches in only one direction; it can never be reversed.” While it is undeniable that technology plays an important role in social progress, the hard deterministic view is an unreasonable perspective to adopt for several reasons, predominantly because it generalizes all technologies (which all clearly have different effects in different contexts and to varying degrees) but also because it can easily be disproved by identifying examples of failed technologies that did not spark social change. Technologies often fail to have socio-cultural as well as individual impacts, and the mere existence of a technology does not guarantee its use. We are not prisoners of our technologies, as determinists would like to suggest, in so much as we are extremely susceptible to falling prey to their design.

The technological imperative is a flawed concept espoused by determinists, which states that the use of any technology is inevitable and that once a technology is in place, it is irreversible. That is, if a technology is developed, then it will eventually be used and cannot be abandoned. Gun apologists lean heavily on this imperative, refusing to acquiesce any type of firearm technologies—even those that are particularly heinous and unnecessary, such as military-grade personal weaponry, bump stocks, and armor-piercing ammunition, which have no reasonable application for civilian use. A common refrain is the slippery slope argument that gun reformists will take away all guns if given the opportunity. This would not only would be virtually impossible to accomplish (there are more than 400 million guns in the United States) but unconstitutional as well. The technological imperative of guns is the wrongful assumption that because these weapons exist, we have no choice but to accept their place in society and we mustn’t regulate them in the slightest, for this would be an infringement upon our rights.

Contrary to the determinist’s view, however, is that we do in fact have dominion over our technologies. In his book Giving Up the Gun, Noel Perrin gives a detailed account of the sixteenth-century Japanese, who nearly abandoned all guns in their society. By this time in history, firearms were nearly ubiquitous throughout the modern world. The warrior class of Japan, however, saw long-range guns as cowardly and shameful weapons; firearms were more efficient than swords, but they “overshadow[ed] the men who use them.” Honor is an essential component of Japanese warrior culture, and at least for a short period of time, the use of firearms was relegated to lower-class soldiers only.

Upper-class nobility and the samurai fought with swords and spears in hand-to-hand combat. Swordplay was regarded as a “danger-laden ballet, while a scene of extended gunplay comes out as raw violence.” Despite this virtuous resistance to firearms, the Japanese did not abandon guns entirely. By the end of the sixteenth century, invasions mounted by Korea and China reintroduced firearms back into circulation so that Japan could remain competitive on the battlefield and stave off its enemies. Afterward, guns remained highly regulated in Japan, with manufacturing only permitted by special licensure from the government. In some ways, Japan had been able to nearly quit firearms altogether, but they were dragged back into gun culture because of the need for self-preservation. Perrin closes his book by saying, “This is to talk as if progress—however one defines that elusive concept—were something semidivine, an inexorable force outside of human control. And of course, it isn’t. It is something we can guide, and direct, and even stop. Men can choose to remember; they can also choose to forget.” Still today, Japan often ranks lowest compared to other countries in terms of firearm-related deaths, and guns remain mostly irrelevant in Asian countries.


Potash: Technologies which have failed to make headway have done such because they are too inefficient to be used, not out of any moral self righteousness.


Theo: I’ve just never read a convincing argument for how technology became this monolithic self-propagating system at some stage in our history, whether industrial revolution or agricultural or whenever, there’s no clear line in the sand, we brought tech into this world, we can also regulate and arrest it’s development.


Clay: I fully grant that due to the way all technologically advanced societies are organized today that there are a great many people for whom it can be said that they had very little choice but to help society keep trending towards technological development. So, it’s not nearly the same as someone who’s been a hunter-gatherer all their life with a bow and arrow choosing whether to learn to use a gun.

Still, a big-tent leftist movement, and the socialist movement within it, and the anarchist movement within it can work to opportunistically strike at all the right moments in which governments and corporations are weak. And in doing so bring about the kind of world socialist revolution Ellul envisioned, which can then finish off bringing about the kind of ‘spiritual’ anti-technique revolution Ellul envisioned. Such that people only engage with technology in creative ways they desire.


Potash: I didn’t know you were religious.


Theo: Clay isn't and neither am I, but I agree with this in the broad sense of the term spiritual, acknowledging the feat of ‘consciousness moving’ it would take.


Potash: I didn’t know you were religious.


Theo: I’m not, I’m just using a broad use of the term spiritual, to acknowledge the feat of ‘consciousness moving’ it would take.


Potash: The idea you are propagating is a deeply religious one. Well, an idea which has its roots in the same place as religion.


Theo: There’s an overlap for sure.


Potash: Tell me, why do you think the idea of a creator has had such a profound impact on human societies? Basically every people known to man has a religion. And even plenty of people who don’t subscribe to any religion personally still believe in/are open to a creator, such as deists or agnostics.


Theo: I’m talking more about transcendental feeling, not belief, where for example you watch a sunset and it helps you contemplate your smallness in the universe, and so take a more stoic attitude to your problems in your life, it’s viewing your life in reflection to cosmological forces, not tribal, and not necessarily supernatural or religious.


Potash: That’s different. Why do you think the idea of a creator is so appealing to us?


Theo: Lots of factors, including that we look for patterns to help us survive, like a tiger’s tracks in the mud, but it can lead us down dumb paths like conspiracy and fundi religion too.


Potash: That’s true, but I think we want to believe that everything is going according to a plan and that belief doesn’t end with religion. People vastly overestimate the power ascribed to governments/people in power. For example, anything happening under a certain president is typically considered to be his fault.

People want to believe that everything goes according to a plan. That our problems arise from the wrong people being in charge, and we can solve them by putting the right people in charge.

Or in short, that the path societies take is determined by decisions more so than conditions.

And so, by default most people will absolve technology from the blame for its results. Afterall, if decisions and not conditions are the source of our problems then how could technology (conditions) be to blame? Obviously, we’ve just been “using it wrong bro”


Theo: I’m full of contempt for people like this, like swing voters.

But you can be pessimistic about the difficulty of shifting material conditions, and still want to vote the lesser evil people in to have some small tiny difference. It just needs to be matched with a strong grassroots movement taking action like striking and ecotage.

This is like the argument that left-anarchists are naive about human nature, left-anarchists are so worried about environmental conditions being able to ferment monsters, like the nazi party that we want to put so much care into building strong institutions that offer loads of advantages to people at a young age: Anarchists Are Not Naive About Human Nature


Potash: This has very little to do with electoral politics, that was just an example of the overall principle.


Theo: I know you’re talking about broader trends, but it’s your go to example for how this manifests, and I’m agreeing partially that it does manifest in that way, but it can be subverted in that case, and it can be subverted more broadly socially also.


Potash: Not anarchists, everyone. Even me, even qpoop, even Ted. Though I’d like to think that we do so less so than most others.


Theo: That sounds like the more religiously dogmatic position.


Potash: This is something that is intrinsic in human nature. Just as confirmation bias, everyone has it, some just less so than others.


Theo: No one has proved we’re way more biological determined than environmentally determined, or that that would prescribe primitivism. You’re mashing together politics, philosophy and psychology in an incoherent way.


Potash: There are definitely ideas which people have that have a basis in biology. Confirmation Bias is universal in humans.


Theo: Even if that’s the case, there’s still a massive gulf of missing premises you’d need in order to build the argument that we need to have an anti-tech revolution.


Potash: You’re getting too out of hand with this. All I’m saying is that we are predisposed to believe that the world is planned out, and therefore that technology plays a negligible role in determining the shape of society.


Theo: Meh, marxists have been around for an age worrying about tech and exploitation keeping generations enslaved on a materially determined path, anprims like Zerzan who used to be marxists just took it the next level in wanting primitive communism.


Potash: That was me at first. That was what I believed when I was like 13.

Political Debates in 2025 will probably just be over Woke National Bolshevism or Futurist Italian Fascism is better at beheading judeo capitalists and implanting robo cocks.


Theo: I’m comfortable not knowing whether I’ll ever have an impact in shifting macro material conditions, I hope a pebble I throw has a domino effect in the long-long term after I’m dead, but who knows.

The memories that make me happy are like taking a 20 year old Slovakian kid from a squat in Nottingham to the west coast of Ireland to live with a farmer for a year and do road blockades against a gas company. Just showing people a dramatically different quality of life.


C. Is Anti-Tech Revolution Justified?

The Trolley Problem and Revolution

Theo: Who do you save in the trolley problem out of curiosity?

t-s-theo-slade-normandie-etc-a-collaboratively-edi-1.png


Potash: I’d probably pull the lever. What would you do?


Theo: Same. How about with pushing the fat dude off the bridge onto the tracks to stop the trolley?

The idea of him being fat in the hypothetical is that you know for sure he is weighty enough that only he could stop the trolley. He is stood there frozen, you know not jumping himself, do you take the last second decision to push him quickly? It is a hard one. I answer no and can tell you why after.


Potash: In that case I would say no because you are killing someone who has done essentially nothing to deserve death.


Theo: The person tied to the tracks in the first trolley problem is also a stranger though.


Potash: True, but that’s a lot less direct.


Theo: Right, I think that is my reason. Like a further problem if you had answered yes to pushing the fat dude is, if an old person walked into a hospital and you’re a surgeon and know you could save 5 lives by killing the old person and transplanting her organs, and no one would find out it was you, would you do it?

And there it becomes even more direct, and the reason I think directness is dangerous is we should maintain cultural norms of not wanting to live in a society where people could act in that way, it would decrease everyone’s quality of life knowing that they could be interacting with people who would behave in such a terrible way.


Potash: That’s utilitarian nonsense, his organs belong to him, and not to you.


