May 25 2012

Happy Memorial Day Weekend (War Is Still Obsolete… Or Should Be)

""){ ?> By R.U. Sirius


One worthy meme that spread among segments of the global population during the second half of the 20th Century was the idea that war had become obsolete.

Throughout human history (and prehistory), families, tribes and nations had believed that these violent conflicts were necessary or even helpful to their survival and/or prosperity and — the horrors aside — that sort of worked out for the victors most of the time.  But with the introduction and use of the atomic bomb in 1945, whole systems thinkers and peace activists started spreading the notion that now that we had weapons that constituted an existential threat, the human drive towards war was now nothing but a menace to our survival and prosperity.

With the passage of time, and even with the development of the hydrogen bomb and the spread of weaponized nukes to at least eight nations, we have, broadly speaking, become smug about the nuclear holocaust that haunted the 20th Century imagination.  There are two flavors of smug involved.  Flavor one is MAD — Mutually Assured Destruction.  No nation, however bizarre its politics, will launch a nuclear strike because that nation would immediately thereafter be reduced to cinders. The other flavor of smug is that a limited nuclear exchange would not be that apocalyptic.  I happen to think that both the environment and the “economy” and our sort of collective psyche are all way more fragile than some would like us to believe and that a limited nuclear exchange would bring about some sort of chain reaction that would bring about a new level of social chaos that nobody actually wants to experience, but I certainly can’t prove it.

But beyond that, there is the fact that with biotech, AI, nanotech and other technologies we will soon have more powerfully devastating weapons that will constitute — even more definitively — an existential threat.

This is one of the reasons that I cringe whenever upbeat futurists toss in glib segments about the future of weaponry and warfare in articles and books about how awesome the future will be, often without even acknowledging the actual nature of what they’re writing or talking about.

So I’m sticking with one of my favorite 20th century hippie-dippie memes — war is obsolete.  But with a 21st Century twist… if it’s definitively part of human nature — if it absolutely can’t be fixed by changing the conditions in which humans live, then we’ll have to change human nature itself.

Meanwhile, have a fun Memorial Day weekend and spare a thought for the common foot soldier (and the stay at home voter).

  • By Bitrat, May 31, 2012 @ 11:05 am

    Growing up with MAD probably warped our generation…..but every generation has some cross to bear – imagine growing up now under the threat of peak resources and global warming….Agree with your assessment of damage by even limited use of nukes…the world economy is messed up enough as it is….so sing along, “war is over now….” Cheers

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