Looking ahead ( 3/52)

Illustration by Susanne Gold/ text by Ted Ganten

Will there be war?

If we extrapolate our “challenges” into the future, we see how the gap between rich and poor is widening. Resources are becoming scarcer. Polarization is advancing. These are harbingers of war. One would think that the knowlegde of a multiple nuclear overkill would prevent bigger miltant conflicts. Up to now, it is precisely this deterrence that has been said to be one of the most important drivers in securing peace. But the memory of the horrors of war is fading in the current generations in the nothern hemishpere. In addition, there are some psychological phenomena that make new, larger wars more likely in the not too distant future.

Acceptance

The coming decades of accelerated technological progress will also further increase inequality among nations in the field of warfare. If autonomous combat systems can be used to keep the blood toll on one side extremely low, there is a danger that new wars will gain greater social acceptance. Especially if the wars are fought at great distances. Due to the way they are presented in the media, this form of war is probably even perceived as exciting. Perhaps they will replace other reality shows or series in the future, will be streamed like e-sports events via corresponding online platforms. In any case, a tendency towards such a reality show was already apparent during Desert Storm, the invasion of Iraq by a US-led alliance. The search and assassination of Osama bin Laden was also staged in the media. Pictures of Barack Obama were shown, who was switched live to the cameras of the executing special unit in the War Room in Washington … This reminds me of every second action series that is currently running.

Desperation

The greater the pressure on the established, religious systems through progress and knowledge, the more they will have to fight for their existence. The enemy in the outside world is a welcome excuse to strengthen the sense of community among the “faithful”. It gets harder every day to justify a God who calls us the “pride of creation”, while creation is demonstrably still in progress (evolution). Even less does it seem reasonable to me that god spurs us humans to bring discord and fight against his own creation … but a few will take that position to hold onto their faith, their authority and their power. The desperation to devalue thousands of years of efforts and the belief in “having a good life” at least after death will make these people blind for any rational argument and the insight into possible consequences.

Psycho bubbles

As a basic psychological current, social media and individualized search algorithms can play a role as catalysts/fire accelerators. They include a growing number of people more and more into self-affirming filter bubbles. On Facebook, you make friends with people who are like you. This then leads to suggestions and offers, which in turn address the same circle of friends and with the same opinions. Also, in these psycho bubbles opinions are public and subject to a strong coherence pressure. More and more people are living in a real world that is digitally pre-filtered. Algorithms of search engines generate hit lists according to the (political and ideological) preferences of the searchers. They also contribute to the fact that we deal less and less with people, media, and opinions that have a different view of the world – unless it is to outrage, to distance ourselves, and thus to further solidify our own standpoint. Tolerance is therefore no longer asked and trained on many levels. This alone is – of course – no reason to go to war. However, it reduces the resistance against (armed) conflicts through the influenceability of the masses and the lack of tolerance and willingness to compromise.

Media

Thanks to our smartphones, media content reaches us everywhere and at all times. You need ever more blatant scandals and disaster images to catch the attention. Therefore, we live in a world of disasters and media distortion. It is amazing to see how differently and yet polarizing a rocket attack on Israel from the Gaza Strip is reported around the world. The phenomenon that the reporting is looking for ever stronger images impacts our way of thinking. Most astonishing are the live recordings of catastrophes and assassinations, some of which are streamed into the net by those affected or even by the assassins themselves. We are addicted to them. The way of reporting contributes to polarization and is at the same time a self-confirming prophecy. Murder, manslaughter and rape are omnipresent. And if nothing bad happens nearby, a headline illustrates a shootout in Pakistan. Violence has become something normal. We want it. Without this sensory overload in newspapers, on television, in documentaries, in computer games, life does not feel right.

These signs indicate that bigger militant conflicts are ahead of us or at least more likely.  There are a few other developments in the future that are already quite clearly foreseeable. Those will be dealt with in the upcoming weeks.

 

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