The renegade WW2 pilots who tried to end war as we know it | Malcolm Gladwell

The Bomber Mafia nearly changed the world—and you've likely never heard of them.

  • Much has been written about World War II in the seven and a half decades since it ended in 1945. But as writer Malcolm Gladwell shows with his new book The Bomber Mafia, some incredible stories and perspectives have been largely forgotten.
  • A group of pilots, led by Brigadier General Haywood Hansell, earned the derogatory nickname Bomber Mafia because of a not-widely-shared dream that they could use a few strategic bombings to lower the death toll and have a "clean" war.
  • "But that's not what war ever is," says Gladwell. "It never has that kind of fairy tale ending." A few failed attempts led to a changing of the guard, the invention of napalm, and a summer of attacks on Japanese cities that Gladwell says was at "a scale of destruction almost unmatched in human history."
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Autonomous killer robots may have already killed on the battlefield

A brief passage from a recent UN report describes what could be the first-known case of an autonomous weapon, powered by artificial intelligence, killing in the battlefield.

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  • Autonomous weapons have been used in war for decades, but artificial intelligence is ushering in a new category of autonomous weapons.
  • These weapons are not only capable of moving autonomously but also identifying and attacking targets on their own without oversight from a human.
  • There's currently no clear international restrictions on the use of new autonomous weapons, but some nations are calling for preemptive bans.
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Havana syndrome: How a “directed-energy” weapon may be injuring American intelligence operatives

U.S. officials suspect a foreign adversary is targeting American personnel with some form of "directed-energy" weapon.

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  • In recent history, the first reports of a potential directed-energy attack on U.S. personnel came in 2016 from American diplomats working in Cuba.
  • There's no "smoking gun" evidence of who's behind the attacks, but some U.S. officials suspect the Russians.
  • Supporting that claim is the history of the so-called Moscow Signal, an event in which the Soviets blasted microwaves at the U.S. embassy in Moscow from 1953 to 1976.
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Psychopath-ish: How “healthy” brains can look and function like those of psychopaths

A recent study used fMRI to compare the brains of psychopathic criminals with a group of 100 well-functioning individuals, finding striking similarities.

  • The study used psychological inventories to assess a group of violent criminals and healthy volunteers for psychopathy, and then examined how their brains responded to watching violent movie scenes.
  • The fMRI results showed that the brains of healthy subjects who scored high in psychopathic traits reacted similarly as the psychopathic criminal group. Both of these groups also showed atrophy in brain regions involved in regulating emotion.
  • The study adds complexity to common conceptions of what differentiates a psychopath from a "healthy" individual.
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The cost of world peace? It's much less than the price of war

The world's 10 most affected countries are spending up to 59% of their GDP on the effects of violence.

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  • Conflict and violence cost the world more than $14 trillion a year.
  • That's the equivalent of $5 a day for every person on the planet.
  • Research shows that peace brings prosperity, lower inflation and more jobs.
  • Just a 2% reduction in conflict would free up as much money as the global aid budget.
  • Report urges governments to improve peacefulness, especially amid COVID-19.
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