A Summary of Industrial Society and its Future

Industrial Society And Its Future was written in 1995 by Theodore John Kaczynski, BA (Mathematics, Harvard, 1962), PhD (Michigan, 1967).

This brief summary is followed by more detailed summaries of each of its 27 chapters. My interpretation might of course be biased or wrong, so reading the original paper, which contains more explanations and details, is strongly recommended.

To those that have read this document, it should come as no surprise that in 2017, the World Health Organization reported: Depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide.

One sentence summary

Dr Kaczynski claims that any industrial society must inherently suppress human freedom and self-esteem, cannot be corrected by any means, and will continually worsen.

Brief summary

Industrialization requires a strong and well defined society in order to operate. In providing structure, guidance, and basic needs, society has mostly eliminated the requirement for people to make decisions, to have goals, or to struggle. Society has made almost everything that anyone wants either easy (welfare, etc.) or impossible (illegal). Freedom (deciding and controlling one's own life) has largely been removed in the interest of the smooth running of the system. Not experiencing this power process, many people experience low self-esteem and feelings of inferiority.

Many people compensate with surrogate activities, which still leave them unsatisfied. Other people champion the causes of people and groups that they subconsciously see as inferior to them. Relying on society themselves, they challenge society to do a better job of supporting these causes. Ironically, they (typically upper-middle-class leftists) want to strengthen the system that itself is the underlying cause of these problems.

Long-term trends in history are inherently stable and co-dependent. Small changes to these trends are transitory, while changes large enough to be permanent are unpredictable and affect far more than the one trend. It follows that an undesirable trend cannot be corrected, only destroyed, and with no possibility of predicting what will replace it. Trends cannot be destroyed by any political process, as it would be suicidal for the politicians.

Industrial society is so integrated that even its good parts rely on its bad parts. Technological advancements can be delayed, but never prevented, and once in place can never be removed except by an even stronger development. The best we can hope for is that environmental or economic forces will soon weaken the system enough that it can be destroyed by revolution (but not by reform). Reformers follow only one cause, so they are limited in number and often switch to other causes. Revolution offers one solution for all problems, and its followers see an ideal new world as their goal. (That each person might have a different concept of that ideal is irrelevant, at least until after the revolution (Cf. Arab Spring)).

We are not capable of solving even simple and obvious problems like environmental degradation, and if we ever do it will be because it is in the best interest of society. Industrialization is a far more complex and hidden problem, and its destruction would not be in the best interest of our society.

Previous societies have been limited by the effects of too much control. But technological society provides drugs, entertainment, mental health and alcoholism programs, etc., allowing it to exert far greater control without damaging society as a whole.

Society is reaching a crisis where it must do something about sub-societies (e.g. criminal gangs, militia, ghettos) that are threatening its absolute control. We must take advantage of this and increase social stress in order to weaken society and make its destruction easier.

Our destruction of society will bring great suffering, but it will be no worse than if technological society continues on its inevitable course.

We must recruit highly intelligent people on a rational basis, and others using emotion, but both with truth. Political solutions are worthless; the revolution must be global and must not be distracted by other worthy issues. All must be aware that the destruction of society and large-scale technology must be the only goal.

The biggest danger to the cause is not society, but leftism. Leftist collectivist philosophy and globalism can be achieved only through technology. So no matter how well meaning they are, or how worthy their goals, leftists must ultimately rely on and support technological society. Leftists cannot be part of this revolution.

(While it is omitted here, Dr. Kaczynski continually stressed that his statements are very generalized and of course do not apply to many individual cases. This is in keeping with his belief that the future is shaped by large general trends and not by small individual actions. (Cf. Asimov's psychosociology versus Bradbury's butterfly effect.))

Chapter summary


The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race. Industry and technology have caused physical suffering in the third world, and psychological suffering everywhere. We are increasingly losing our ability to have real choices or make real achievements. Human dignity and freedom have been replaced by the feeling of security provided by following the rules required to support a technological society.

If the system fails, we will suffer, but not nearly as much as if the system continues to grow. A revolution is needed to overthrow the system that controls us. It might be a gradually peaceful revolution or a sudden violent one, but it will not be a political revolution.

