Nick Bilton is best known as the New York Times’ man in Silicon Valley, but here he writes a speculative piece for Vanity Fair in which he presents a former spy’s theory of a coming tech world war:
…You don’t have to look too far back into history to see that when the marginalized have had it with the system, it doesn’t take a lot to set flame to tinder. World War I didn’t begin with two countries invading each other. It was inaugurated by a tense global climate, a matrix-like alliance system, and the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, an heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, by a passionate 19-year-old in Sarajevo. It was only one spark that blew up the world.
Technology is also likely to be at the center of the next major geopolitical battle. The anti-immigration, anti-one percent, anti-capitalism and anti-everything else we’re seeing right now isn’t just going to go away in a society where people feel their voices are not being heard. They’re going to continue to try to affect change, and increasingly, they will rely on technology. And it’s that same technology that is likely to ensure that all future wars bear little resemblance to previous ones.
I learned this terrifying lesson a few years ago, when I attended a small conference in Canada focused, in large part, on futuristic tech—robots, cyborgs and artificial intelligence, usual stuff like that. But at some point, an older man calmly made his way to the lectern, and placed on the projector a crude illustration of America with three concentric circles emanating from the center. The man introduced himself as a former government spy, offered up some impressive credentials, and said that he had seen some dark things in his lifetime, but the darkest was still to come.
The next major war, he said, wouldn’t be fought with bombs, men, or even robots. It wouldn’t be waged on a battlefield or in the sky. Instead, it would be a silent war. He explained that during the past couple of decades, most of the world’s private and public infrastructure had become predominantly digital. And that the next major war could decimate that infrastructure…
[continues at Vanity Fair]