Elon Musk echoes ‘the Unabomber’ Theodore Kaczynski anti-tech take

Elon Musk’s pioneering technological breakthroughs from online payments and electric vehicles to state-of-the-art rockets have helped him accrue a $221 billion fortune—making him the wealthiest person on the planet.

But in a tweet sent out over the weekend, the Tesla, SpaceX, and Neuralink cofounder—who has issued some dire warnings recently about the potential of artificial intelligence—appeared to agree with some of the anti-tech takes of notorious terrorist Theodore Kaczynski, known as the Unabomber.

Following news that the serial mail bomber had died of suicide in prison on Saturday, Musk responded to a tweet that quoted the first line of Kaczynski’s infamous 35,000-word manifesto: “The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race.”

“He might not be wrong,” Musk said in a tweet on Saturday.

Harvard-educated mathematician Kaczynski, whom the FBI has described as “a twisted genius,” anonymously mailed and hand-delivered a series of bombs to various locations over a period of 17 years, killing three Americans and injuring almost two dozen more.

One of his bombs forced an American Airlines flight to carry out an emergency landing in 1979, but the plane landed safely as the device failed to work as intended.

In 1995, Kaczynski sent a manifesto to the FBI, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. It was published by the Post as an eight-page supplement on the advice of the attorney general and the director of the FBI. The author, who carried out his bombing spree from a remote cabin in rural Montana, had threatened to send a bomb to an unknown destination “with intent to kill” unless one of the newspapers published the text.

The essay, which outlined the motives for Kaczynski’s crimes, was vehemently anti-technology, with the author also hitting out at movements like feminism and gay rights activism, which he labeled “modern leftism.”

After denouncing the Industrial Revolution for “destabilizing society,” the Unabomber insisted in his manuscript that “the continued development of technology will worsen the situation.” He issued, without evidence, a warning that new technologies would inflict physical and psychological suffering upon mankind, cause social disruption, and lead to environmental damage.

Kaczynski’s manifesto served as a breakthrough in the case, helping intelligence officers trace the Unabomber’s crimes back to him. He was indicted on 10 counts of bomb-related activity and three counts of murder and sentenced to eight life sentences without parole after pleading guilty to all charges in 1998.

Musk’s pioneering tech startups

The Twitter owner’s comments come as he continues to issue warnings about the impact A.I. will have on humanity. Musk has said in recent months that artificial intelligence will hit people “like an asteroid” and argued there is a chance that the technology will “go Terminator.”

Back in March, Musk joined Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak in signing an open letter that called for a six-month ban on the creation of powerful artificial intelligence.

Despite appearing to agree with some of what Kaczynski said, however, Musk himself has forged a wildly successful career—and become the world’s richest person—on the back of technological innovation.

The billionaire entrepreneur recently said he wanted to create his own competitor to the generative A.I. phenomenon ChatGPT.  

Musk helped start and build PayPal, Tesla, and SpaceX into hugely disruptive companies in the electronic payments, e-vehicle, and space exploration industries.

He also purchased social media platform Twitter for $44 billion last year with a view to creating a “digital town square,” and wants another of his companies, Neuralink, to implant computer chips into human brains. Musk claims the chips could help people with conditions like paralysis or neurological disorders, although an investigation by Fortune last year found that many in the research space are concerned he may be overselling what the product is capable of achieving.

Last year, another of his startups, the Boring Company—which is developing hyperloop travel—hit a private valuation of $5.7 billion.

On Sunday, Musk argued that people were “already cyborgs” as “our memory is overwhelmingly outsourced to computers.”

He shared a meme on the same day that suggested Kaczynski’s death had been a mistake.


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