Other problems, such as environmental degradation and the destruction of nature, are highly important, but will not be considered here.

The Psychology Of Modern Leftism

One of the most widespread manifestations of the craziness of our world is leftism. There is no one definition of a leftist, but there are many examples of leftist movements that have arisen along with the Industrial Revolution.

Leftists join movements, such as socialists, feminists, gay rights activists, and animal rights groups, where people fight for a common cause. Their causes may very well be admirable, and their goals may be shared by many non-leftists, but it is not the causes themselves that make a leftist.

Modern leftists share psychological tendencies: feelings of inferiority, held by all, and over socialization, by the highly influential.

Feelings Of Inferiority

Leftists tend to hate anything that has an image of being strong, good, and successful. Feeling inferior and seeing themselves as individually powerless, they feel threatened by individual success in others. Membership in large organizations or movements provides leftists with a purpose and hope of collective success.

Leftists tend to be highly educated and come from middle or upper class families. They take it upon themselves to defend, protect, and promote groups with an image of being weak. They themselves feel these people actually are inferior, though they would never admit that feeling, even to themselves. Leftists attach themselves to these movements (and indeed create some of these movements) because they identify with being inferior.

The leftist is anti-individualistic, pro-collectivist. He wants society to solve everyone's problems for them, satisfy everyone's needs for them, take care of them. Successful individuals and organizations are considered evil, since their success must be the result of suppressing the rights of other groups and individuals. Since they have no other source of power, leftists feel that it is the duty of society to suppress and punish those that are successful and to support and reward those that aren't.

Self-hatred is a leftist trait. Leftists lie down in front of vehicles, provoke police to abuse them, and protest in various other ways that make them appear to be the ones attacked.

If our society had no social problems at all, the leftists would have to invent problems in order to provide themselves with an excuse for making a fuss. Leftists attach themselves to a cause, not because they support it, but because they need to be part of some cause. Their actions within movements often has little to do with the actual cause, and often actually hurt it. Many legitimate movements are taken over by leftists, turning them away from their original cause and toward being an anti-social movement.


Socialization is the process that trains people to think and act as society demands. People that take this obligation too far and develop strong feelings of guilt are oversocialized. To avoid guilt, they continually rationalize their behaviour as morally correct. Such people develop low self-esteem and feelings of powerlessness.

Oversocialized leftists assert themselves by rebelling. They don't rebel directly though, but accuse society of violating its own moral principles (racism, sexism, etc.). That is, they don't oppose society, but support it and want to make it even stronger. They believe that it is the duty of the individual to serve society and the duty of society to take care of the individual.

Low self-esteem, depressive tendencies and defeatism are not restricted to the left. While these problems are highly associated with leftism, they are becoming more and more prevalent throughout society.

The Power Process

Consistent failure to attain goals throughout life results in defeatism, low self-esteem, or depression. People have a basic need known as the power process, which has four elements: goal, effort, attainment, and autonomy. That is, we need to be able to set goals for ourselves that can, with a reasonable rate of success, be achieved through hard work.

Getting whatever they want without effort, the leisured rich usually become bored, self-absorbed, demoralized, and depressed. Rich people that have to fight (e.g. to maintain or increase their wealth) experience the power process and are happy, healthy, and successful.

Surrogate Activities

[I]n our society the effort needed to satisfy the biological needs has been reduced to triviality. Society provides most basic needs or defines ways of meeting them, so we have little choice in our goals, which themselves require little effort to achieve. Rather than leading unfulfilling lives and developing feelings of inferiority, many people are able to experience the power process by creating artificial goals for themselves, such as sports, hobbies, volunteer work, and artistic endeavors.

While providing much more autonomy than is available for real goals, these surrogate activities are not as satisfying, and are often pursued to extremes.


[F]or most people it is through the power process — having a goal, making an autonomous effort, and attaining the goal — that self-esteem, self-confidence and a sense of power are acquired. People need to work under their own initiative and to set their own goals, whether as individuals or as part of a very small group. Goals set by larger groups, or by society itself, leave the individual feeling powerless and controlled.