Theo: Well, yeah it’s a bit of a parody of utilitarianism. Most every utilitarian could give reasons for not pushing the fat person or being an evil surgeon, for reasons of net global cultural capital and wellbeing.

I have simple virtue ethics reasons, where it’s just not the kind of person I’d want to be.


Potash: Is this about anti-tech violence?


Theo: Potentially, I thought it might help with the tribal positive vs negative liberties thing to get more understanding on your ethical intuitions.


Potash: Ah, I would argue each of these is a violation of negative liberties, as someone is imposing his will onto others.


Theo: Yes, and yet you are choosing to actively participate in the process of taking away some people’s negative liberties, but because it’s the lesser evil consequence after someone has already set in motion a terrible set of circumstances with the people tied to tracks.

Some deontologists would think it more just to let the trolley kill more people and let the 1 person live in a world where he doesn’t have to be around other people who would take away other people’s negative liberties.

Or some threshold deontologists would pull the lever but only when you raise the stakes to like a million vs. 1 people tied to the tracks.


Potash: I think the trolley problem is analogous to Anti-Tech Revolution.


Theo: It is if you believe society will collapse anyway and you’re protecting the environment more by having a revolution now yeah.


Potash: If you knew for certain that modern society could not be reformed in any substantial way, and dangerous competition among self propagating systems would inevitably lead to the destruction of the technological system and with it all complex life forms on earth, would you still oppose ATR?


Theo: I don’t know about ATR, I for sure wouldn’t have kids.


Potash: Let’s say you could press a button to reverse civilization permanently, would you press it?


Theo: Would it kill billions?


Potash: No.


Theo: If it was the only way to save all complex life forms on earth, yes.


Potash: What if it would kill billions, but only to prevent the elimination of all complex life on earth.


Theo: If it was just as easy as pushing a button, like pulling the lever in the trolley problem, ~7 billion on one track, 8 billion humans + 100 billion other animals, yes.


Potash: Interesting. If you accepted the premises which I accept, would you support ATR?


Theo: Not just pushing a button, taking down electric grids with my own hands? No, it’d be like pushing the fat dude onto the tracks in the other version of the trolley problem, I wouldn’t be able to live with why I chose one village connected to an electric grid to die and not another, like my flipping a coin and turning left on a road meant that one family could have lived, wouldn’t be able to do it.


Potash: Would you support others doing it?


Theo: I’d probably just shoot myself so I didn’t have to witness the carnage.


Flipping the hypothetical

Theo: In relation to Kaczynski saying, “revolutionaries must take their goal to be the collapse of the system no matter what.”

This is an unrealistic hypothetical, but if everyone on earth loudly proclaimed they’d decided they’d like to move towards a left-anarchist world, and where you could see everyone making strides to making 90% of the earth dense wildlife habitat, such that there was irrefutable proof of the society working great, yet you were the 1 holdout wanting everyone to go back to living as nomadic hunter gatherers, and you had a button that could release a flesh eating disease which would painfully torture everyone on earth for 50 years until everyone but 10,000 people had either been killed or taken their own life, would you push the button?


Potash: I’ll answer, if you acknowledge that this scenario has almost nothing in common with the question of revolution in the real world.


Theo: For sure I agree with that.


Potash: Ok, yes, I would press it. The world would be better off without humans.


Theo: Interesting, see that helps me understand your ethical foundation.


Potash: I’m assuming that even in this hypothetical situation, nature would be better off without humans, is that the case?


Theo: Wild animals would be 10% better off if you press the button in that they’d have 10% more of the earth to populate.

We could add to the hypothetical that 10,000 years into the future, humans are able to create huge marble bridges covered in soil and trees that form whole new levels of wildlife habitat that means wildlife could populate even more than the entire territory of the earth. Would you still answer the same then?


Potash: From an objective scenario, would nature be better off if I pressed the button or didn’t?


Theo: Worse off, in that there’d be less space for ecologies of dense wildlife habitat to flourish (helped along by humans).


Potash: Would nature be “wild” in the sense that it is not under the control of humans if I pressed the button?


Theo: Yes, it would be worse off for nature as a whole because if you don’t press the button there’d be more space for wild human hunter-gatherers, more space for wild animals. Very wild and uncontrolled, just in part helped set up by humans, as if humans could magic more earth for wilderness, but were able to do it manually through carving out volcanic rock and stacking them to create bridges of wildlife habitat.


Potash: Fine.


Theo: Cool. I do really want that future of playing around with increasing wildlife habitat, like the root bridges in India, but like pyramid building scale.

And I do feel sad that you’d unleash diseases killing billions against the desires of everyone else on earth if we only gave 90% to nature lol.

I think the time it’ll take for the earth to be consumed by the sun does leave a fair bit of wiggle room for strange events to occur, we could have the future of mega-architecture projects like this, or it’s possible we could have an anti-tech revolution, stay hunter-gatherers for the millions of years long enough for coal and oil to form close to the surface again, and repeat everything all over again in virtually exactly the same way.


Any doubts or sadness related to revolution?

Theo: With taking small actions to try and bring about an anti-tech revolution, do you ever have the feeling of it being a little sad that even among the hunter-gatherer tribes there’d be a degree of cult like irrationality, where they might be cannibalizing people who they thought were inhabited by evil spirits, like in Papua New Guinea.

I understand you could accept that as ‘can’t eat your cake and have it too’, but do you ever feel that kind of grief for the sad aspects the future world you want to bring about?


Potash: Of course there are faults with primitive societies. And by that same token, of course there are benefits to technological progress.


Theo: I guess I’m just wondering on an emotional level, when you read about those faults, does it hit you in the gut, like this option that I think is the best one still is going to suck massively for some people.


Potash: The difference between me and you is that I know there’s things wrong with my ideal society because it’s actually existed, whereas you believe in an imagined ideal.

Therefore, there can’t be any drawbacks by definition.


Theo: I get that you’re aiming for a fixed situation that has existed before, but I think there still can be grief for the scale of violence necessary to get there and the violence that will exist even if you do get there.

I feel grief both for the comrades that were killed fighting jihadists in Syria and the jihadists they killed that were brainwashed into fighting. Even though I think her actions were a net good.


Potash: Sometimes. But I think it’s still unequivocally a net positive.


Theo: I understand, and cool.


Potash: I think you’re too moralistic. Your beliefs seem based on what’s most moral, and not what’s most practical/achievable.


Theo: Everything needs to fall into what’s practical of course. Also, morality doesn’t dictate my life, my fiction reading interests can be just what cultural aesthetic I’m interested in that day, or what direction I walk in with the dog isn’t me being moralistic, etc.

I think morality is useful for discussing arguments for philosophies, because even in the apocalyptic ruins I’d still be trying to network with people to organize to try and get penicillin production lines going again, trying to get the industrial revolution rolling again, where you wouldn’t, which is an important moral/philosophical difference.

Of the variety of potential possible futures, I do make plans to try and help the one that is more moral come about. If it’s 50/50 whether I can help build an anarchist commune or a fascist commune I’ll put my energy behind the anarchist one that aligns with my moral tastes, that’s true.

And even if the only possible long, long term outcome is collapse (which I don’t think is the case), I still hope some consciousness raising I did today has a knock on effect in helping restart the industrial revolution later on, like that I taught someone good critical thinking skills, and they teach someone else, and they teach someone else, etc.


Tribal vs. Ideological Allegiance in War

Potash: I think it is more purposeful to fight for one’s own tribe of his community than to fight for a vague ideal such as socialism, democracy, liberalism etc.


Theo: But what if your tribe is a bag of dicks lol?


Potash: But what if your nation is a bag of dicks lol?


Theo: Then fuck ‘em, fight for the ones worth fighting for.


Potash: The most dickish tribe doesn’t compare to Nazi Germany.


Theo: Sure, just fighting for socialism doesn’t mean fighting for a nation, if you somehow get swept up in a war thinking your side is better and then learn later it’s not, switch sides. Plenty of cool examples of people doing that, like lots of Napoleons army switching sides to the Haitian slave armies and securing the Haitian revolution.


Potash: Some have done that, but most will live and die thinking that their side was the right one and that the others are the wrong one. Regardless of what their nation is actually doing.

And besides, in history everyone is the villain. Most of the time most sides are abhorrent.


Theo: I don’t get the leap from war creates monsters, to everyone in history is the villain, there were cool revolutions and shitty ones, I’m grateful for the cool ones.


Potash: I’d say in the vast majority of conflicts both sides did horrible things and that didn’t stop their soldiers from fighting. It’s tribalism no matter what, it just takes a different form. Either Tribalism for a community which you have lived with your entire life and have defined you as a person, or tribalism for a vague ideal or conglomeration of millions who you will never know.


Theo: If that’s how you’re defining both as tribalism, that’s fine by me, I just prefer the latter kind because successfully achieving a good outcome with the latter means expanding people’s opportunities for higher character virtue flourishing, whilst the former could be good or bad depending on whether my tribe is a bag of dicks lol.


Potash: Everyone believes that they are fighting to make the world a better place, I don’t see why your personal ethics should effect the objective purposefulness of wars. You’re Not the one fighting, the soldiers are.


Theo: Most wars used to be petty disputes between neighbors, today a lot of wars are averted because people enjoy having the moral high ground more than they enjoy conquering for resources or whatever. I see that as progress. A attacks B, B can show the countries surrounding it in high-definition video footage the bullshit A was playing at and get all their backing to fend off A.


5. Preventing Unjustified Violence

What disclaimers should we use when talking about Kaczynski?

