[ExI] future of warfare again, was: RE: Forking

Anders Sandberg anders at aleph.se
Mon Jan 2 20:45:52 UTC 2012

On 02/01/2012 19:37, Stefano Vaj wrote:
> One wonders, isn't that incredibly myopic for a would-be planetary 
> empire when being the first to control viable industrial production of 
> fusion energy would have guaranteed it a competitive edge on any 
> conceivable competitors for decades or perhaps centuries?

I think it is a mistake to assume the actions of states are rational for 
the state as entity. States are composed by many players and groups, and 
what is rational for one might not be rational for the other - and when 
information is imperfectly distributed and incentives improper the 
behavior can get really ineffective or irrational. Just consider the 
gridlocks of US internal politics - solving them would be very useful 
for a planetary empire, but that doesn't help.

In regards to warfare, it is worth noting that the US defense 
establishment has worked on developing e-weapons to wipe out 
electronics. Very useful against hightech foes dependent on information 
processing, and especially effective if there is a large unshielded 
civilian infrastructure. Which is of course a much better fit to the US 
than most current adversaries - this is the kind of weapon that will 
come back and bite you. Especially since current trends in globalization 
means that technology diffuses faster and faster. After all, Greenpeace 
is operating drones now to pursue whalers.

A world where drone warfare is available to not just the leading forces 
but to minor nations and non-national groups might be rather unstable. 
You don't need to have a formal declaration of war to send a drone down 
Fifth Avenue, and it can be controlled from a botneted computer - 
tracing the originators and controllers might be very hard. Drone 
warfare might favor asymetrical strikes not just on war-making 
infrastructure, but whatever other functions someone think are 
strategic/bad: finance, whaling, nanotechnology labs, competitors...

Anders Sandberg,
Future of Humanity Institute
Philosophy Faculty of Oxford University

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