Sources Of Social Problems

We aren't the first to mention that the world today seems to be going crazy. This sort of thing is not normal for human societies. Conditions in modern society are very different from those previously experienced by mankind, and are the cause of today's stress and frustration and resulting social and psychological problems.

The disruption of the power process is the most significant cause, but by no means the only cause. One must also consider such factors as population density, isolation from nature, rapid social change, and the breakdown of family, village, and other small-scale communities.

Technology has not only created large cities and enabled overcrowding, it has worsened the effects by providing such annoyances as lawmowers, motorcycles, and radios. Many people are frustrated by such noise, while many others are frustrated by regulations intended to reduce the noise. No one wins.

The natural world used to provide a stable predictable framework and sense of security. Now society dominates nature rather than the other way around, and rapid social change caused by technology removes this framework.

Conservatives are fools, enthusiastically promoting progress and growth while hypocritically complaining about the resulting loss of traditional values.

[A]n advanced industrial society can tolerate only those small-scale communities that are emasculated, tamed, and made into tools of the system. Technological society requires the breakdown of family and small-scale social groups. Workers must be able to move where they are needed. If people's first loyalty is not to society, they will form small groups that work to their own advantage against society. Ghettos and criminal gangs in North America and government corruption in Latin America are blatant examples.

Previously, society had experienced rapid change many times without creating today's social problems (e.g. expansion of the American frontier). The difference is that the pioneers knew they were part of the change, while people today have change forced upon them.

[T]he most important cause of social and psychological problems in modern society is the fact that people have insufficient opportunity to go through the power process in a normal way. The rise of modern leftism is a symptom of this deprivation.

Disruption Of The Power Process In Modern Society

Satisfying any human drive is easy, difficult, or impossible. Technological society pushes human drives into the first or third categories (by caring and providing for its citizens, and by enacting laws restricting their activity), and thereby reduces opportunity for the second. But this second case is the power process, and so people suffer with frustration, anger, defeatism, depression, etc..

One's job may be considered difficult work, but without a choice of what to do and how to do it, it doesn't produce a sense of personal achievement. All one actually achieves is following the rules.

Recent artificial forms of the power process (e.g. accumulation of the latest technology or fashion, as encouraged by the advertising industry) don't actually satisfy, and people feel unfulfilled and purposeless.

What is now impossible to do is also frustrating. We can no longer hunt or grow our own food, or meet our own needs; society does all that for us. And the real dangers we face (toxic food, the nearby nuclear plant, pollution, invasion of privacy, etc.) are not only things we have no control over, they are dangers created by our own society.

Modern society may provide greater freedoms than ever, but only in unimportant matters that don't affect society itself. Every other aspect of our lives is highly controlled, whether traffic lights and speed limits, education, employment, public behaviour, or whatever.

How Some People Adjust

A few people have so little drive that they are not affected by their loss of the power process, while others have so much drive that they are able to find satisfying tasks despite society's control.

Many people satisfy their need for power by joining, or identifying with, large groups or organizations. Success achieved by the organization is vicariously enjoyed as if their insignificant part had actually been useful. But most people rely on surrogate activities to mitigate their feeling of purposelessness.

[W]e consider it demeaning to fulfill one's need for the power process through surrogate activities or through identification with an organization, rather than through pursuit of real goals.

The Motives Of Scientists

Scientists claim motivation from curiosity or wanting to benefit mankind. But the curiosity is about irrelevant things that no one else cares about, and science that hurts mankind is defended by saying that true science is independent of how it is used. For most, science is a surrogate activity.

[S]cience marches on blindly, without regard to the real welfare of the human race or to any other standard, obedient only to the psychological needs of the scientists and of the government officials and corporation executives who provide the funds for research.

The Nature Of Freedom

Freedom means being in control (either as an individual or as a member of a small group) of the life-and-death issues of one's existence; food, clothing, shelter, and defense against whatever threats there may be in one's environment. Freedom means having … the power to control the circumstances of one's own life.

Constitutional rights supposedly guarantee freedom, but in practice they are of little direct benefit to individuals. Freedom of speech for instance protects large news organizations, who can therefore act as watchdogs on government, but the effect of any individual publishing flyers or posting on social media is negligible.