Theo: When discussing Kaczynski & his ideas, do you think it’s important to add disclaimers that some of his ideas and actions were wrong & how critical do you think those disclaimers need to be?


Normandie: Yes, I use them myself all the time when talking about Kaczysnki so that people don’t get the wrong idea. Disclaimers should certainly be used, except of course in the case of discussions in a group that regularly talks about techno-skeptic philosophy and already knows the disclaimers as a given. Normalization of violence is not healthy or righteous, even for people forced into deadly wars.


Theo: Right, so my position is you just shouldn’t platform people who have done evil without disclaimers or unless you are debating them and know you can draw more of their fans over to your side. Yes, critique the ideas as if anyone could have said them, but even if the ideas are perfectly good, make sure there is a critique of the evil actions he’s done and evil groups inspired by him, encase people go on from that to learn about him and sympathize with him and his legacy.


Normandie: I fully recognize that there is certainly negative conflation; however, the core of his ideology, which is the inevitable terminal dangers of industrialism, holds up whether or not he murdered people. This is an important distinction, the argumentative robustness of the philosophy regarding the nature of industrialism stays strong regardless of disagreements about what should be done about it, i.e. the nature of a revolution against the industrial system, which is a separate issue to be debated apart from his ideas about industrialism itself.


Theo: I think it’s important to acknowledge there can be negative conflations even if he was right, for example someone’s motivation for putting the effort into putting out good political theory could be to cover over or make recompense for things they’ve done in the past. So if I was to not critique their past, someone could have good feelings about their political theory, find out about their past, then come up with justifications for why it wasn’t so bad because they like their theory.

But regardless, I do think he in part absolutely developed a tailor-made ideology as a shield for unethical murderous desires. As he himself acknowledged the desire to kill psychologists and anyone else he hated was a major turning point in his life, another big change in his ideology also coincided with personal life changes in that after he was imprisoned, he set out a concrete plan for revolution and hoped he could be used as a symbol for it, which reflects how he could no longer take personal revenge and the most meaning he could conceive for himself was being this theorist for how others could work together to bring about a revolution.

As to the moment his ideology changed towards violence, he started to have sexual fantasies of becoming a woman I think because he didn’t know how to have relationships with women, so he wanted to explore desires for women which he hadn’t had the space to learn to understand (I don’t think it was out of any felt-emergence that he was a woman).

He made an appointment to go see the university psychologist and at the last minute decided he didn’t want to talk about having a sex change:[8]

As I walked away from the building afterwards, I felt disgusted about what my uncontrolled sexual cravings had almost led me to do and I felt humiliated, and I violently hated the psychiatrist. Just then there came a major turning point in my life. Like a Phoenix, I burst from the ashes of my despair to a glorious new hope. I thought I wanted to kill that psychiatrist because the future looked utterly empty to me.

So a combination of factors, like bullying at school, the psychology experiments and this humiliating experience with the psychologist potentially turned into hateful resentment for a society that he felt had made him confused and depressed.

Then a desire to carefully plan his murders and pick targets he thought some people would intellectually admire him for picking, as in his eyes the evilest people deserving of fighting a guerrilla war against, could be seen as a way of getting the validation he didn’t get from friends as a child on his own terms, for being special and intelligent enough to have discovered all these connections and go after the worst offenders. Rebelling against social alienation and mediocrity/ fear of the harder task of finding meaning with others, that there’s no special meaning given to your life for just being you.


Normandie: Kaczynski likely committed his violent actions under the influence of developmental trauma. Addressing whether or not the ideology is ‘tailor made’ for murderous desires, I would say that any truly revolutionary ideology is ripe for abuse in its execution, and has been abused by many people, including most political revolutionaries in the past 2 centuries. If the philosophy of anti-industrialism is true, and I believe it is, then there are two options: to attempt revolution against this system, or to do nothing and chug ever on to the terminal end. I know many people who agree with Kaczynski and Ellul’s core philosophy, but would rather do nothing, and I used to be in this camp as well. However, if something is to be done about it, and this something is more than likely going to include violence (as all actual revolutions seem to have included), then of course there are going to be people who attempt to abuse the mask of the ideology to accomplish devious personal goals. This does not mean that the answer is to do nothing and lead the ecology of the Earth to not survive.

I don’t think you can blame Kaczynski for the ‘fascist creep’ any more than you can blame Marx for the horrors of Mao. Fascists and authoritarians of that nature would be so with or without the flare of technoskepticism inspired by Kaczynski. There is a resurgence of authoritarianism happening all over the place in many ideologies.


Theo: I do blame Marx in part for the horrors of Mao. Marx knew he was writing a strategy promoting the most opportunistically violent class war revolutions possible. He thought the problem with the French revolution was that they didn’t chop off enough heads, so very little sense of needing to inspire people to be invested in the new society, just terrorizing people as being of primary importance.

Kaczynski’s actions and theory directly inspired some people to join non-violent green and insurrectionary left-anarchist movement, but also far-right terror groups who wouldn’t otherwise have done so. And in the case of ITS turned them from far-left green anarchists property saboteurs to far-right terrorists.


Normandie: There are, in my strong opinion, certain changes in the world that cannot come about by protracted reform. Some things can only be accomplished by revolution. If there is something of this nature that cannot be accomplished by reform, and is dire, then you can’t blame the person who pointed it out for the mishandlings of those responding to it. If that were the case, no revolution against any evil or disastrous system could happen because there will be some people who try to accomplish devious things.


Theo: Even if I were to grant that the core philosophy was valid and revolution was justified, there are countless examples I can point to of Kaczynski advocating evil strategy and evil character vices, which aren’t conducive to those goals, so I would just like to see a lot more critiques of his ideas from people on the anti-tech side too. For example advocating the killing of biotech scientists as symbols to simply send a message and through his actions in the past the justifying of a bombing spree as the natural response to anger he felt, so including bombs in which he tried to take down airplanes where his motivation was the anger he felt at planes flying over his cabin.

But as long as we can acknowledge beyond the core philosophy, his actions and other ideas have been directly responsible for encouraging others to do evil, I’ll take that as important common ground. I would still contend the core philosophy is bad too and thus not worth the revolution you desire also, but I’m happy to go over all his ideas in detail one at a time to present my counter-arguments.


Preventing the Fascist Creep

Theo: There are far-left primitivists who think primitive life will be one of peace and few work-hours, then centrist-primitivists who are just anti-social egoists, then I’d say to the degree you understand primitive life is one of indifference for the disabled, etc. And you still desire it, then I’d say you’re on the anti-egalitarian right-wing of politics at least in that one aspect.

It is confused by the fact I view anti-industrial society as an irrational political foundation for achieving your desires, but to the extent there are these irrational rabbit holes people can fall down anywhere on the political spectrum, they can act as a worrying kind of wormhole which fast tracks people to diametrically opposite political positions.

So how this can happen on the far-left is if you’re struggling with the contradictions of having say a personal trauma which leads you to anti-industrialist politics + far-leftism which isn’t inherently against people finding value in highly technical work. So you might be worried that you could be overthrowing the current government, but will still be socially alienated from a demeaning factory work job, that is just slightly more democratic. And then from that point, find more common cause with anarcho-capitalists for just desiring to hoard what they can and kill anyone who comes onto their property, or fascists who want to hoard all the wealth for white people say.


Normandie: Indeed there are many, especially on the ‘left’, who believe a mythological version of primitive life. However, there are also many who hold an incorrectly savage view of primitive life. There is evidence of tribes who took care of their disabled members for many years after their disability (citation coming). The idea that primitivism means indifference for the disabled is just not the case. There was also much less disability due to gradual natural selective pressures. Many conditions that were incredibly rare before civilization have widely proliferated in the population. I’ve written more on this in my article, Civilization is Unhealthy. These things can be debated, but primitivism isn’t a hill I’ll die on. I’ll defend the things I believe about it and everyone has different views on it given their value systems. As I said, I am anti-industrialist first and foremost.

I don’t think it is useful or practical to retroactively cast on to hunter-gatherers the modern political compass, which is largely predicated upon industrial mass-production. We have ideas about ‘usual’ characteristics of people on the left and the right that many think can be applied to tribes, and this may be intuitive to a degree, but I still don’t think it is accurate to describe tribes who were both largely egalitarian and market-based traders. If I believe in egalitarian communalism, but I believe that life on Earth will be destroyed, or humans domesticated and controlled to such a degree as to make them hardly human anymore, if the industrial system remains, it doesn’t make me a right winger. The choice in the anti-industrialist philosophy is to save life on Earth from annihilation, or to let life on Earth go extinct because disabled people such as those in an iron lung would be unable to survive without the industrial system. If you believe that all life dying is better than some people dying, I can understand and respect that position. In fact, I used to prefer that all people die when I was a committed misanthrope. Nonetheless, I completely believe in taking care of disabled people. If there is a disabled person in my commune, we are taking care of them. This position of wanting the survival of life on Earth and having to make hard choices doesn’t make me a right winger. You may think it is ‘socially conservative’ somehow, but I strongly disagree.

As a disclaimer, I’m not a primitivist as a political ideology. I don’t call myself a primitivist. While I do think that humans would have a more secure existence psychologically as hunter gatherers, I don’t believe you can make all of human society primitive. You just can’t rationally control the development of a society like that. No amount of ideology will keep people from growing food if the alternative is to starve. The only way this could happen is if a meteor hit the Earth and all people except the hunter-gatherers in the Amazon and on North Sentinel Island died, which I don’t want. Primarily, I am anti-industrialist, I believe that industrialism will inevitably lead to disaster and possibly the destruction of all complex life forms if allowed to continue. People can do whatever they’d like after collapse comes. I’m not a political activist, in fact political philosophy is something that is not much of a priority right now except for how my commune will function. I don’t see anarcho-primitivism as a ‘rational political foundation’ either, because I don’t think its meant to be one outside of a small group — a tribe. I also don’t think most primitivists are driven to primitivism because of ‘trauma’ other than the lived experience of industrial distress that most everyone experiences to one degree or another.

