Technology doesn't win wars. Why the US pretends it does.
Hollywood's notions of future wars may be nothing like the real ones.
SEAN MCFATE: War is getting sneakier. War is going underground. And we have to go underground with it. We have to fight in the shadows. Otherwise, we will be left behind. So for example, you know, in this type of new environment, some of the best weapons do not fire bullets. In the old days, the old rules of war, when the Soviet Union wanted to arrest the West, wanted to sort of freak out NATO, what it would do was hold a huge military exercise on the border of Germany, East and West Germany. 150,000 troops. And NATO and the United States wasn't sure, like, well, is this an exercise or could it be a real invasion? And that would shake things up. But that's the old days, the innocent days.
Today, when Russia wants to shake up Europe, what they do is they weaponize refugees. They deliberately bomb civilian centers in Syria, creating an avalanche of refugees into Europe, which creates Brexit, which creates the rise of right-wing national parties that want to disembowel the European Union. The Soviets wish they could do that, if they could only have done that. So I think this is an example of how wars of the future will be fought. They will not even look like wars to the traditional mind, and a few heads will explode in the Pentagon. Sure. When people think of the threats that face our country today, they think of Russia, China, terrorism, pandemics, et cetera. But those are not the worst problems.
The worst threat is systemic. It's growing entropy in the global system. It's persistent conflict. It's something I call durable disorder. What durable disorder is and what durable disorder means is that we have an emerging global system that can contain problems but not solve them. Meanwhile, we have this post 1945 idea of a liberal world order that the US sort of champions and rules upon, but that world has gone away, and we're not prepared for what follows next. For the United States, the last successful war was World War II. We won decisively in 1945. The world ran on vacuum tubes, yet the idea of conventional war is still the strategic paradigm of which the Pentagon, the military, the modern national security establishment is built around, and this is dangerously wrong.
When you ask people to think about the future of war, often what they tell you is something that looks like World War II with better technology. But there is nothing more unconventional today than conventional war. Nobody fights this way. When people think about what warfare is they think of John Wayne or Saving Private Ryan, they think of killing more enemies, taking more territory, and flying your flag over the enemy's capital. They think of Berlin in '45. They think of Japan's surrender on the battleship, the USS Missouri. And then they wonder why there's not a USS Missouri moment against the Taliban, against ISIS. The reason is nobody fights this way of war anymore, yet we are mired in the past. And as long as we're mired in the past, and war has moved on, we will be left behind. And even an undefeated So if there's one maxim for the last 70 years of war, it's that technology is not decisive in warfare. If you look at big, powerful, technologically advanced militaries go up against low-level Luddites who confound them.
You know, whether it's the Mujahideen in Afghanistan against the Soviets, or America fighting in Vietnam against the North Vietnamese, et cetera, Iraq and Afghanistan, this is, without question, the one thing we should all agree on. Yet for some reason, people think we need to double down and invest in technology for warfare. In fact, for most people, they can't even imagine the future of war without high tech. Such is the bias that we have for it. But this is the definition of insanity, doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result. For example, take the F-35 fighter jet. You know, we have not fought, we have not had a strategic dogfight since the Korean War. So why do we need more fighter jets? I do not know. We already have the best fighter jets. And the F-16, the F-15, and the F-18. So why do we need the F-35? And what's even more amazing is that we have spent more on this small airplane than any other weapon in history. We've spent $1.5 trillion on the F-35. That's more than Russia's GDP.
If the F-35 were a country, its GDP would be in the top 15 of the world. And amazingly, it has flown zero combat missions in two long wars. And we're buying more of them. Right? So the idea of putting our faith in technology is ludicrous. It is absolute ludicrous. A lot of people think that the future will belong to AI, artificial intelligence, and cyber and cyber war. But the truth is, if you ask 11 people — well, 10 or 12 experts on what cyber war is, you'll get 20 different answers. All cyber people can agree on is ones and zeros and space. You know, they always come up with these fantastical things. Oh, the power grid for the East Coast can come down. You know, and Hollywood depicts this in James Bond movies. But in reality, cyber, all cyber does, it allows us to do old things in new ways. Old things like espionage, theft, propaganda, and sabotage. There's nothing new about it. I mean, it's not a new way of war, it just allows us to do old things in new ways. So technology is not the savior that most futurists pretend it is when it comes to warfare.
- Wars of the future will not even look like wars to the traditional mind. The worst threat is systemic. It's growing entropy in the global system.
- Today, when Russia wants to shake up Europe — the world — its operatives weaponize refugees. That is, by bombing civilian centers, they create an avalanche of refugees, which, in turn, creates Brexit and the rise of right-wing national parties that want to disembowel the European Union.
- High-tech is not the savior that many futurists pretend it is when it comes to warfare. As a matter of fact, McFate contends, much of our investment in it is ludicrous. "You know, we have not fought, we have not had a strategic dogfight since the Korean War. So why do we need more fighter jets? I do not know. . . . We've spent $1.5 trillion on the F-35. That's more than Russia's GDP."
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How would the ability to genetically customize children change society? Sci-fi author Eugene Clark explores the future on our horizon in Volume I of the "Genetic Pressure" series.
- A new sci-fi book series called "Genetic Pressure" explores the scientific and moral implications of a world with a burgeoning designer baby industry.
- It's currently illegal to implant genetically edited human embryos in most nations, but designer babies may someday become widespread.
- While gene-editing technology could help humans eliminate genetic diseases, some in the scientific community fear it may also usher in a new era of eugenics.
