The forces shaping our future are not inevitable in the sense that they are ‘preordained’ or irrefutable. Rather, they are inevitable because:
- They’re already happening, have been ‘happening’ for more than thirty years, and will keep happening;
- They are fundamentally driven by the underlying dynamics of technology itself, determined by mathematics and physics.
While Kelly in his book The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future builds a vision of ‘life with technology’ that is brilliant, grand and highly optimistic, he doesn’t take into account the technological capacity for mass destruction and the evolutionary cycles of human history that make civilizations disappear and new ones emerge.
Following the trauma of World War I, another view of war has been in the ascendance, that of a “catastrophe,” an event resulting from a “system failure.” From this “systemic” point of view, the immediate instigating “causes” of particular wars seem less important than the properties of the “system” that make it war prone. One can go a step further by introducing the time dimension. A question that naturally suggests itself is whether the total amount of violence engendered by war has increased, decreased, or remained fairly constant in recent history. Severity of wars can be measured by their duration as well as the numbers of dead. Moreover, the number of wars initiated can be taken as absolute or relative to the number of potential instigators of wars; that is, the number of national states comprising the “international system” in the period in question.
Another examined index was the “morbidity” of military confrontations. A military confrontation is manifested in “threats, displays, or actual uses of military force (by a system member) while engaged in a serious dispute with another member of “the system.” Some of these have ended in wars; others not. The World Wars, however, were of a magnitude far surpassing all the other wars so that their occurrence overshadowed all other statistical effects. The task of examining all confrontations between all members of the international system is clearly a formidable one. The results are shown in table here below, describing the amounts of battle deaths in the period between 1823 and 2013;
The Correlates of War interstate war data as a conflict time series, showing both severity (battle deaths) and onset year for the 95 conflicts in the period 1823–2013.
If the postwar pattern of relatively fewer large wars were permanent, at what future date could we reasonably conclude that this pattern is a trend, that is, a genuine change in the statistics of large wars, and not a fluctuation? This question can be answered by extrapolating the simulated war sequences into the future. The variable of interest is then the fraction of simulations with a greater accumulation of large wars than either observed in the past or expected in the future, under a linear extrapolation of the long peace pattern, in which a new large war occurs every 12.8 years on average. This fraction’s trajectory describes the evolution of the statistical likelihood of the empirical accumulation pattern of large wars over time.
Simulated accumulation curves for wars of different sizes under a simple stationary model,overlaid by the empirical curves up to 2013 (dark lines) and linear extrapolations of the empirical postwar trends (the long peace) for the next 100 years (dashed lines). Quartile thresholds are derived from empirical severity data.
The armament level of each nation stimulates (instead of inhibits) the rate of armaments growth of that nation, while the armament level of the other nation has no effect. We are dealing here not with mutual interactive stimulation but entirely with self-stimulation. The driving force behind the burgeoning of the technology of destruction may not even be the perceived external threat, but merely the self-stimulating demands of the technology itself. This model could be illustrative for the Chinese attitude to whatever other superpower. China is already since years expanding its weapons’ production and has launched its first series of self-build carriers .
Since wars are basically a system failure, a World War is a big system failure. Statistical data about those phenomena are scarce, but if we analyze the historical data, we can discern four recurring factors preceding a massive system failure that provoked a World War.
- A prohibition on alcoholic beverages (narcotics?) in the US
- A Great Recession caused by poor oversight of the financial markets.
- An agricultural depression in an industrialized country.
- A crazy dictator of an industrialized country who goes unchecked because everybody is fixated on his own problems.