Regarding what you just said: ‘So you might be worried that you could be overthrowing the current government, but will still be socially alienated from a demeaning factory work job, that is just slightly more democratic. And then from that point, find more common cause with anarcho-capitalists for just desiring to hoard what they can and kill anyone who comes onto their property, or fascists who want to hoard all the wealth for white people say.’, I’m not quite sure how you reach that conclusion about primitivists having ‘more in common’ with this or that right-wing group. Firstly, anarcho-capitalists are delusional if they think their system is anarchism because industrial economy has a tendency toward consolidation and centralization for technical development as an inherent characteristic due to selective pressures for competition, so of course its not anarchism, the state is just replaced by the corporation. How anprims have anything meaningfully in common with fascists, I’ve no idea how you’ve reached that conclusion.

Ted is explicitly anti-authoritarian and against using the state as a means to destroy the industrial system. ‘This is not to be a political revolution, our goal is overthrow not government but the economic and technological basis of the present society’.


Theo: Responding to your last point and working backwards, I would say regardless of if someone is against using the state to overthrow advanced technology, I don’t think that makes it any better, it’s still authoritarian to stop people from having the choice of accessing advanced medicine through worker-owned industries.

With regards to people shifting from left to right after becoming anti-industrialists, I don’t think I’m projecting political identities onto tribespeople who don’t know any other life, I’m specifically talking about people in the here and now changing their political sympathies towards fascism or anarcho-capitalism because they desire to just be hermits in the forest with their white family and exploiting their sons and friends through trade, but just not organizing in any way with factory production lines or punching a clock.

From what you’ve just said I perceive your philosophical intuitions to still be that of the left, with your desire for egalitarian communalism, but I just reiterate that I think when put into practice in the real world the effects would more closely align with what right wing people want in their indifference for segments of the population simply for who they are by nature.


Normandie: Back to what I previously said, I don’t want to control how anyone lives their life. I don’t even believe in a state in my political philosophy, I’m an anarchist. However, I’m not willing to let that principle cause me to sit back and allow the industrial system to destroy life, or all freedoms of life that make it worth living, because it would take away some medicine that is treating mostly conditions that are largely caused by industrialism in the first place.


The case study of ITS

Theo: Individualists Tending to the Wild (In Spanish: Individualistas Tendiendo a lo Salvaje, ITS) is a self-defined eco-extremist group that emerged in Mexico in 2011, whose members were originally part of the green & insurrectionary left-anarchist milieus who likely grew up on earth first monkey-wrenching manuals from the 80s. Upon reading the unabomber’s manifesto they stopped committing arsons aimed at sabotaging evil companies and instead started to desire to have the wider effect of terrorizing people through fear of injury or death on the simple principle of being against technology and wanting to regress to hunter-gatherer societies:[9]

With anarchism, the relationship at the moment is one of rupture, although there is no dishonor in accepting that many eco-extremists and some members of ITS come from anarchism, mostly from insurrectionist and eco-anarchist tendencies. Although at the time there were some ties, today the vast majority of anarchists hate us.

Most call themselves nihilists in that they don’t want to be beholden to pursuing any concrete narratives, like the goal of destroying all advanced technological systems, but instead hope to inspire others to a simple psychology of anger and resentment at the conformity they were forced to grow up with.

Interestingly Ted in prison has argued to the extent they are organising with others they should be working to bring about a primitivist revolution in going after riskier targets like electricity grid stations. But it’s almost as if ITS feel being able to do random attacks is what’s owed to them by being free and that to listen to Ted now would be helping serve his needs as a theorist from prison, to the detriment of their own desires.

They are also now firmly on the far-right, quoting from the now banned facebook page of the eco-fascist publication Atassa:[10]

All anti-civ thought and fascism have the same founding premise and modus operandi. These are that a large chunk of the human population holds down a selected group that could potentially function successfully if these other groups were not around. The solution is thus to cull the land of those people, either the scapegoat of all societal ills (fascism) or the vast majority of people who could not function without the support of techno-industrial society (anarcho-primitivism / anti-civ green anarchy). Both ideologies can be reluctant or coy about the mehtodology they use or its results (“an ethno-state does not lead directly to genocide”, “the destruction of the power grid is not intended to directly kill billions of people”). However, the ethical decision of both is the same: do what needs to be done to allow those who can be free to be free, and damn the consequences. Eco-extremism does not shy away from this.

For context here is a communique of who Atassa are from ITS themselves:[11]

The northern lands of the American continent are being won over by the tendency that moves away from political humanism and spits mockingly on hyper-moral civilized values.

It was obvious that the rabid followers of humanism would protest against the incorrect words and the “atrocious” acts of ITS in Mexico, Argentina, Chile and Brazil. Scared, they would whisper, “I hope ITS doesn’t come to the U.S.” and that’s what happened. ITS hasn’t come to the U.S., but (here is the “but”) little by little the most emblematic theorists of eco-extremism were arriving, who created publishing projects and put into circulation websites that reproduced the discourse against human progressivism.

The first sign we have to support this is the publication of Atassa magazine, the first issue of which was a tremendous blow for the humanist slanderers, demonstrating the arrival of eco-extremism to the U.S. The second issue will be a true earthquake for those same defamers of the tendency.


Normandie: Let me first clarify that I am not anti-civ, but I recognize that many people who are in the wider diaspora of groups that are anti-civ commonly flirt with or idolize Kaczynski in some way. These people have either not read Kaczysnki’s magnum opus (ATR), or have and disregard the most important parts of it to instead pursue their own delusions about politics.

I had not heard of ITS before this discussion. If we are staying on the topic of Kaczysnki’s philosophy, he has clearly stated (especially in Anti-Tech Revolution: Why and How) that anti-tech revolutionaries must avoid working with extreme-environmentalists ,such as ITS, and anarcho-primitivists. The only goal for Kaczysnki is to destroy the technological system, and anyone who has any other priorities (especially political ambitions like fascism) should not be worked with. I am repulsed by fascist and I, along with anyone who takes anti-tech revolutionary activity seriously and practically, avoid working with these people and actively try to keep them out of our circles. It seems that the initial move away from leftism by ITS was reading Industrial Society and Its Future, but that they have moved towards ecofascism in defiance of Kaczysnki’s philosophy. Like I said earlier, any revolutionary concept is going to have people like this who use the banner for evil ends. Kaczysnki is not some religious figure to be followed by those of us who are anti-industrialist, but he has contributed valuable work to anyone hoping to do anything about the terminal dangers of industrialism, and admits that discretion and adaptation is going to be necessary for revolutionaries going forward. Anyone who took hedence to his outlining of what does and doesn’t make a revolutionary movement successful would not work with these people, so it is my opinion that the move to fascism is due primarily to their own poor qualities as people.

Addressing this statement, ‘All anti-civ thought and fascism have the same founding premise and modus operandi. These are that a large chunk of the human population holds down a selected group that could potentially function successfully if these other groups were not around. The solution is thus to cull the land of those people, either the scapegoat of all societal ills (fascism) or the vast majority of people who could not function without the support of techno-industrial society (anarcho-primitivism / anti-civ green anarchy)’,

Anti-industrialism is not an anti-civ ideology. Of course, people who are anti-civ are inherently against industrialism because you can’t have industrialism without civilization. However, the only goal of the anti-tech movement (as it concerns Kacyznki’s philosophy) is the end of industrialism, and nothing else. Anyone with other goals for the movement is to be absolutely avoided at all costs, as Kaczysnki himself has said. Anti-civ is a political philosophy, anti-industrialism is not. Destroying the industrial system is one concrete goal that does not concern how a society is governed. Anti-civ is a delusion that the trajectory of human society can be rationally controlled, which Kaczysnki dedicates the first chapter of ATR to show that it cannot be. You cannot force all of humanity to not live sedentary lives. Anti-industrialism does not pin the blame of the current state of the world on any group of people. Jacques Ellul spent his masterpiece detailing how the industrial system is an inorganic and encompassing force with one goal, technical development and infection of all aspects, and that humans are a middle-man between the system and its ends (a middleman that will one day not be as technically efficient as an alternative, thus being replaced). Anti-industrialism has nothing to do with groups of people.

The excerpt may have a point of anti-civ and fascist commonalities, but like I just detailed, this is very much not the case for those who follow Kaczysnki’s revolutionary philosophy.


Theo: I fully grant that Kaczynski despises ITS now, but I would argue firstly, that Kaczynskis’ philosophy inspiring people to move away from leftism has terrible real world consequences, and secondly that it’s also bad precisely because it moves people closer to the right wing and fascism and so acts as a stepping stone or gateway to it.

The fanaticism some people have for Kaczynski’s work can blind them to how the core theory is sometimes directly responsible for evil, it’s like a religious person who says you have to have blind faith, live as if you believe for a month or a year, but even then, they will act as if an ex-believer who had been in the religion 50 years never properly understood the holy books.

So what I’m saying is ideologies can always claim they don’t have many members yet because of manufactured consent or whatever, and that can be true to a degree, but you have to also take these case studies seriously of groups of people passing through your ideology, being really invested in it for a time and it having a profound impact on them, but that it had a negative effect on the world while they were in it and that the theory wasn’t even reasonable or inspiring enough to get them to stay with it long-term.

