How the world, the civilized world of mankind, would end used to have a singular premise, nuclear war between the two competing socio-economic powers, democratic freedom and communist totalitarianism. Since the fall of the Soviet Union and other developments that paradigm has been grotesquely been altered making the world a far more dangerous place. Communism still exists and threatens the world though that threat emanates from North Korea, China or possibly a renewed Soviet threat or even little Cuba. The world has changed so much that within a decade or so China may become the second most populous nation behind their most serious historic rival, India. The potentials for an utterly destructive war are racing towards the world at a dizzying pace and we will try to touch on a few of the most obvious rivals for being credited with such destruction.
The most obvious from recent news actually is North Korea which is claiming to have miniaturized nuclear weapons making them easily produced and able to be placed atop ballistic missiles. North Korea has been working on those missiles as well. One cannot credit North Korea as the sole threat as Iran has been developing the missiles openly and many predict continued working on their nuclear aspirations without so much as missing a beat after the farce of an agreement which was signed and approved by the P5+1, Russia, China, France, Great Britain, United States and Germany, but was never ratified or signed by Iran, an oversight we are sure. Some have pointed to this inconvenient fact to claim that Iran is just as close to developing deliverable nuclear weapons as is North Korea. Both Iran and North Korea share more than their love affair with nuclear weapons and the missiles with which to deliver them, they share the nation both list amongst the most likely they would attack with their first launches, the United States. From there they diverge.
Where after the United States Iran lists Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, most of the Sunni nations and finally the rest of the non-Islamic world; North Korea lists South Korea, Japan and then whomever refuses to bow to any demands they may make which would make China and other nearby nations as being at the greatest risk. Because of these threats it appears that we can soon forget about containing nuclear proliferation making a nuclear war all the more likely. The world still has one pair of nuclear armed nations facing off against each other with a distinct probability to entering another war and it will only take one misidentification of a launch to start a smaller but equally deadly nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan. Should those two tangle, there is less of a chance for that to spread beyond the destruction of both nations though some reports place the southern third of India still beyond Pakistani missiles. Also, despite the Pakistani nuclear research assistance program of Professor Abdul Qadeer Khan selling the secrets to making nuclear weapons to anybody willing to pay, this was largely closed down and Pakistan and India are not likely to share such technology though it is rumored that Pakistan has a deal with Saudi Arabia to provide them with plans plus some actual weapons should this be deemed necessary by Saudi leaders.
That brings us to Iran and their nuclear program. Despite the reports that Iran has ceased their nuclear research and production, there remain nagging reports contradicting this story line. Whatever spins one puts on the situation with Iran, it becomes evident that they will become a nuclear power within the coming decade. This threat to their many nations in their neighborhood could easily spark an arms race with such nations as Saudi Arabia having funds sufficient to produce copious numbers of nuclear weapons and many of the Gulf States are equally financially capable of similar development not to mention also capable of financing other nations developing weapons such as Jordan and Egypt topping that list and Turkey a little further down. Israel is already an undeclared nuclear power in their own right and equally nervous about the development of an Iranian deliverable nuclear device. The problem with Iranian nuclear weapons possession is their likelihood to use them even in the face of retaliatory strikes which would conceivably decimate the nation as their reasons for attacking are a religious directive just as much serving their political agenda to gain hegemony over the Middle East and then the Islamic world followed by the world. Their eventual aim is to make Shia Islam the sole religion on earth or die trying. It is their willingness, even desire to commit national suicide in the process which makes their threat so dangerous. The truth is their first strike could be a preemptive attempt at neutralizing the United States, which is technically possible, to inflict humongous damage even using simpler ballistic missiles with nuclear warhead atop, three or four to be used as EMP weapons placed such as to completely destroy all electronic transmission across the United States with the remainder taking out the largest twenty or more cities all from freight container ships fitted with two or three launchers each launching from off shore from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans as well as the Gulf of Mexico leaving no city beyond reach. The following map holds true for any nations attacking the United States be it Iran, North Korea or anyone else as it lists the most desirable first strike targets.