This very paper itself was published under extremely unusual circumstances simply because otherwise it would never have been widely read.

Freedom and rights are granted only in the interest benefiting society as a whole.

Some Principles Of History

History, consisting of both unpredictable events and long-term trends, follows these principles:

  1. Small changes to long-term trends are transitory.
  2. Changes large enough to permanently affect a trend alter not only the trend, but society as a whole.
  3. The side effects of permanently affecting trends cannot be predicted.
  4. New societies cannot be designed.
  5. People do not choose the form of their society.

The first point is true by definition, and the last three points follow from the second.

Industrial-technological Society Cannot Be Reformed

It follows from these principles that permanent changes in favor of freedom could be brought about only by persons prepared to accept radical, dangerous, and unpredictable alteration of the entire system. In other words by revolutionaries, not reformers.

Technological society depends on ever increasing uniformity and control. Any changes to this trend would either be small and soon irrelevant, or be large enough to permanently change society, with major unpredictable consequences, and thus not politically acceptable.

[F]reedom and technological progress are incompatible.

Restriction Of Freedom Is Unavoidable In Industrial Society

To function, the system has not choice but to regulate human behaviour. Bureaucracies rely on everyone following the rules. At best we can look forward to a day when formal rules can be replaced by people's naturally wanting to do what is right (via mental health and retraining programs).

Industrial society must be highly organized, precluding the existence of autonomous units that don't perfectly fit in with the whole. All significant decisions therefore affect large numbers of people, none of whom individually have any significance in the process. The best that the system can do is to use propaganda to make people feel that the system has made the decision that they themselves wanted.

Technological society has become something larger than what it is composed of. It no longer exists for the benefit of the people. Instead it provides the needs of the people to ensure that the people can provide the needs of the system.

The concept of mental health in our society is defined largely by the extent to which an individual behaves in accord with the needs of the system and does so without showing signs of stress.

The Bad Parts Of Technology Cannot Be Separated From The Good Parts

[M]odern technology is a unified system in which all parts are dependent on one another. Even if it were accepted that some specific technology is bad, it would be impossible to remove it without breaking many other parts of the system, and society can't accept that.

Even worse, bad technology that hasn't even been developed or added to the system yet can't be stopped. Genetic engineering can be used for massive evil, but legislating laws and providing ethical and moral codes to the field will only make it worse. Who gets to decide what those laws are? Will society decide to use the process to destroy what it arbitrarily considers to be bad genes, such as green eyes or dislike of mathematics? The answer is that society will allow whatever is consistent with the needs of the … system.

Technology Is A more Powerful Social Force Than The Aspiration For Freedom

As described in McCluhan's The Medium is the Massage, new technologies don't simply change the way we do things, they change what we do. An individual development can seem like like a good thing, making our work and lives easier, faster, or more efficient, but collectively all those good things combine into something bad.

Technology advance quickly, and advances in only one direction: any new development is immediately assimilated into existing technology, which becomes dependent upon it.

When presented with a conflict between doing their job and preserving freedoms, most people choose to do their job.

People work better when striving for a reward, but those that oppose new technology receive no positive reward, having at best succeeded at delaying a negative outcome. It is a frustrating task that few can stick with, knowing that they or their followers will eventually fail.

The day might come soon when economic and environmental pressures actually do weaken the existing system. That would be the ideal situation in which revolution (but never reform) could succeed in destroying it.

Simpler Social Problems Have Proved Intractable

Environmental degradation is simple and obvious, but we continue to do nothing substantial about it (for fear of disrupting society). Instead we talk about the problem, make token efforts with recycling and using environmentally friendly slogans in advertising, and generally divert peoples energies away from doing anything effective.

If such a relatively simple and obvious problem is eventually solved, it will only be because doing so was in the best interest of our industrial society. Technological society presents a far larger problem than many other problems that we are unable to deal with, and solving that problem would most definitely not be in the best interest of our industrial society.

Revolution Is Easier Than Reform

Reform is always restrained by the fear of painful consequences if changes go too far. But once a revolutionary fever has taken hold of a society, people are willing to undergo unlimited hardships for the sake of their revolution.