The early actions the group ITS took and the theory they used to explain their actions were very much aligned with the actions and theory Kaczynski had put out at the time. For example their targeting of bio-scientists as symbols was right out of Kaczynski’s essay advising what tactics should be pursued, as well as their theory that technology should be attacked on principle because it’s all rotten and no concessions can be made, finally right down to their copying of all his ideological terms like claiming to be acting in defence of ‘Wild Nature’.


The case study of Jacob Graham

Theo: It was interesting to read about the history of these anti-tech telegram channels Jacob was a part of and how he created a splinter telegram group. His name shows up on a few different anti-tech forums, so it seems like a fair few people knew him as a knowledgeable anti-tech person.[12]

During your offending you became a member and controller of chat rooms on the internet, mostly encrypted to hide what you were talking about. Over many months you discussed in group chat and direct messaging, planning and preparing for terrorist acts. You were the administrator, solely responsible for who could be in the group and who could not. One of those groups was called “Total Earth Liberation Group” with 150 members. Discussion included assistance with information on how to make explosives to attack energy infrastructure sites and commercial entities, how to make a rudimentary shotgun and about poisons and napalm alternatives. You offered yourself as a very knowledgeable and experienced terrorist. Whilst you were not telling the truth about what action you had taken, you were building trust and providing information which they wanted from your digital library of information, which was likely to assist a person preparing acts of terrorism.


Potash: I don’t get why you have such a stick up your ass about political violence. Violence is a fact of life.


Theo: I’m open to plenty of uses of violence:

On The Far-Left, Effective Activism & Violence

I just like poking fun when; political groups whose ideology doesn’t lend itself to putting up strong guardrails against unjustified political violence inevitably lead to embarrassing examples like Jacob.

It’s one small example of an action groups could implement, but why do you think the Neo-Luddite Hub mods don’t just say ‘no one is allowed to make their profile picture an anti-anarchist terror group’ as part of an effort to make the space unfriendly to bad justifications for terrorism?:

A text dump on eco-extremism


Potash: Freedom of speech.


Theo: Ok where’s the line though? Would you allow people to put pictures of child porn in their profile pics?


Potash: Yeah I’d ban Vaush. Dude it’s not that big of a deal.


Theo: For clarity, I think lack of strong guard rails is inherent to your ideology, so even if you made small fixes like this and made adherents less likely to commit terror attacks, there’d still be a higher chance of adherents committing unjustified terrorism than left-anarchists (per person) due to other factors. And I also don’t particularly want you to become a more effective political enemy, so all this is just me casually observing and mocking an enemies foibles.


Potash: In what way is it inherent?


Theo: There are three really great academic articles that argue in methodical detail how; when people who are anti-tech reject the view that other social justice campaigns can be complementary to their ideal end goal, then they on average become more open to using terrorism & bodily-harm violence. The point being argued is a simple one, that too many people conflate radical environmentalists with terrorists for faulty reasons, but the detail in which this point is argued I think shows a lot of fascinating glimpses into the foundational intuitions motivating various people:


6. Broader Questions

General Agreements & Disagreements

Potash: What’s your biggest agreements and disagreements with anti-tech activists?


Theo: For agreements, I have similar critiques of every development from primitive society to today not being ideal, like priestly classes encouraging obedience to lords and god given royal succession, to capitalism selling away the commons, capitalism preying on people’s worst instincts to sell them shit they don’t need that harms the planet.

For disagreements, I’ve seen a lot of ‘collapse is just around the corner’ types who overestimate the fragility of world markets.


Potash: Although I agree almost completely with the narratives propagated by the Anti-Tech movement, there are some common factual errors that they make.

Oftentimes you’ll hear people say “evolution has stopped with civilization/industrialism”. This technically isn’t true, since evolution is just the gradual changing of genes and genetic mutations have gotten more common in the past 30,000 years.

Sometimes people will point to suicide rates increasing in the United States and will argue that suicide rates are increasing everywhere. However this isn’t really true as suicide rates in most other nations are either stagnating or declining.

And sometimes people personify the technological system, when in reality it is not an human being in and of itself but the conglomeration of all the different self prop systems in technological society.

That being said, the narratives being pushed in all of these cases are overall correct. Sometimes people just get a few of the specifics wrong.


Theo: It’s good you can notice those faulty claims.


How could industrial society protect wild nature long-term?

Wake: You mention you believe that industrial society is the only way of protecting wild nature.

1) Do you see yourself as anthropocentric? What’s more important, the survival of man, or the survival of the rest of nature?


Theo: The latter, I’ve written about being an eco-centrist here:

Why Ecocentrism is Essential


Wake: 2) Where do you disagree with Kaczynski on his section in ISAIF on reform, specifically ‘simpler problems have proven impossible to solve’ (or words to that extent)?


Theo: I agree with his assessment of the way industrial society creates skill specializations, which both decreases people’s opportunities to exercise power as an individual within industrial society and decreases the likelihood that they will maintain their survival powers over nature (paragraphs 197–8). But, I think this can be a wholly positive phenomenon if society is organised well, where in an ideal society the decision that leads to the most powerful outcome in the world is inherently a practice that’s replicable on a mass scale, easily understood through shared rules & ends, and gives meaning and pleasure to the individual for the practices internal value.

All that means is people have more to offer from specializing their skills, they can still come together through tactics like unionizing, they just make the case that society could be better organized with the workers with the expertise running the ship and win more people to our cause.

For further reading I go into this more in my essay on my virtue-existentialist ethics:

My Virtue-Existentialist Ethics


Wake: The question was why do you think the destruction of nature (for example) can be stopped when simpler problems have proven impossible to solve?

The point of ‘simpler problems have proven impossible to solve’ isn’t to say that there is no solution, but that humans will never successfully implement it, shown throughout historic precedent, i.e. the war on drugs, homelessness, teen pregnancy, etc., etc.


Theo: Right, so I bite the bullet on specialization producing more situations in which problems can sometimes be harder to solve in a black and white way. But, having there be a higher number of problems which can be solved and the way in which they’re addressed in high-tech society is still more desirable to me, like modern medicine is a win because it outright solves some diseases that we would just have to be stoic about killing us as hunter gatherers. And problems that we have the luxury of considering problems we can often mostly deal with. Like with teen pregnancy, just because we can’t 100% fix this problem doesn’t mean it’s not more easily preventable within large, healthy, high-tech communities, with lots of opportunities to develop intellectually and even in rare cases, again with modern medicine, solvable somewhat with products like abortion pills that we can know would be safer than primitive abortions where you eat the root of a plant which maybe flushes out the fertilized egg, but also has harsher poisoning side effects on the body.


Wake: 3) You bring up feudal warlords destroying the earth, do you not think they would have significantly less devastating impact than the current rape of the earth. The damage they would cause would be much more transient than micro plastics, it may even serve to benefit the biosphere (humans place in nature is as burners). Genghis khan significantly reduced earths CO2 emissions, not that hes a luddite champion.


Theo: The most powerful propaganda for the luddite cause would be writing really convincing fiction of a possible future in which feudal warlords destruction of the earth is transient because future tribes people are able to fully convert everyone to being egalitarian hunter gatherers through war and outreach or whatever. I don’t see it myself.

I think the ideal many primitivists valorize of being physically able enough to ‘fall through the cracks’ of a roman empire like control of the land is detestable because it’s condemning most people to suffer that horrible life. It’s just entirely unappealing to me at every possible imagined level of tech, whether that’s tribes people accidently starting brush fires that destroy vast areas of wildlife habitat, or feudal empires cutting down vast forestland on their warpaths. The right question is how to use tech sensibly.


Ted’s Predictive Capabilities

Theo: I think given the large number of people who were able to correctly predict many of the problems that would go along with tech evolution under capitalism means that Kaczynski’s analysis isn’t actually that unique or novel of an achievement to write home about.

Ted predicted in the manifesto that the worldwide technological system could collapse at as early a date as 2035,[13] which he provided no good evidence for, then in a later letter claimed this was just a guess and that he wouldn’t attempt to defend it.[14]

He also briefly predicted the US wars in Vietnam and Iraq would have a net good impact on the world,[15] which we can see how well those turned out.

The articles and books Ted bought into or misinterpreted is notable too.

He saved onto an article from Esquire called ‘The Human Race Has, Maybe, Thirty-five Years Left’[16] which predicted that agricultural production couldn’t keep increasing, so we’d have to be eating plankton or each other in 2022.

He was also briefly suckered in by some some scientific sounding evidence for a spoon bending magician’s paranormal beliefs,[17] and so briefly feared that “thirty years from now, we may have government-employed psychics wandering around checking up on our thoughts to make sure we aren’t planning to do anything illegal.”[18]


Would you still use domesticated animals in a peaceful world?

Theo: There are obviously people who are pro & anti animal domestication on either side of the technology question, so I’m curious to get a range of opinions for how anti-tech philosophy interacts with animal rights issues.

Most vegans are against breeding domesticated animals like cows, pigs, sheep and chickens because we think we should be freeing up space for those wild animals with a close common ancestor such as bison, wild boar, mouflon and jungle fowl, which are better able to express their capabilities in the wild. That way those domesticated animals with numerous health problems like chickens who get egg bound or break their legs easily for carrying so much meat can be allowed to simply not be bred into existence anymore.

Many anti-civ people extend this critique of domestication to the way they say humans have allowed ourselves to become unthinkingly subordinate to the way of life in cities. And some even go as far as to say this process started when we began using fire.

