War has been a feature of human existence throughout all human history. As each war ends, each generation swears never again to beat the drums of war, and yet like any addict, the human race keeps coming back, over and over again. And yet, something fundamental has changed, and within our own lifetimes. This change has made it imperative that War must be ended once and for all, and in the very near future, if humanity is to have any chance of survival.
The change that has taken place in war has to do with technology. Technology grows in power and reach at an ever increasing rate. In particular, when it comes to weaponry and other technologies of destruction, the power to kills larger and larger numbers of people in less and less time is placed every year in the hands of a wider and wider circle of people. With everything from biological warfare to nuclear explosives falling into the hands of terrorists, and with everything from bomb-making equipment to machine guns becoming readily available to average citizens, technology has made our world a very precarious place indeed. And yet during the same time, humanity has not experienced any great, worldwide moral leap forward that would allow us to shepherd such technology wisely, safely and with mercy.
“Ever-More Powerful Weapons” X “Neither Wiser Nor Better” = “Inevitable Self-Annihilation”
So is there no solution? The genie cannot be put back in the bottle, the advance of technology cannot be arrested. But the direction of technological progress is in our hands. As long as War remains a key feature of our mutual existence, technologies of destruction will continue to advance. But if War can be eliminated, the development of new technology may shift towards more positive and peaceful objectives.
Given that we started this series of posts looking at the problem of unemployment, and that we’ve ended, not by solving it, but by taking on another, even more intractable problem, it may seem as though we’ve made no progress. However, we’ve actually discovered something very important: War is a wonderful employer, but it is killing us as a species –literally as well as figuratively. So if can find something that will substitute for war without the downside of war, we will also have found our substitute for Consumerism –and our answer to the problem of unemployment as well.
Next week we’ll take a break to discuss the nature of reality, and then resume in two weeks with a new series on what it will take to solve the problem of war.