War seems like a permanent part of the human condition. It has been with us forever and there is no obvious end in sight. So I think you would agree that if we had a reasonable plan to end war in 200 years, for example, that would be an amazing accomplishment for humanity.
So this is a 200-year plan for ending war. Hold your objections until you see all the parts. Then feel free to fix it or fail it in the comments. How close can we get to ending war? You never know…
Let’s say the most powerful governments in the world coordinate in an effort to prevent smaller countries from starting wars that drag them in. That goal should be compatible with the interests of all the big powers.
The big powers already have zero interest in fighting each other directly, and that doesn’t seem likely to change. The nuclear deterrent is living up to its name. And small countries don’t attack powerful countries. So if we can stop small countries from fighting each other, we have a good chance of ending war forever.
Now let’s say the big powers agree to force the weapons-makers of the world to include a hard-to-duplicate chip in all high-end weapons from now on. The chip would make weapons programmable to work only in certain geographies. And let’s say the weapons need to be reauthorized every month. That means plugging it into whatever source sends it new instructions.
Now imagine that the United Nations has the ability, after some sort of vote among nations, to deactivate all big weapons in a given location. And imagine that it is a hundred years from now, when the good weapons are REALLY, REALLY, GOOD WEAPONS. The U.N. Peacekeepers would have the good weapons of the future, with special codes to work in any location. The locals would be back to handguns and rifles. The mismatch would be so great that the peace-keeping force could, one imagines, sustain zero casualties even among hostile forces. Remember, this is a hundred years from now. It might not be a big deal to stop a bullet in flight, or to send in hordes of disposable robots, or to put an entire town to sleep with gas. All we know for sure is that the mismatch will be like an elephant to an ant because of the technical marvels of the next century that will be available to only one side.
Between now and then, countries can still cause plenty of trouble using existing weapons plus whatever trickles out of the defense industry pipeline until the chips become available. But that old weaponry will only last five minutes against an opponent using weapons the world is likely to have invented by then. And the old stuff will fall into rust and disrepair in the long-long run. Time is on our side with this plan.
Let’s say small arms and hunting rifles remain chip-free because those are about individual freedom and protection more than war preparedness. Or not. I’m just saying the issue of individual gun ownership can be stripped out of the discussion of war if you choose to do it. So relax if you love your guns because under my plan you can still shoot your neighbor if he has it coming.
Big countries still have incentives to attack smaller ones. Russia and Ukraine are an example. So we might expect more of that in the next fifty years as big countries consolidate territory ahead of the time their weapons will no longer work for offensive war. Here I am assuming a vote of the security council could shut off weapons from the big powers too.
By now you have realized there are many ways my optimistic view of the future could go awry, including:
- Big countries rarely agree on anything.
- Big countries can make their own secret weapons with no chips
- Any chip can be counterfeited.
- Hackers could take over all weapons
- Small countries would produce their own weapons
- What about Israel, North Korea, and Iran? Special cases?
- Weapons makers control the governments
- Too easy for one tyrant to control all weapons somehow
- The UN has lots of issues, so it is dangerous to give it power
- The big countries like fighting proxy wars to gain advantages.
I trust you can come up with many more reasons why this approach would not work. But keep in mind that we have a hundred years to tweak the details of the plan, put safeguards in place, test it, get public buy-in, redesign the United Nations, and anything else we need.
Technology is better since the last time civilization considered a plan for ending all wars, assuming you consider the United Nations such an attempt. Maybe we should revisit the options. The alternative to the future I described is probably poison-gas drones flying across borders for all sorts of bad reasons. Wouldn’t it be nice if the bad players couldn’t use GPS navigation outside their own borders?
[Acknowledgement: I stole the weapon-with-a-chip concept from Naval Ravikant. I added the dumb parts about ending war forever.]
In other news, a technology for making your headlights shine where you are looking makes it even harder for guys to drive while their wives are in the passenger seat. “Honey, why are our headlights following that woman in the crosswalk?”
And would you let a robot operate on you? I would if my surgery was scheduled for a Monday. Humans and orange cats are not at their best on Mondays.
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