Since at least World War 1 the idea of war as being all about glory and heroism has seen massive disillusionment. Most people, I think, would agree that war is not a good thing, even if some think it a necessary thing. But technological arms races, both during war and in peacetime, generate a plethora of technological advances. That raises the question: should futurists and transhumanists welcome war in order to usher in greater and faster technological advances?
Some of the biggest leaps in technological innovation come from necessity during war, or at least in preparation for potential war. Innovations in airplane and submarine technology came due to the First World War. Further aviation and naval innovations occurred during the Second World War, as well as computer and cryptographic innovation. And, of course, nuclear technology. Going to space and the moon likely would not have happened if not for the Cold War. The internet started because NORAD wanted to be able to communicate when nuclear weapons were being fired over the north pole from the Soviet Union. And nowadays we have drone technology advancing rapidly due to the U.S.’s permanent state of war.
I consider myself a futurist, but I also anti-war. I think war is one of the greatest (and potentially much greater with advanced technology) sources of human caused misery on the planet. But how can I, or other anti-war futurists, square this conundrum? As my home page suggests, I am of the opinion that technology is the only way to improve the “human” condition. Should someone like me take a consequentialist view and say that the misery and death caused by war is justified by more quickly ushering in an age of transhumanism and AI with consciousnesses that far exceed the human capacity for beauty and happiness? By that calculus, the much greater capacity for pleasure and joy (and potentially emotions humans aren’t even capable of conceiving) in our technological descendants far outweighs the suffering of millions of normal humans. In fact, one might even be able to argue that we have a moral imperative to usher in our descendants, whose enhanced consciousness is being delayed by our reticence for war.
My reasons for disagreeing with this is two-fold. The first reason is the simplest: the more war we have, the more likely we are to wipe ourselves out before we ever get a chance to invent our suitable technological replacements. The second reason is that if all our technology is geared for war, then it’s more likely that our technological descents will be too. One of the goals of replacing humankind with technologically enhanced AIs and/or transhumans is to rid the world of the need for war by instilling our descendants with a greater capacity for morality. How will that be the case if all our technology was invented for war?