Month: March 2020

Nuclear Deterrence Is A Fantasy

Each nuclear weapons state claims it has nuclear weapons so as to prevent it’s enemies from using their nukes, a strategy called deterrence. If you bomb me I will bomb you back, thus you will never bomb me, or so the reasoning goes. This scheme is often called “MAD”, short for mutually assured destruction.

In order for deterrence to be successful in preventing global nuclear war and the collapse of modern civilization, the MAD strategy will have to work successfully every single day for so long as these weapons exist. Given that there is currently no credible plan for global disarmament, or even much discussion of such a prospect, for the time being we are counting on the MAD deterrence plan to work every day forever.

Thousands of years of persistent human conflict and FUBAR screw ups would seem to prove beyond any doubt that achieving the perfect record of success that deterrence requires is a fantasy. It’s simply not rational to assume that we can keep such powerful weapons around forever and they will never be used.

Deterrence is based on the inaccurate idea that we can accurately detect when missiles have been launched, when in fact both America and Russia have mistakenly identified first strike attacks which were never actually ordered, which caused them to come within minutes of launching their own missiles in a retaliatory strike.

Deterrence is based on the wishful thinking fanciful notion that human beings can be counted on to be rational. The mass production of nuclear weapons proves that this idea is itself irrational.

In WWII all of Hitler’s generals knew that invading a country as large as the Soviet Union was madness, but Hitler’s ego was drunk on his previous victories so he didn’t listen. There will always be someone who thinks he is clever enough to outwit logic and facts.

And let us not forget that deterrence does nothing, nothing at all, to prevent nuclear weapons accidents. In fact, keeping weapons on hair trigger alert so as to maintain deterrence makes accidents more likely.

Deterrence is a game of Russian roulette. As we cling to our nuclear weapons, we keep pulling the trigger of the deterrence gun every day and getting away with it. And so we fall victim to the wishful thinking fantasy that the chamber of the nuclear weapons gun will always come up empty.

The reality is that deterrence is a short term, short sighted strategy whose ultimate outcome will be death. So long as we possess nuclear weapons we are drifting towards the day when they slip from our control.

The idea that nuclear deterrence can keep us safe will always be true, until the day that it isn’t.

Taming The Knowledge Explosion – Part 1

It seems important to keep in mind that the knowledge explosion which created nuclear weapons feeds back upon itself creating an ever accelerating knowledge development process. Let’s remind ourselves of some examples of how that works.

WRITING: An early step in the development of knowledge was the invention of writing. Once we were able to store information in the written word we could then share things that we’d learned with other people, even if they were distant from us in time and space. Thus, more people could have access to our knowledge, which made it more likely that someone would use what we had learned to learn something else.

THE PRINTING PRESS: With the invention of the printing press we escaped the tedious time consuming labor of having to write everything down manually, and could quickly make many copies of a piece of writing. This again multiplied the number of people who could have access to our knowledge, which again made it even more likely someone would use our knowledge to develop more knowledge.

THE INTERNET: In our time the internet has dramatically improved upon the printing press, making it very convenient for pretty much anyone to instantly share their knowledge with pretty much everyone else on Earth who wants it. This revolutionary new tool radically accelerates the development of knowledge even further. Again, the Internet doesn’t just share knowledge, by spreading knowledge it makes it easier for us to develop new knowledge.

COMPUTING: And of course the classic example is computing. Once we learned how to make computers, we could then use computers to learn many other things much faster than we would have been able to in the past. We can analyze vast piles of data to unlock it’s secrets, and so on.

The written word, the printing press, the Internet, and computers are all examples of accelerants, products of knowledge which feed back in to knowledge development process causing it to further speed up.

And so we see that the knowledge explosion is not really an explosion in the sense of being one big bang and then it’s over. The knowledge explosion is instead a continually accelerating process which feeds back upon itself generating new information at ever faster pace.

So far we’re just reminding ourselves of what most people already know, knowledge develops at an accelerating pace. While this fact is generally common knowledge, it has crucial implications which are being widely ignored at our great peril.

Now that we’ve reminded ourselves of the accelerating nature of knowledge development, let’s being exploring the implications on the next page.

History Of Nuclear Weapons – General

U.S. Strategic Nuclear Policy, An Oral History, Part 1 – This 4 hour documentary film (in two parts) from Sandia National Labs explores the origins of United States strategic nuclear policy and how it evolved.

U.S. Strategic Nuclear Policy, An Oral History, Part 2 – This 4 hour documentary film (in two parts) from Sandia National Labs explores the origins of United States strategic nuclear policy and how it evolved.

The Bomb: A Nuclear Weapons Documentary – This two hour video documentary provides a good overview of the history of nuclear weapons development.

The Atomic Bomb: Crash Course History – This video by the excellent YouTube educational video producers CrashCourse offers a quick engaging look at the history of the development of nuclear weapons.