My friend Jordan Chase-Young, a 2027 Hugo Awards Winner and a stud, has one of my favorite minds out there. His twitter account is prone to convey interesting and pertinent questions and prompts on hard issues from the near and distant future. It’s fun to irresponsibly address such questions and prompts with speculations that tend to be as wild as they are brief (it’s twitter after all). However, for his last prompt, I just felt that I couldn’t irresponsibly speculate briefly, so I’m typing my meandering take on this blog.
Okay, two sentences to unpack here, I will start with the second one: I believe doomsday devices will be easier and easier to build, and that process is happening in a geometric progression, i.e., the past progress is cumulative. Think about ballistic weaponry: we came from the arc and bow made by an artisan to the pistol that required mass production to the gun that can actually be 3D printed at home. Why couldn’t someone do that to a nuke at some point? Yes, you will never be able to print the fuel for that nuke, but that takes me to the second point.
We also tend to disregard the progress of social technologies. The conundrum of mass media and online social networks encouraged and allowed a small segment of fringe extreme-right men and women from extremely distant parts of the United States to assemble in Washington DC on 1/6/2021 and take over the Capitol. It was a coup attempt that had all the ingredients to succeed. Social technologies like that revolutionize trade and its variant known as smuggling, thanks to dark web shops and cryptocurrencies, which, just like any other technology, are evolving at a faster pace they can be controlled: buying a chunk of a fissile material without being caught will be easier and easier.
Now, let’s go to Jordan’s first statement: “(there is)… no foolproof way to prevent a doomsday devices.” Yes, although yes, we can also say that, in the Stone Age, there was no foolproof way to prevent someone to club someone else to death. Hell, I think even Vladimir Putin’s compound has a 0.00000000000000000001% chance to fail to protect its prestigious resident if someone attempted to club him to death.
How to make these odds small though? It’s doable for a small group with lots of economic resources: a loyal regiment of heavily trained security guards and a couple of strategically placed shark tanks hidden under trap doors might do the job to protect Vladimir Putin if the QAnon Viking decides to invade his compound with a club, but what can it do if hundreds of 3D printed nuclear bombs explode around the globe, triggering a nuclear winter, or a homemade virus ravages the world? Let’s assume that Putin and his servants have enough stocked food, and maybe a nuclear powered underground farm, to feed them for centuries, power struggles are a likely hazard, death by old age a certain one. And the biggest point is: society would have collapsed. If you are, like me, not in position to build a compound, you might be more interested in preventive measures that protect the whole society. That’s where I would like to offer a general hypothesis:
“It’s easier to destroy than it’s harder to build.” is a premise we can all agree upon. It’s easier to harvest/burn a wheat field than it is to grow it. It’s easier to plunder a stash of good than it is to assemble such stash. It’s easier to terminate life than to create life. It’s easier to nuke a city than to build one. Systems that prevent destruction need to be build whereas destruction… just needs to be performed. In the Stone Age, you needed 2 persons to build up the intent to effectively halt the destructive action of 1. That ratio became wider with technological progress. And today one might need thousands of intelligence agents to track an individual attempting to perform a terrible and extensive act of destruction. It is reasonable to believe that, based on the geometric progression principle I mentioned before, at some point we will not have enough human population to for such tracking. Are we doomed then? Not if you fight fire with fire. Besides building structures of prevention, one can incur in acts of counter-destruction. The premise works both ways: it’s easier to destroy a terrorist cell than it is to build it. The problem is, such acts of destruction are not akin to democracy. That’s where things get particularly grim for me, personally, as I see China excelling at counter-destruction, but with a huge civilization cost. The best things of social life are things that are built with refinement, which is inherently fragile, and fragile thing are the easiest to destroy.
I have the idea for a novel based on the 3 sociological laws for sustainable civilization in a context of advanced technology. I shared the first one here and I’m saving the 2 others if I decide to write this novel, what will probably not happen considering that it’s not worth it to put out your work when the main distributor can’t even bother to correct a typo on the cover that is killing your sales. That’s the lesson I learned from the release of Terminal 3, when you put an effort to build an intricate narrative that is easy to destroy (in my case, by just sabotaging the cover), you can just choose to simply not build anymore. The beauty will remain preserved, inside your mind, away from the clubs of a society that is descending into barbarism.