Reform movements work on one problem at a time, attracting a limited number of followers, many of whom soon become frustrated and move on to other causes. Revolution offers a solution to all problems at the same time. Its followers see an ideal new world as their eventual goal.

Control Of Human Behavior

[W]hen an individual doesn't fit into the system it causes pain to the individual as well as problems for the system. Thus the manipulation of an individual to adjust him to the system is seen as a cure for a sickness and therefore as good.

Historically, society has been limited on the control and pressure it can use; beyond a certain point people stopped functioning, rebelled, or in other ways hindered the system. Technological society, rather than reducing the pressures, has found ways to increase human tolerance. Anti-depressant drugs are one obvious example.

Surveillance increases the effectiveness of law enforcement, propaganda influences public opinion, and entertainment provides escape. Education and mental health programs are not for the benefit of individuals but for shaping individual behaviour to fit the system. Drugs, gene therapy, and as yet unknown methods will further control and modify human behaviour to meet the needs of the system. Society is about to undergo severe stress, so this process will only increase in the near future.

This control will not appear totalitarian, but as help for obvious problems (e.g. alcoholism, crime, non-technical education). The process will be collectively destructive of individual control and freedom, even though each part will appear as something good. Gene therapy to remove criminal traits is obviously good, but that same technology can remove other traits too, and those traits will inevitably be those that don't benefit society.

[T]he fact that human thoughts and feelings are so open to biological intervention shows that the problem of controlling human behavior is mainly a technical problem.

Human Race At A Crossroads

Technological control of humanity is reaching a crisis. The bourgeois are under control, but many subgroups conflict with the system: welfare leaches, youth gangs, cultists, satanists, nazis, radical environmentalists, militiamen, etc.. These obstacles must be overcome in the next 40 to 100 years for society to survive.

If technology survives, humanity will be fully socialized, having made people sufficiently docile so that their behavior no longer threatens the system. Society will be monolithic, or will comprise multiple organizations coexisting with both cooperation and competition. Individual freedom will no longer exist. To run the system, a small number of individuals will have power, but very limited, and with very little free choice.

If technology fails there may be a time of troubles, which could continue indefinitely, or which could lead to recovery, as there will be individuals that will want to restore society to what it was.

We must heighten social stress to encourage total breakdown or to weaken it for revolution. We must also propagate an ideology that opposes technology and the industrial society to prevent its restoration.

After its failure, [t]he factories should be destroyed, technical books burned, etc.

Human Suffering

Technology has gotten the human race into a fix from which there is not likely to be any easy escape.

Whether its failure is spontaneous or revolutionary, whether gradual or sudden, if industrial society fails, there will be great suffering. This is almost inevitable; a non-industrial society simply cannot support today's artificially high population. Reducing the birth rate to below the death rate would take too long and would be impossible to achieve without even more control than exists under the current system.

Yet, such suffering would not necessarily be any worse than what will happen if industrial society is allowed to continue. [N]ew technology cannot be kept out of the hands of dictators and irresponsible Third World nations. Would you like to speculate about what Iraq or North Korea will do with genetic engineering?

The Future

What will the future be like if technological society solves its problems and survives the next century?

Perhaps machine intelligence will run everything, or perhaps they will be controlled by an elite group of humans. Either way, the mass of humanity will be redundant and either become extinct or raised as well-behaved pets.

Even without machine intelligence, most jobs will become automated. The remaining people will have to be highly educated and trained to fit perfectly into society.

Other possible futures for a technological society are even worse. What is certain is that humanity (and nature) will be tailored to fit the needs of society.

Very repellent is a society in which a person can satisfy his need for power only by pushing large numbers of other people out of the way and depriving them of their opportunity for power.


We have no illusions about the feasibility of creating a new, ideal form of society. Our goal is only to destroy the existing form of society.

The principles of history show that we cannot predict, much less design or choose, what will follow the destruction of industrial society. But we can establish goals that will provide a positive ideal for the revolutionaries, and will perhaps affect what follows.

You can't eat your cake and have it too, so regardless of what replaces technological society, without it people must live close to nature. So Nature (things that are independent of human interference and control) is the counter-ideal to technology. Further, this also includes human nature (aspects of the functioning of the human individual that are not subject to regulation by organized society).