Next would be North Korea who would likely use the same map as above as it applies to any nuclear first strike attempting to critically destroy the United States by eradicating their leadership and a great part of the population. Anybody listening to North Korean broadcasts within the impoverished nation would believe that South Korea with great assistance including nuclear attacks made by the United States was imminent and that North Korea was preparing for an all-out war with both nations at any moment. Needless to say, but these depiction always have North Korea intercepting or preemptively destroying any and all attacks from the United States and South Korea followed by devastating rebutting attacks completely wiping the United States from being capable of any further attacks and reunification of the Korean peninsula under the North’s just and powerful rule. The fears that North Korea will attack South Korea are still quite high but also the ability to prevent North Korea from all but eradicating Seoul in the initial burst in a first strike are impossible. The artillery sitting just north of the DMZ (demilitarized zone) along the 38th parallel are more than sufficient to destroy the city with conventional warheads. Add in missile attacks and even without nuclear weapons North Korea has an ominous first strike knockout capability.
Additionally, North Korea has made threats against another traditional enemy, Japan. The entirety of Korean populations, both North and South, remember the deprivations, cruelties and horrors of the Japanese occupation during World War II and this hatred is easily stoked as the national memory on this is strong. Japan had been simply a historic enemy but after World War II they became a detested and begrudged enemy and North Korean propaganda has made use of this to keep the attentions of the people from the misery and hardships of life in North Korea. Many experts have claimed that North Korea is not suicidal and thus would not attack anybody for fear of retribution. This overlooks a few pertinent facts. First is the fact of their having so little to lose with no real economy to speak of and starvation of endemic proportions. Secondly, their ruler, Kim Jung Un, has displayed a real lack of grasp of reality and has executed high ranking people for the slightest of errors in judgement or actions. He had an uncle executed with the rumored excuse that he posed a threat to Kin Jung Un’s continued rule and recently executed his Defense Minister Hyon Yong Chol for the crime of falling asleep at a meeting which Kim Jung Un was chairing. Kim Jung Un has shown complete disregard for any loyalty or discretions in limiting his power and is sufficiently unstable and unpredictable that he could easily begin such a conflict against South Korea, Japan or even the Philippines or the United States. Below is a screen shot from a North Korean propaganda video depicting just such an attack in a very simplified but unmistakable way of attacking the United States with the image of Kim Jung Un ever-present in the top right corner.
Another potential nation for whom a war would not be a completely foreign idea is China. Their economy has weakened and is showing signs of actually falling, something the leadership cannot afford as they have promised the vision of Nirvana with an ever growing and prosperous nation. Needless to point out that such a dream is an impossibility even if you control all forms of media, which China does not quite have as many Chinese have found means of cruising cyber space and the Internet. Totalitarian control of cyberspace is all but impossible as the Chinese leadership can attest despite their attempting to run their own version hoping to keep their populations from such temptations as can be found online. Their main reason is to throttle ideas and prevent freedom of information. Still there are Chinese bloggers who do get the word out to those interested in finding such. China is feeling their oats and attempting a power play in the South China Sea attempting to control this waterway which is vital to Asian trade and control the Japanese lifeline to the coal and oil they need for power generation and other usages. This also threatens Japanese, Vietnamese and Philippine claims to islands with which they have been contesting ownership with China for years and almost sparking open warfare over these possessions. Chinese and North Korean threats have caused Japan to reconsider their Constitutional pledge against having an army and other forces sufficient to conduct a war even in defense which they insisted upon after the devastation visited upon them at the end of World War II with Tokyo as well as Nagasaki and Hiroshima completely devastated and in ruins along with much of Japanese infrastructure and manufacturing. Japan as well as South Korea has held high level discussions in their respective governances to enter the nuclear club and develop their own weapons stores. Both nations are easily technically capable in order to produce first rate thermonuclear devices and not just nuclear weapons. This would place their effectiveness on a par with the standing nuclear powers and could place them on a road to surpass France and Britain and become contenders in the top five nuclear powers on the planet. This would definitely have ramifications down the line and would be another major blow to containment and nonproliferation. Of course one of China’s first strike enemies is the United States and any attack by Iran, North Korea, China, Russia or anyone else on planet Earth need to remember and remember well, there is a last strike capability the Americans possess which cannot be knocked-out attacking the United States mainland and even if one included Hawaii and Alaska, and the boomer looks like this right before they are loaded with their death dealing cargo of twenty-four missiles.
