Is That a Nuke in Your Pocket or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

New book, The Future of Violence, is terrified about 'technologies of mass empowerment'


There's a new book out called The Future of Violence: Robots and Germs, Hackers and Drones—Confronting a New Age of Threat, by Benjamin Wittes of the Brookings Institution and Gabriella Blum of Harvard Law School. It's a 307-page warning that the 21st century, with its "technologies of mass empowerment," "threatens…to be Hobbesian"—so much so that maybe it's time we stopped obsessing over "Big Brother" and started preparing better governmental responses to "Little Brothers" instead.

I've got a review of the book in today's Wall Street Journal, and it begins like this:

"As a thought experiment," write Benjamin Wittes and Gabriella Blum, "imagine a world composed of billions of people walking around with nuclear weapons in their pockets." If such an exercise doesn't strike you as bonkers, then I've got an enthusiastic book recommendation for you. Sadly for the rest of us, the fear-mongering in "The Future of Violence" is no laughing matter but rather a depressingly accurate summation of how centrist Washington has come to view the democratization of technology: with a distrust bordering on panic.

Whole thing here.

NEXT: Bailey Lecturing in Russia and Ukraine on the Liberation of Medicine

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. …imagine a world composed of billions of people walking around with nuclear weapons in their pockets.

    Not bonkers, just M.A.D.

  2. “Are you talking to *me*?”

  3. Only the Glorious Collective can keep us safe! Just forget about the millions killed by governments in the 20th Century! That was just a little hiccup.

    1. Well, that’s the problem, isn’t it? The technology of weapons will continue to improve. The government/state becomes the repository of the potential implied violence. Turns out the repository is a supermarket. What’s the solution? Perhaps there is more than one reason the population is likely to decline markedly in the 21st century.

  4. A pocket nuke? There’s no *way* I’m keeping a radioactive device right next to my junk.

  5. Paywall at the WSJ, so I cant read the article.

    Sounds a lot like John Robb’s Brave New War, only ten years after the fact.

  6. Nice takedown right there in the opening, Matt. Too bad it’s paywalled. I thought they designed it to be easily circumvented but that ol’ google-the-URL trick no longer works.

    1. It still works, you just have to Google the title. For this strike I had to Google “license to kill Matt Welch” (so you might end up on a list).

      First link: http://goo.gl/WJjlyF

      1. For this article* (because autocorrect is good at its job).

      2. Still no go for me; I use NoScript and only allow certain cookies, but I would have expected HTTP_REFERER to maybe work. Guess not.

  7. “It is not too hard to imagine someone weaponizing something the size of the Nano Hummingbird,” the authors warn.

    “Would it make you feel any better, little girl, if they was pushed out of windows?”

  8. Imagine a future in which a competitor assassinates you via a robotic spider. That’s one way to see new technology’s potential.

    Imagine a future in which your ex-girlfriend assassinates you by running you down with her Model T Ford. That’s one way to see the potential of the horse-drawn carriage.

    It’s always the same thing: stasist is anxious over the dangers of a world that is safer than ever because of liberal innovationism and thus seeks to constrain innovation, thereby making the world poorer and more dangerous.

    1. *Robot spider passes my static barrier and drops dead*

      One reason I’m a transhumanist is that I envision a future where it doesn’t matter if the bad guys have Terminators, because the average citizen can be Iron Man. Sam Colt’s equality with better toys.

  9. The review is fn pay walled.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.