Predicting that the human race has wars in its future requires no insight. We humans have never had a community that has built a lasting peace. The beliefs of Buddhism have come closest to achieving a path leading to the cessation of suffering. The Buddhists are particularly notable as the only major world religion to avoid fostering international war. Unfortunately despite examples of peaceful coexistence, humanity has not demonstrated much success at preventing armed revolution. The Brooking Institution’s new report, Poverty in Numbers: The Changing State of Global Poverty from 2005 to 2015, states that:
"By 2015, we will not only have halved the global poverty rate, but will have halved it again to under 10 percent, or less than 600 million people, with India and China responsible for three-quarters of the reduction in the world’s poor expected between 2005 and 2015. While these findings likely come as a surprise to many, they shouldn’t," says the report. "Growth lies at the heart of poverty reduction. As developing country growth took off in the new millennium, epitomized in the rise of emerging markets, a massive drop in poverty was surely to be expected."
As Jared Diamond has documented so carefully, the history of social development demonstrates repeated slow evolution in social maturity leading frequently to a rapid decline as available resources become constrained. The Brooking Institution’s observation that poverty reduction is due primarily to emerging markets makes it clear that instead of humanistic teaching like Buddhism it is actually resources and technology that are the primary forces reducing suffering in the world. I quote Jared Diamond in this book’s prolog as saying that the lifestyle of current human societies has less than 50 years left.
Jared Diamond’s perspective is originally attributed to Thomas Malthus’ Essay on Population, 1798, "The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man". The question in the modern world is how long the balance can be maintained with technology increasing the availability of resources while at the same time we consume ever greater quantities. Bucking the Malthusian trend of ever increasing population, the former Soviet Union and its allies are in regional population decline. Most of the developed world now has sub-replacement fertility levels. Within 20 years the average age of the developed world will be approaching 50. This aging demographic is occurring at the same time as we’ve past the point of sustainability in our consumption of worldwide resources. The Millennium Project’s 2010 State Of The Future predicts that 2 billion people are likely to be living in slums by the years 2050. "Without sufficient nutrition, shelter, water, and sanitation produced by more intelligent human-nature symbioses, increased migrations, conflicts, and disease seem inevitable."
These circumstances assure that future wars will be fought over resources. George Friedman suggests that the battlefield will be in outer space. Control of the high ground yielding the ability to make precision attacks anywhere on the Earth’s surface. I’ve outlined a counter to this threat in my chapter on biological weapons. It detailed how a small group will be able to wreak havoc with genetically modified biological warfare agents. There are so many sources for conflict and means for attack that predicting the timing of future wars in specific regions is not possible. Instead I’d like to highlight two fundamental causes for regional conflict. One I’ve mentioned before is access to sufficient clean water, and the other is an entirely new source of conflict; control of Technology Augmented Bioengineered (TAB) technologies and DNA. I name the first category of conflict Water Wars, and the second, Bio-Wars. To quote again from 2010 State Of The Union:
"Unless major political and technological changes occur, global water demand could be 40% more than current supply by 2030. This would cause conflicts over tradeoffs among agricultural, urban, and ecological uses of water, along with mass migrations and wars."
Worldwide we will have soon depleted the water we have been mining from aquifers deposited during the last ice age. These are being sucked dry at the same time as global warming is likely to create persistent drought over major regions of the earth. Water wars are unavoidable. People can go forego electric power and petroleum. They can’t forego clean water. Eighty percent of diseases in the developing world are water-related. These water wars cannot be avoided by the use of technology. All water purification and desalinization techniques are energy intensive, both in the manufacture of the technologies used, as well as in their implementation. No doubt in future centuries, TAB humans will have solved this problem. After all, 71% of the earth’s surface is covered by water. Until then, this historical source of conflict will persist.
