When I ask people how humanity might destroy itself – as you do – it’s usually via an all-out nuclear war. Understandable, the world has seen what damage can be done by two primitive (by today’s standards) singular nuclear warheads to large cities. Why then, do some countries possess so many nuclear warheads? And why are some of these poised to launch at a moment’s notice?
The truth is, nobody knows if war is over for good. It certainly seems like it’s going out of fashion; we’re currently enjoying the most peaceful period in human history (Steven Pinker’s 2011 book The Better Angels Of Our Nature). Yes, there are many (many!) conflicts, some of which killed tens of thousands of people last year (over 55,000 in Syria alone), spreading fear and causing huge suffering, but their impact is usually much smaller than wars between nations or empires. A lot of this transition towards civil war, is to do with colonialism and the Cold War. The most important of these is colonialism, which is hard to give context without a much longer article.
Today, borders are largely set, we have an international court for war crimes in The Hague, If we enter the 22nd century without having had a World War III, I think we can say with some confidence, that peace is the new inevitability and all our great-grandchildren will be using our nuclear warheads in their innovative new nuclear power plants, laughing at the idea of a deterrent.
Mark Williams is a Ph.D. student in Nuclear Chemistry at The University of Manchester