Tribalism and discrimination<p>One question the "Genetic Pressure" series explores: What would tribalism and discrimination look like in a world with designer babies? As designer babies grow up, they could be noticeably different from other people, potentially being smarter, more attractive and healthier. This could breed resentment between the groups—as it does in the series.</p><p>"[Designer babies] slowly find that 'everyone else,' and even their own parents, becomes less and less tolerable," author Eugene Clark told Big Think. "Meanwhile, everyone else slowly feels threatened by the designer babies."</p><p>For example, one character in the series who was born a designer baby faces discrimination and harassment from "normal people"—they call her "soulless" and say she was "made in a factory," a "consumer product." </p><p>Would such divisions emerge in the real world? The answer may depend on who's able to afford designer baby services. If it's only the ultra-wealthy, then it's easy to imagine how being a designer baby could be seen by society as a kind of hyper-privilege, which designer babies would have to reckon with. </p><p>Even if people from all socioeconomic backgrounds can someday afford designer babies, people born designer babies may struggle with tough existential questions: Can they ever take full credit for things they achieve, or were they born with an unfair advantage? To what extent should they spend their lives helping the less fortunate? </p>
Sexuality dilemmas<p>Sexuality presents another set of thorny questions. If a designer baby industry someday allows people to optimize humans for attractiveness, designer babies could grow up to find themselves surrounded by ultra-attractive people. That may not sound like a big problem.</p><p>But consider that, if designer babies someday become the standard way to have children, there'd necessarily be a years-long gap in which only some people are having designer babies. Meanwhile, the rest of society would be having children the old-fashioned way. So, in terms of attractiveness, society could see increasingly apparent disparities in physical appearances between the two groups. "Normal people" could begin to seem increasingly ugly.</p><p>But ultra-attractive people who were born designer babies could face problems, too. One could be the loss of body image. </p><p>When designer babies grow up in the "Genetic Pressure" series, men look like all the other men, and women look like all the other women. This homogeneity of physical appearance occurs because parents of designer babies start following trends, all choosing similar traits for their children: tall, athletic build, olive skin, etc. </p><p>Sure, facial traits remain relatively unique, but everyone's more or less equally attractive. And this causes strange changes to sexual preferences.</p><p>"In a society of sexual equals, they start looking for other differentiators," he said, noting that violet-colored eyes become a rare trait that genetically engineered humans find especially attractive in the series.</p><p>But what about sexual relationships between genetically engineered humans and "normal" people? In the "Genetic Pressure" series, many "normal" people want to have kids with (or at least have sex with) genetically engineered humans. But a minority of engineered humans oppose breeding with "normal" people, and this leads to an ideology that considers engineered humans to be racially supreme. </p>
Regulating designer babies<p>On a policy level, there are many open questions about how governments might legislate a world with designer babies. But it's not totally new territory, considering the West's dark history of eugenics experiments.</p><p>In the 20th century, the U.S. conducted multiple eugenics programs, including immigration restrictions based on genetic inferiority and forced sterilizations. In 1927, for example, the Supreme Court ruled that forcibly sterilizing the mentally handicapped didn't violate the Constitution. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes wrote, "… three generations of imbeciles are enough." </p><p>After the Holocaust, eugenics programs became increasingly taboo and regulated in the U.S. (though some states continued forced sterilizations <a href="https://www.uvm.edu/~lkaelber/eugenics/" target="_blank">into the 1970s</a>). In recent years, some policymakers and scientists have expressed concerns about how gene-editing technologies could reanimate the eugenics nightmares of the 20th century. </p><p>Currently, the U.S. doesn't explicitly ban human germline genetic editing on the federal level, but a combination of laws effectively render it <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jlb/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jlb/lsaa006/5841599#204481018" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">illegal to implant a genetically modified embryo</a>. Part of the reason is that scientists still aren't sure of the unintended consequences of new gene-editing technologies. </p><p>But there are also concerns that these technologies could usher in a new era of eugenics. After all, the function of a designer baby industry, like the one in the "Genetic Pressure" series, wouldn't necessarily be limited to eliminating genetic diseases; it could also work to increase the occurrence of "desirable" traits. </p><p>If the industry did that, it'd effectively signal that the <em>opposites of those traits are undesirable. </em>As the International Bioethics Committee <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jlb/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jlb/lsaa006/5841599#204481018" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">wrote</a>, this would "jeopardize the inherent and therefore equal dignity of all human beings and renew eugenics, disguised as the fulfillment of the wish for a better, improved life."</p><p><em>"Genetic Pressure Volume I: Baby Steps"</em><em> by Eugene Clark is <a href="http://bigth.ink/38VhJn3" target="_blank">available now.</a></em></p>
A popular and longstanding wave of thought in psychology and psychotherapy is that diagnosis is not relevant for practitioners in those fields.
Scientists regenerate damaged spinal cord nerve fibers with designer protein, helping paralyzed mice walk again.
- Researchers from Germany use a designer protein to treat spinal cord damage in mice.
- The procedure employs gene therapy to regenerate damaged nerve fibers that carry signals to and from the brain.
- The scientists aim to eventually apply the technique to humans.
What is a spinal cord injury?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="88b8d4e44e46b7d5fe49d1f3bca56078"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/dKtBC2Sg_Bg?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Scientists use new methods to discover what's inside drug containers used by ancient Mayan people.
- Archaeologists used new methods to identify contents of Mayan drug containers.
- They were able to discover a non-tobacco plant that was mixed in by the smoking Mayans.
- The approach promises to open up new frontiers in the knowledge of substances ancient people consumed.
PARME staff archaeologists excavating a burial site at the Tamanache site, Mérida, Yucatan.
Cold hands and feet? Maybe it's your anxiety.
- When we feel anxious, the brain's fight or flight instinct kicks in, and the blood flow is redirected from your extremities towards the torso and vital organs.
- According to the CDC, 7.1% of children between the ages of 3-17 (approximately 4.4 million) have an anxiety diagnosis.
- Anxiety disorders will impact 31% of Americans at some point in their lives.