Intelligent, thoughtful people must be recruited on a rational basis, truthfully and in full awareness of the situation and eventual results. Most other people will respond to a simplified ideology that appeals to emotion. Avoid social conflicts that appear to be solvable by technology. The line of social conflict must be between the masses and the power-holding elite, not the revolutionaries. The common man must be portrayed as a victim of the system, not as a supporter of it. Ethnic and other conflicts must not be ignored, but should be spoken of as subsidiary to the larger problem. Don't blame ordinary Americans for being massive consumers, blame the advertising industry for manipulating them.

The revolution might not be violent, but it must not be political. Political victories are short-lived, compromise the ideal, and eventually alienate supporters.

The revolution must be global. Even if it doesn't immediately succeed in all nations, those that resist will likely be dictatorships, which are typically inefficient and likely to break down in the near future.

Trade agreements are harmful in the short term, but unifying the world economy makes the long term goal easier to accomplish. Destroying the industrial system will give individuals and small groups far more power than they have ever had.

Until achieved, that destruction must be the revolution's only goal; concern for the temporary loss of justice, human rights, etc. during the transition will provide support for technology and weaken the cause. Never forget that the human race with technology is just like an alcoholic with a barrel of wine.

Many supporters will be inclined to have few children, since overpopulation hurts Nature. But again, though it is harmful in the short term, revolutionaries should propagate themselves as much as possible.

[T]he only points on which we absolutely insist are that the single overriding goal must be the elimination of modern technology, and that no other goal can be allowed to compete with this one.

Two Kinds Of Technology

Small-scale technology is technology that can be used by small-scale communities without outside assistance. Organization-dependent technology is technology that depends on large-scale social organization.

Small-scale technology is not inherently harmful, and is handed down from generation to generation with little change. It will be of great use following the revolution.

It is large-scale technology that changes society and requires restrictions on human freedom. Large-scale technology can be forgotten (e.g. much ancient Roman technology had to be rediscovered). Large-scale technology is highly interdependent, so once some of it is gone the rest can't be used. Creating large-scale technology is still possible, but is very rare in human history.

The Danger Of Leftism

Leftism's goal is collectivist, wanting to unify the entire world, both man and nature. This can be achieved only through technology, so even if leftists support our cause initially, they must by definition ultimately oppose it.

Leftists can appear to be opposed to technology, but that will change once they have attained power. Russian communists opposed secret police, censorship, etc. and supported trade unions and ethnic self-determination, but following the Revolution they formed secret police, censored the press, banned unions, and suppressed minorities. In the 1960s, leftist professors fought for academic freedom, but now they are in charge and suppress academic freedom under the name political correctness. Feminists suppress male rights, the gay movement suppresses straight rights, various ethnic movements suppress white rights, etc. (This does not imply that females, gays, or people of various ethnicities do this, but only the movements that claim to support them, and those movements may very well be mostly straight white males (who empower themselves by defending groups they see as even weaker).)

The leftist is oriented toward large-scale collectivism. He emphasizes the duty of the individual to serve society and the duty of society to take care of the individual. He has a negative attitude toward individualism. He often takes a moralist tone. He tends to identify with victims. He tends to be against competition and against violence, but he often finds excuses for those leftists who do commit violence. He is fond of using the common catch-phrases of the left, like racism, sexism, homophobia, capitalism, imperialism, neocolonialism, genocide, social change, social justice, social responsibility. Maybe the best diagnostic trait of the leftist is his tendency to sympathize with the following movements: feminism, gay rights, ethnic rights, disability rights, animal rights, political correctness. Anyone who strongly sympathizes with all of these movements is almost certainly a leftist.

Final Note

This article has used imprecise statements and sweeping generalizations in order to convey its general message. So we don't claim that this article expresses more than a crude approximation to the truth. ¶ All the same, we are reasonably confident that the general outlines of the picture we have painted here are roughly correct.

We might be wrong about modern leftism being a creation of technology. But we think that the decisive role played by feelings of inferiority, low self-esteem, powerlessness, identification with victims by people who are not themselves victims, is a peculiarity of modern leftism. … This is a significant question to which historians ought to give their attention.