24 March 2022

Madmen and the bomb

 It's often remarked, by those inclined to indulge in "what if?" alternate history speculation, that had the Germans' WW2 era nuclear program produced a viable nuclear weapon during that war, Hitler would surely have used it. I am not sure that in Vladimir Putin we do not have the 21st century equivalent of that situation. Except that this time, the madman does have them, and they have orders of magnitude more destructive power. There really is no valid and methodologically defensible way to assess the risk. The downside can be considered for practical purposes to be infinite... there is a very real danger, by all assessments, that an all out thermonuclear exchange would result in human extinction, or at least the disappearance of civilization for a very, very long time. Reasonably assessed at totally unacceptable. So what level of risk of that happening as a direct result of actions can be considered acceptable? 1% (not that probabilities are really even meaningful here, we're talking about something pretty close to "hunches")? A 1% chance in a year's time, over 100 years, means the chance of its happening in that time is pretty close to certainty, and we're talking about an urepeatable catastrophe that literally means game over. Can we really be sure our actions aren't increasing that risk to an unacceptable level? But then, even if we do nothing at all, there is a shockingly high risk, so maybe what's happening here is that we are being forced to grapple with the fact that we've been whistling in the dark for decades now, and the real truth is that having madmen in charge of nuclear weapons is the problem. I don't think anyone can genuinely say they are absolutely certain they have a prescription that is 100% guaranteed to give us the best chance at an acceptable outcome. This is the conundrum, or dilemma, of the ages: there really is no good solution other than to try very hard to avoid provoking a disaster while steering policy towards not only the elimination of dictatorship but elminating these weapons once and for all. And enforcing a ban on them forever.  Otherwise, I think it's likely our civilization, if not our species, really is doomed. It's just a matter of time, and in terms of geological time, a very short one at that. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Gyromantic Informicon. Comments are not moderated. If you encounter a problem, please go to home page and follow directions to send me an e-mail.