But nuclear weapons are not the only threat which is facing mankind. We are slowly but inexorable working to make our species insufficient of competing with our own creations. Sure we control our machines and computers today, but what about tomorrow and that tomorrow is not that far off where they no longer require our assistance to improve and construct themselves? We are rapidly approaching a point after which there is no turning off the switch. We already have computers which with software can design robots and other computing systems but the machines cannot write new and imaginative code, for that they require human interface, for now. What happens once they can write their own code and improve their own designs? What happens once the machines design the machines? Within a year or two of that eventuality, and our scientists will cross that threshold within our lifetimes unless you are near death’s door already, the machines will be so far advanced that we will not recognize or even understand their code and they will probably, for their own safety, have invented their own code structures making them writing code in a language humans do not understand and cannot decipher. Additionally, Russia, and we can assume China and the United States amongst others, are already designing autonomous reasoning robotic warriors deciding who is the enemy and who is friend to fight their wars augmenting their human forces. That will be a short step from replacing their human forces. Robotic armies, does that bring up any bad movie plots? How about Cylons of Battlesar Galactica and the second series where the advanced Cylons were almost impossible to differentiate between them and their human counterparts where the chain had gone full circle and the machines made by humans were now making humans. What do you do when the machines are superior to the humans who made their first free-thinking forefathers and now the machines are making their own humans which are born full grown and with developed minds, personalities, character traits and numerous models such that they can infiltrate and appear as any other person until their activate code has them commit whatever act they were programmed to commit, destroy a base, a warship, a star cruiser or a commander, all depends on the subroutine activated. There are the Terminators from the Arnold Schwarzenegger films of that name. Terminators, Cylons, NS-5 robots, or Johnny-Five, (see below) it does not have to even be a threat initially, it is the potential which even Johnny-Five showed great ability and would have been in their armed mode as displayed in the movie. Of course the initial combat robot will be far more Johnny-Five than Terminator though Cylons may not be far behind. Once the machines have been used to design and uplink code into combat robotic soldiers they will have this capability and designs within their collective data memory and when they begin to manufacture their own robotic warriors they will be generations ahead of even Hollywood’s imagination and equally impossible to stop or fight against in a conventional manner. Our best bet is at some point to program into their base core programs that we are, if nothing else, a pitiful but amusing bunch to keep around for entertainment factor and as a warning to do better when they reach their pinnacle and before they introduce whatever lifeform replaces them, and do not think for a moment that the human race will not eventually build robotic machines which will not only be capable of replacing us but soon thereafter far exceeding anything we could even imagine. We had better hope they like us and do not see us as a waste of resources, which is a definitive possibility. Making warrior robots to fight our wars, that is such a great idea, not.
As seen here, we are well on our way to extinction and it is just a matter of what shape the world will be in when we have departed. Will it be a nuclear ruin, a robotic heaven, a slag heap of gray goo, or a zombie apocalypse; choose your favorite. The concept we need looking into the future is a simple one based on the adage, hope for the best, plan for the worst, and expect something out of the blue as we likely cannot even begin to understand the threat which will erase our kind though we know no matter what, with the knowledge we have of physics we are doomed unless we find something remarkably unbelievable and likely unimaginable in our time. Meanwhile we will continue to allow leadership who not only plan end of the world scenarios but figure out ways that they at the very least will survive. Nothing like leaving the best to repopulate the world, imagine a world consisting of politicians and their closest friends and families, and families are debatable. Excuse us as we check our bugout bags which need to be assembled and readied for some time in the hopefully far future. Are we ready for the future people with more brains than common sense are going to invent for us in which to survive? Probably nowhere near ready nor can we really ever be. Meanwhile, we are going to order that flying car the politicians and scientists keep promising they are almost there in building them. We thing they are just teasing us and they have them for themselves stashed away for the after world, the world that whatever monsters they design leave us. Between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, who do the Americans believe is sane and healthy enough to withstand what is coming? We will know in approximately eight long and agonizing weeks, providing both candidates’ health withstands the pressures.
Beyond the Cusp