Finally, there are many anti-tech people who see it as necessary to practice animal farming and hunting for surviving the collapse, which I don’t see as likely, but I do think that that would be justified if true.

A hypothetical question I’m curious about though, to test people’s principles is... if you lived in a world where everyone was vegan and there was no war, where everyone grew food forests, so even if you desired to move, you could always help someone else with their food forest, and you knew you could meet all your nutritional needs living this life, and you knew there wasn’t going to be warfare, and you knew you could maintain the skills of hunting if you needed to go back to that, would you hypothetically choose not to hunt animals? Just living a life where you’re communicating with them through seeing otters in the wild, but just choosing not to hunt, do you think that would be an ethical responsibility? What do you think if you knew that you could survive perfectly fine with low labor hours?


Zerzan: That sounds rather nice, yeah I wouldn’t argue against it, I mean if it’s conceivable and I think you know hunter-gatherer life was more gathering than hunting, but still, maybe that would be more ideal. If you’re trying to learn anything from the record, it’s a bit hard to imagine that in terms of our evolution, but it sounds nice, yeah.


Theo: Yeah it’s a nice dream. I just often come up against people who are really invested in like eating meat because it’s their culture and eating these horrible factory farmed animals, so I think it’s interesting, like I use the argument of we have all these glass greenhouses now, we have thousands of vegetables we can grow all year round to eat a varied diet, but even if we went back to primitivist life and we could still meet all our nutritional needs, I think there would be some ethical responsibility there too, just to embody this more compassionate lifestyle.


Zerzan: Right, I salute your values, I think that’s very worthwhile to think about.


Jorge: Veganism is unnatural and detrimental to human health. Of course a civilized child may have emotions when simply facing death, but living creatures die, and they must die for others to be fed. The vegan dogma is one of the worst aspects to develop from of civilized life, and I hope every vegan gets free of it before it does them serious bodily damage.

Our species of human is 200K years old, and you can be sure people were eating anything they could tolerate. Suddenly refusing to process foods which forever enabled human survival is not going to be without negative consequences. Humans are genetically most alike chimps and bonobos, and neither are vegetarian. What do you imagine would be the consequences to the health of these apes if they were to be limited to a vegan diet? (This dietary restriction would have to be imposed on them because they would never fall victim to the ideology that it is wrong to kill/eat grubs, fish, insects, and small mammals.)

Veganism is unnatural and detrimental to human health. Of course a civilized child may have emotions when simply facing death, but living creatures die, and they must die for others to be fed. The vegan dogma is one of the worst aspects to develop from of civilized life, and I hope every vegan gets free of it before it does them serious bodily damage.


Theo:

Veganism is unnatural … The vegan dogma is one of the worst aspects to develop from of civilized life

Our nature is simply that of being highly intelligent animals who can choose to struggle against our natural drives if we decide intellectually that we desire to. E.g. Biologically really liking sugar because it’s not common in the wild, but deciding not to binge on it anyway, even when we have easy access to it in cities.

Humans are genetically most alike chimps and bonobos … This dietary restriction would have to be imposed on them because they would never fall victim to the ideology that it is wrong to kill/eat grubs, fish, insects, and small mammals.

The reason I think hunting and paying for the killing of animals is a character vice for myself and many others is because I’m intelligent enough to empathize with other animals and know I can be happy and healthy eating a vegan diet. So, I don’t hold the position you’re tarring all vegans with, but we likely agree my position is not one other animals could ever come to, along with severely mentally disabled people and psychopaths.

detrimental to human health. … Our species of human is 200K years old, and you can be sure people were eating anything they could tolerate. Suddenly refusing to process foods which forever enabled human survival is not going to be without negative consequences

If the only way we’d been able to achieve optimal health for 200K years was eating large quantities of soil I would still happily abandon it if I knew the trade-off was just knowing how to grow enough duck-weed year round, or brewing yeast in glass jars, just like we do beer or penicillin.

Of course a civilized child may have emotions when simply facing death,

I agree it’s likely a problem for kids to fear seeing death, I’d probably take my kids out on a deer hunt if they were overpopulated and politicians in my area were continuing to drag their feet on re-introducing predators.

but living creatures die, and they must die for others to be fed

I’m with you, along with the Tibetans and Zoroastrians, I would like a sky burial were it legal, as a charitable offering to larger animals that could benefit from the meat most. However, most animals people eat today are bred to live much shorter and more dreadful lives than they would have in the wild, getting to express their wild capabilities. So, I advocate more people go vegan, so they are never bred to live these shitty lives. Also, because it takes more land to grow plants to feed to animals, to eat the animals, than just eating plants, so I’d like to free up more land for wild habitat, to increase the net amount of wild animals on earth getting to express their capabilities. So regardless of whether your ideal is primitive food forests or solar-punk, I think advocating veganism is character virtuous.


Jorge: This reformism and vegan advocacy is seriously bogus. Removing violence from our lives is good for stabilizing and perpetuating techno-industrial civilization, but since violence is an innate part of ape life, the lack of any arena for its expression does not foster human psychological health. Instead of killing to eat, we civilized people in technological society are largely repressed from any violent action — how good can this be for us, physically and psychologically? (Again, if chimps were made to be nonviolent, what consequences would result? What would human observers think if some minority of chimps suddenly began persuading others to not eat nothing but plants and fruits, for some reason — and how would that differ from a psychosis in the animal?) Have we civilized a healthy relationship with death? I think not, and the charade of veganism’s promise to eliminate any contribution to animal deaths is noy going to foster a good understanding of death & life. But vegan advocates are in luck: the TIS seems ready to impose veganism or other engineered techno-sciencey manufactured diet (perhaps crickets) upon humanity, for as long as humans are allowed and tolerated.

You think and hope you will be healthy eating a vegan diet, but you may simply be beginning a slow-burn disaster which doesn’t crescendo for 15 years. On the other hand, we know that people eating animals and their eggs and marrow, and drinking their milk or blood, have been well nurtured and made healthy for eons.

reddit.com/r/exvegans has plenty of testimonials and anecdotes of health problems befalling ardent vegans, driving them to question and leave the ideology; I wish you no harm and hope you will move to a more natural diet before health maladies arrive — and I’m sure they will, eventually. And our nature to desire sugar (or salts) should be exercised and fulfilled, when sugar is rare, regional and seasonal. When we create foods and modify the world to suit ourselves — taking control from the gods, as Daniel Quinn put it — we have to attend to ripple effects we cannot foresee or fully manage (hypertension, diabetes, obesity, population growth come to mind).


Theo: I set up r/AntiVegans a while ago as I think it’d be funny to gather anecdotes of people who used to be ideologically motivated to warn against veganism for the comedic mirror it would create. Either way, I don’t actually see the evidentiary use value in a bunch of anecdotes when we have so many either way, and so much better evidence in research papers, but if you’re curious about my personal cultural experience with vegans and the arguments, I was brought up vegetarian, went vegan at 15, and enjoy a fit life at 31 in a tiny village.

I don’t think we’re lacking for opportunities to habituate people to violence and conflict in TIS, we have much more meaningful opportunities in fact in the painful realizations about friends, frenemies and enemies we are in intellectual and physical competition with.

You keep asserting veganism is x, like veganism wants apes to be non-violent, veganism wants people to eat crickets, which just sounds like conspiracy thinking, linking news stories that aren’t connected. The way I’ve seen the crickets thing pop up is just liberal journalists covering the rise of veganism and offering an unsatisfactory middle ground as part of what they think their job is to do in covering both sides impartially and suggesting middle ground steps. But obviously vegans are against farming and killing insects, as they’re sentient animals who can have a subjective experience of capabilities they’re enjoying expressing. So to vegans it’s a character vice to breed them into the world knowing you plan to go against their interests by killing them.


Jorge: You misunderstand my remarks. The technological system pursues its needs, which may be a lower human toll upon Nature, possibly accomplished by a cricket-heavy sustenance, or petri dish lab meats, or a vegan nutritional syrup — or the eradication of (most of) humanity. Even if unintentional and unwitting, the vegan movement (along with the animal rights folks pushing cellular ‘meat’ and such) aids the technological system’s management of humanity, separated from Nature and dependent upon the social managers of the system. Crickets are championed by the non-vegan advocates of “sustainability” who want feed everyone everywhere and ‘lessen our impact’. If humans are apes, and vegans want animals not to be killed by humans, then at least some elimination of apes’ violence is being sought by vegans, right? I don’t follow your remarks about friends and enemies, but I doubt that that violence compares to raids or hunts by uncivilized tribal groups or survival by killing as required in Nature. Why do you think it is that people who do live in Nature have not adopted a vegan diet?


Theo:

vegans want animals not to be killed by humans

No, vegans simply want to do an animal products boycott, they can still be in favor of killing animals for a multitude of reasons, e.g. for pest control within settlements and farms, reducing overpopulation, eliminating invasive species, mercy killing injured animals, etc. There’s many legal animal rights advocates who for example are against hunting on principle, but that was never the original goal people had in mind who came up with the term vegan and so even that is not a required principle to hold in order to adopt veganism. Here’s 5 example ethical reasons someone might be vegan (and what branch of philosophy it may be related to):

Hedonistic Utilitarianism: The commitment to not use sentient life where you know you will cause more suffering on a global calculus than happiness. Examples: human caused climate change, stress and pain in a slaughterhouse than a longer happy life in the wild with low rates of predation, stress to slaughterhouse workers who are more likely to abuse their family, etc.