Bio-Wars…what could those be? Consider the following hypothetical scenarios. The year is 2050. During the two decades between 2010 and 2030 genetic engineering of human DNA progressed rapidly. Social response to this progress has fragmented the world with violent sectarian conflict along both religious and political lines. In response to Iceland’s financial collapse in 2017, Decode Genetics, the gene-hunting company in Reykjavik, was nationalized by the Icelandic legislature. DeCode’s access to the Icelandic Health Sector Database (HSD) containing the medical records and genealogical and genetic data of all Icelanders gave the company a head start in identification of the primary genes responsible for human intelligence. In a controversial move to assure Iceland’s future, a population wide referendum persuaded Icelandic woman to act as maternal hosts, implanted with lab grown fetuses engineered for genetic brain enhancement. Feedback from preschool testing of their genetically enhanced offspring identified successful engineered strains of DNA allowing rapid improvements in Icelandic intelligence. The average IQ of Icelandic teens is now measured at 210. More than a hundred percent increase in just 40 years. The entre of Icelanders with augmented intelligence into the Icelandic workforce has already given Iceland the highest living standard in the world. Control of Decode Genetics’ genetic engineering database is considered an Icelandic national resource and is protected by many layers of secrecy and military security.
Elsewhere in the world: Kim Jong-un has augmented North Korea’s nuclear deterrent developed by his father Kim Jong-il, with an army of genetic clones. As the last Stalinist state on earth, Kim Jong-un had required some means to combat desperation inside his country, and resentment toward the Kim dynasty. To accomplish this Kim repurposed the massive underground war facilities beneath Pyongyang. Instead of tunnel warfare these now provide accommodations for North Korea’s new army. For the last 40 years genetic experiments hidden underground have been protected from scrutiny. Kim Jong-un’s secret army was revealed this year because he used it to suppress a widespread revolt started by students at Kim Il-sung University. Fearing civil war Kim unleashed his clone army. Popular support for the students withered as science fiction clone warriors suppressed the slightest protest with deadly force. Apparently these engineered human clones are physically superior to the finest existing athletes. They feel no pain. They see in the dark. They act with no moral constraints. When injured, nanobots in their blood seal wounds in seconds, making clone warriors very difficult to incapacitate with bullet wounds. Universal horror, at these events, is being voiced both within North Korea and around the world. South Korea’s conventional army has asked for the United Nations to censure North Korea. International debate rages over whether North Korea’s cloned warriors are protected as combatants as defined by international humanitarian law. The US defense department has joined with the CIA to discover the bioengineering secrets behind North Korea’s new armed forces.
Both these scenarios may appear unlikely to you. To change your perspective, consider how threated the community you live in now would feel if your neighboring city was composed of people twice as intelligent as yours? I would expect universal concern. The threat is not just towards you but to the potential success of your children and grandchildren. Instinctual response for species survival would infect your town with all the xenophobic emotions that typify the worst of man. This reality of superior neighbors is much more threatening than if the nearby city varied from yours by only ethnic or religious differences?
The Crusades of the 11th, 12th, and 13th-centuries were fundamentally fought over economics. What motivations sufficed to keep the wars going for 200 years? The European indignation about the 3000 Christian Pilgrims massacred in Jerusalem was enough to muster the original popular support. Crusaders of the upper classes saw an opportunity for acquiring fame, riches, lands, and power.
If the Christian Europeans had believed that the Turks’ civilization and the religion of Islam were superior; and on the verge of dominating their own…how long would the conflict have persisted? Likely until one side or the other had committed complete genocide against the other. The conflict between our two hypothetical towns differing only in intelligence might also be compared to the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire. Francisco Pizarro’s advantages were steel weapons, gunpowder and smallpox. With a force less than 200 men, Pizarro subdued the Inca civilization. What advantages will a society accrue if all its members have beyond human mental capacities? Their chance of inciting attack from their neighbors would undoubtedly increase if they were practicing Buddhism. A non-violent super intelligent society would be a particularly tempting target for attack by neighboring communities embolden by their willingness to use force of numbers and lethal weapons.
Human experience has been an endless battle between the strong and the weak. Social systems and genetically derived human instincts will not have time to evolve to another pattern during the brief period of this century. Technology Augmented Bioengineered (TAB) humans are inevitable. The immediate consequence must certainly be human conflict over the very definition of future intelligent life on this planet. I called this threat Bio-Wars. It is threat of TAB life so different that it will rapidly supplant humanity as we know it. This threat is the threat of extinction. As such, it will engender wars of species survival.