Preference Consequentialism: The commitment to not use sentient life in various ways because you know they will have interests to go on living longer than would be profitable. Examples: They have habits for activities they’d like to do each day and they show you by their desire not to be loaded onto scary trucks and to a slaughterhouse where they hear the screams of other animals and the smell of death.

Virtue Ethics: The pursuit of positive character virtues through not breeding a sentient life into captivity when you know you could leave room for other animals to enjoy happy flourishing by being able to express all their capabilities in wild habitat. So not wanting to parasitically take away life with meaning for low-order pleasure in our hierarchy of needs which we can find elsewhere.

Deontology: The principle of everyone should only act in such a way that it would still be acceptable to them if it were to become universal law. So not breeding sentient life into existence, only to keep them confined, tear families apart and kill them later, as you wouldn’t want it to happen to you.

Existentialist Ethics: The desire to be wary of acting in-authentically, so in a way you don’t believe due to outside social pressures, like that acting un-caringly is necessary to what it means to be a man. So testing out values you were brought up with against new ones as you go and coming to the conclusion that you’d prefer to live in a society where most people have the value of seeing animals flourishing in nature and not in captivity/pain.

I doubt that that violence compares to raids or hunts by uncivilized tribal groups or survival by killing as required in Nature.

It doesn’t compare in terms of the quantity of opportunities to chaotically follow ones baser instincts on a whim, but it is far and away superior on the calculus of more meaningful and emotionally draining conflict that people have access to in TIS. E.g. millions of people have the ability to go volunteer to fight against Russia’s attack on the Ukrainian people now, and for 5 years millions had the opportunity to fight ISIS’s attack on the Yazidi people. Going to fight ISIS may have involved tying oneself emotionally to forever wanting to know on a deeply personal level that the sex slaves you freed are still doing well and potentially carrying the burden of a mistake that could have been avoided costing a friend’s life, you get to experience the attempts at saving and recapturing a complex culture and people tied to a land that can trace their philosophical development back to being primitive tribes.

Why do you think it is that people who do live in Nature have not adopted a vegan diet?

Again, because like I said at the beginning, “the reason I think hunting and paying for the killing of animals is a character vice for myself and many others is because I’m intelligent enough to empathize with other animals and know I can be happy and healthy eating a vegan diet. So, I don’t hold the position you’re tarring all vegans with, but we likely agree my position is not one other animals could ever come to, along with severely mentally disabled people and psychopaths.” There’s no injustice happening to the animals that get hunted by for example uncontacted tribes people who use blow darts to pick off the slowest squirrels or whatever, helping their evolution. And there’s no bad intent or character vice on the part of the tribes person who hasn’t ever contemplated leaving the forest to eat farmed foods and allow the forest to go in a different evolutionary direction such that they could be living a more meaningful life, and the forest would be able to contain a higher quantity of animals.


7. Alternative organizing principles other groups are using such as left-anarchists

Potash: We’ve devoted plenty of discussion to the Tenability of Anti-Tech Revolution, but almost none to the tenability of left-anarchism. There are several serious problems with the practicality of left-anarchism that I believe will prevent it from ever being successfully implemented. Let’s go down the list.

I think we need to apply a new standard for this discussion. Rather than comparing primitive societies to an idealized anarchist utopia which only exists in your head, we should look at how the average primitive society fares against the average industrial society. Or perhaps the average technologically advanced first world society. At most, you can compare primitive societies to real world examples of technological socialism/anarchism, but not to imagined utopias.


Theo: Sure, we can do that, for clarity though, even if worst case scenario my ideal society was unlikely to be able to be achieved, I think it's still worth striving to achieve it, and it's the same the other way around for you, you don't just give up.

For example, here's a diagram representation of choosing between methods of working towards the same end goal e.g. mostly guerrilla warfare and getting lucky vs. mostly election campaigns + some direct action and unfortunately seeing society drift between various political extremes, but standing a higher chance of getting to the same end goal. So long as the 'means to get there' represented roughly the same amount of pleasure and suffering, I'd chose the more likely method of achieving the same end goal, no matter how counter-intuitive:

t-s-theo-slade-normandie-etc-a-collaboratively-edi-4.png

Now, here's a diagram representation of choosing whether to pick a method of arriving at an unlikely good end goal vs. giving up and accepting a 99% likely shit future end point:

t-s-theo-slade-normandie-etc-a-collaboratively-edi-5.png

Though obviously worst, worst scenario, if I'm 100% likely going to arrive at the shitty end point there'd be no point in trying.

To convince me to give up on left-anarchism you'd have to show me a good argument it's 99-100% likely going to end up in collapse.

If the options are collapse with 100% wild habitat, vs. a left-anarchist world with only 90% wild habitat, you'd want to know it's 99-100% likely going to end up in the left-anarchist world also, to give up on collapse.

Either, one of us would need to convince each other something is 100% likely going to happen, or we would need to convince each other to change what it is we ought desire happen.

For me, regardless of if a left-anarchist world would only be able to achieve 90% wildlife habitat, it would still be a million times better than a 100% primitive world for a million reasons, like being able to prevent brush fires started by tribespeople from accidently consuming vastly larger areas of wildlife habitat than intended, or being able to rescue a wolf that got randomly injured by a falling branch then release it once it's all healed up, or being able to knock a meteor off course that was going to hit the planet destroying all life.


How would you hope to bring down current governments like the US?

Potash: With violent revolution, all historical precedent suggests that you will fail at this. The Zapatistas have stopped trying to do so.

With peaceful revolution, you wouldn’t be able to get hundreds of millions to go on strike, especially with all the pressure the government would put on them and the rewards they would receive for being scabs.

As for gradual reform and dragging the Overton window leading to reform, I don’t think there is any historical precedent suggesting that this is possible.

This certainly is not happening when it comes to economic issues, and it’s highly unlikely that anything a left anarchist movement could change this. Even in the realm of social issues where this was happening for a while pushback from the right has subverted it. Less people support transgenderism now then did a few years ago. The culture and politics of a society is something that is influenced by far too many factors for it to be simply dragged consistently in one direction for decades and decades.

This plan relies on far left political parties maintaining consistent power. Given the dominance of one political party has never shown itself to be insurmountable over long periods of time, it is highly unlikely that this is a realistic goal. People are different and will always vote for different ideas, this is a fact of life and cannot be changed. Whenever a left wing party were to lose power, their policies could be revoked.

The idea that the United State’s government, or any government for that matter has the power to eliminate capitalism let alone achieve left anarchism is beyond asinine. Even the most skilled American politicians with the largest majorities haven’t been able to achieve universal healthcare. The prospect of the entire elimination of capitalism through democratic government is completely unimaginable. Combine this with the fact you will have to be competing with other parties with contradicting views who will stifle your plans every step of the way.


Theo: My initial answer to some of these questions is that most anarchists aren’t looking to recreate past anarchist experiments, we take comfort in experiments like people feeling more content at worker coops, direct action groups shutting down old growth logging companies and lending support to destroying groups like ISIS.

So even if for example, everywhere but North Korea was a moderately oppressive market socialist country and North Korea was the one bad example of doing capitalism, anarchists would still hope for something better to come out of both of them, i.e. more progressive anarchist experiments:

t-s-theo-slade-normandie-etc-a-collaboratively-edi-2.png

Also, even though no left party can hope to stay in power forever under representative democracies with swing voters, many countries are trending in a more leftward direction. The conservative party in the UK is more progressive than the democratic party in the US for example, but I think both are trending in a progressive direction over a long enough time period:

t-s-theo-slade-normandie-etc-a-collaboratively-edi-3.png


Potash: So Left-Anarchism is essentially unfalsifiable? Since whenever confronted with the failures of past experiments you can just imagine it happening differently.


Theo: No, I bite the bullet on them being failures in the long-term, to the extent that anyone who participated in them thought that world conditions were right for them to go on forever, with larger militaries gunning for them.

There were partial successes to learn from though, like the voluntary comradery of the black army making it more appealing to join for peasants, and being able to roll up the white army’s supply lines as a result. Or, collectivization in Spain making some farm laborers lives feel more secure, rather than worrying about job cuts, everyone who wanted to participate on farms just doing so and getting a good return.

It just is categorically not what left-anarchists are hoping to recreate in full though, we’re intending to learn the lessons of past failed experiments by being cautious about not throwing many lives away in a war for territory that’s a losing battle for example.


Terms of the debate

Potash: This is an inherently uneven debate, as you are arguing against a real form of society that has existed, and I am arguing over a hypothetical world.


Theo: I don’t particularly see the value of going into hypothetical worlds either, that’s what you added to this page, but we can just delete it and start somewhere else.

Is simply the concept of having ‘A Collaboratively Edited Discussion on Anti-Tech Politics’ also uneven? And if so, how so?

You also aren’t simply arguing for a form of society that has existed, you’re arguing for a particular strategy of getting there.


Clay: If a communist walked up to you and said; ‘If labor exploitation is making life worse then we should get rid of it no matter what,’ you wouldn’t just grant that taking away labor exploitation alone and leaving an authoritarian state would be good, you’d want to discuss proactive actions communists take like centralization which are dumb.

Similarly, with luddism, we’re not talking magically clicking our fingers and wiping everyone’s minds such that they don’t remember the advantages of technology, so we can’t simply compare people who grew up to be comfortable with a hunter-gatherer life, to people growing up to be semi-comfortable with a tech advanced capitalist life. You’re talking pro-actively trying to forever close off the opportunity for a voluntary pro-tech left-anarchist world.

The action would be so morally heinous in my view and a lot of other people’s views that even if you were successful, one of the motivating drivers in starting tech society back up again would be to right an injustice done to so many people.

To simplify:

Premise 1) If capitalism is making life worse then we should get rid of it tomorrow no matter the current political circumstances or cost

Premise 2) Capitalism is making life worse

Conclusion) Therefore we should get rid of capitalism

My answer: I reject Premise 1 because a stalinist state being set up in its place would be dumb.

Premise 1) If technology is making life worse then we should get rid of it tomorrow no matter the current political circumstances or cost

Premise 2) Technology is making life worse

Conclusion) Therefore we should get rid of technology

My answer: I reject P1 because a better system could be put in place that would alleviate the current downsides to the way technology is used today, so I wouldn’t want a permanent anti-tech revolution.


Potash: Every radical change throughout history has led to dramatic short term consequences. You are naive if you think left “anarchism” will be free of this. You are only considering the short term consequences of an anti tech revolution. Of course, the short term consequences will be quite extreme. But overtime, people will adapt to non technological life. The earth will recover, we will adjust to primitive conditions, and the global population will have returned to a normal level. The revolution is not for what comes 100 days afterwards, but 100 years afterwards.

This logic could be used to defend Slavery, the immediate consequences of the abolition of slavery were dire on the South’s Economy. But in the long term, we are much better off without slavery.


Clay: I’m not talking just immediate consequences, I’m talking the forever consequences you want to set up:[19]

My most core value is vigilance. I don’t see how one can speak of any sort of coherent ethics or care without it. In fact it was vigilance that attracted me to the arguments of primitivism two decades ago — concern with the lack of due diligence and consideration to the dynamics and externalities of our industrial society. But at the end of the day what primitivism ultimately represents is an abandoning of vigilance. The world of the permanent collapse is world in which our inquiry into the universe — the depth of our engagement with nature — can never progress past a certain level. A world in which the array of means (technologies) we might consider are permanently and starkly limited. In which we are cut off from the richness of most others’ thoughts and confined to tiny prisons of localism.

If there’s a kid 100,000 years after the revolution who discovers a laminated science book and realizes there was a tech society option some asshole took away from them, that’s suffering those people caused which is not an ok thing. And even if you managed to extinguish all memory of a tech society, that in itself is a genocide of culture that is a terrible harm I’m not ok with.


8. About the Discussion Participants

Theo: What was your political journey like to first reading the manifesto and developing a high confidence in the belief that there needed to be an anti-tech revolution?

For me on just why I write research articles for the archive, it started with writing a book on Aileen Wuornos, then doing a podcast promo for the book, then deciding to do another podcast episode with the same person on Ted.

I’m fascinated by outcasts like Aileen and Ted because of their desire to find healing in unconventional lifestyles, before everything goes wrong for them and others.

The surface level fascination is I’m convinced that profound changes in lifestyle are needed, for instance I live a low-impact vegan lifestyle. So, unpicking the knot of what went so wrong for some people with their motivation going into into an unconventional lifestyle or aspects to the practical reality of the lifestyle is all really important for me, in order to understand the way it may have negatively impacted their lives, so as to better advise people to avoid those pitfalls.

The deeper level fascination is to understand what meaning they were deriving from their life and unpicking that knot of how any person can get so lost.

Finally, I find it interesting that many of us walk around with the naive assumption that people we know well could never act in evil ways, if we’re ever forced to come face to face with the fact that they are, we have this realization of the ways we were blind to being able to help those people:

The Frustratingly Predictable Quite Neighbour News Stories


Wake: I grew up in a leftist family, I wasnt sheltered but I had a very strong sense of justice and morality. I was always outdoorsy but until I was about 14 I was a transhumanist/futurist in terms of I thought humanity would be better if we had genetic and physical enhancements and we colonised the stars. Since I could understand politics to when I was about 16 I slowly became more and more right wing (not alt right, libertarian) as I believed, and still do, freedom was the most important thing imaginable. I live in the UK, that posed a difficult understanding to me, the UK doesn’t have the same yearning for freedom as does America or Switzerland. Around this time id seen lots of ted Kaczynski memes and the Netflix show, Manhunt Unabomber, had came out, this made me want to look deeper into this Unabomber character. My whole life id seen video games as a dream world and an escape, I attribute this to many things and will write an essay on it eventually, as the character in them usually had unparalleled freedom. A distinction here is the freedom I saw in games is different to the ones I saw in libertarian ideologies and the societies of Switzerland and the US, as their freedom is not true freedom.

This culmination of a (justified) resentment of the left, yearning for freedom, idealised video game utopias often set preindustrial or medieval, a childhood love of nature and hatred of the powers that be made me realised Kaczynski was right. It was a relatively fast switch, took maybe a month, but I found Kaczynski was saying this I had felt my whole life but hadn’t put words to.

As for when I felt revolution was necessary, I study politics, and for a while wanted to be a politician (for the betterment of society not for power, though I suppose all politicians say that at the start) and I hoped I would be able to fix society democratically, incredibly stupid of me, I know. It took a few more months for me to realise there was no political solution and revolution was necessary.

I have no ‘childhood trauma’, I grew up in a house of staunch Hilary Clinton supporters who had never, and will never live in America, I grew up middle class between a city and the middle of nowhere. I was never alt right, I played a lot of video games, but what kids didn’t.

I had (less unconditional now) a strong sense of morality and justice, I love nature and freedom, and was always intelligent more to the side of creativity than logic. I’m not autistic or any of neurodivergence.


Theo: Interesting, yeah just curious, I wasn’t necessarily asking about your psychology/mental health, just how you relate now to what arguments were winning you over and how your confidence in political philosophies changed. But it’s interesting, I guess I talked about my psychology interests a fair bit because I didn’t have any big political change after reading Ted’s writings.


Potash: I actually would agree with the majority of the things you say when I was in middle school.

I own a copy of the conquest of bread and mutual aid from my anarcho-communist days.


Theo: What was the moment you lost confidence in a different path?


Potash: It was a slow and gradual shift.

I had this anti tech friend who is one of my longest and best online friends to this day, noctua. He exposed me to some anti-tech ideas. I started to realize that low-tech/primitive societies were the most likely to live up to the anarchist/socialist ideal.

Originally I preferred an agricultural form of society. I read ISAIF (or listened to it while playing Roblox) and I learned more and more about Anti-Tech ideology.


Normandie: My grandpa was almost full Iroquois and he bore a strong resentment against Anglo people for genocide. Ended up drinking himself to death in anger and it even further radicalized my own parents to a traditionalist lifestyle just southeast of where my family was originally from, former Iroquois confederacy area.

Originally I was raised in an Amish community in Keosauqua, Iowa. But when I was 16 I moved from Iowa to Huntsville, Alabama.

It was very anprim but they were completely deluded with a religious and fanatical reverence for 18th century technology. It was also very humbling. But most of the time as a young child I felt insulted by my parents and my community by their backwardness when we ventured into the town market to buy goods.

It was also the opposite of anprim as they worshipped and modelled their society on an authoritarian sky daddy.

I have come to revere the Natives because my grandfather was one. He didn’t revere their culture, only their disdain of modern society. Native American culture places a lot of value in long hair as a symbol of masculine self-confidence.

I lived in an apartment 2 years ago and was planning on going into some technophile science to study gravitational energy which was a delusion of mine and then I took LSD and randomly came across Industrial Society and Its Future while tripping and it immediately clicked for me despite me being a very passionate Marxist at the time, I think the LSD allowed me to not have my ego flare up when Ted talks about leftism and I was able to step back from my convictions and give the literature its fair due and, well, now here I am in the wilderness growing my stuff, caring for chickens, building the cabin, and being in the presence of the divine natural.

I’d prefer human beings exist without sedentary civilizations, some hunter gatherers practiced a form of ‘slash and burn’ agriculture but I’m not sure if that’s the proper terminology for what they were doing. Regardless, there’s few places in the world left today to hunt and gather, and they are already inhabited by tribes (besides Alaska). I’d prefer humanity hunt and gather, but I’m going to have to subsist myself with permaculture vegetables because I feel the need to engage with the anti-tech revolutionary movement.

I was vegan for 7 years when I lived in the city, since I moved to my homestead I’ve begun eating eggs and fish again though because I’m trying to emancipate myself from outside food and so far I’m doing good but I’ll really be set when I grow my grains this autumn.


[1] The Technological Society by Jacques Ellul.

”... the whole ensemble of means designed to permit human mastery of what were means and have now become milieu are techniques of the second degree ...”

[2] Ted Kaczynski’s Letter to Ellul

[3] Kaczynski, Ellul, and the Future of Anti-Tech Radicalism with Sean Fleming

[4] Perspectives on Our Age by Jacques Ellul & Willem H. Vanderburg

[5] Perspectives on Our Age by Jacques Ellul & Willem H. Vanderburg

[6] The Politics of Postanarchism by Saul Newman

[7] A Philosophy of Gun Violence

[8] Unabomber: The Secret Life of Ted Kaczynski by Chris Waits and Dave Shors.

[9] A text dump on eco-extremism

[10] A text dump on eco-extremism

[11] A text dump on eco-extremism

[12] A text dump on Jacob Graham

[13] Industrial Society and Its Future by Ted Kaczynski

[14] Ted Kaczynski’s Various Notes for Prison Staff

[15] The Ted K Archive Twitter Post

[16] The Human Race Has, Maybe, Thirty-five Years Left

[17] Frequently Asked Questions about Ted Kaczynski by Theo Slade

[18] Ted Kaczynski’s 1978–79 Journal

[19] A Quick and Dirty Critique of Primitivist & Anti-Civ Thought