SubscriberWrites: War can be a catalyst for scientific and technological development

SubscriberWrites: War can be a catalyst for scientific and technological development

Updated: 1 month, 4 days, 13 hours, 45 seconds ago

Text Size:

Thank you dear subscribers, we are overwhelmed with your response.

Your Turn is a unique section from ThePrint featuring points of view from its subscribers. If you are a subscriber, have a point of view, please send it to us. If not, do subscribe here:

It was the balloons and the drones that got me thinking!

Even if you are a human being on a rare digital detox diet over the last couple of weeks, it’s impossible that you have missed out on the balloon stories. 

The thought that these balloons triggered was this – is war the natural state of human beings, or is it peace?

Maybe for this generation and age, the more important question is – which one is better, war or peace? Which is really better for the advancement of human beings as a race?

I know by now most of you must be shaking your heads – millions of dead, utter destruction in cities and villages, hordes of orphans, billions of wasted capital. What good is war, will someone please tell this fellow.

I am simply musing – why is it so that most of the real technological and scientific advancement for humans is accomplished during or as a result of war? And I mean not just the violent, gory, explosive, battlefield war. I also mean the cold races between great powers.

The galvanising effects of the second world war on human scientific progress are well documented. Although, one must be mentioned due to its humongous importance for today’s human civilization – the computer. From the cracking of the enigma machine right upto the ENIAC in the forties.

But let’s now dive a bit deeper. Take the space race borne out of the cold war.

Would same kind of budgets have been devoted to the space programme by USA and USSR if there was no cold war urgency and paranoia?

How many years later would the first man have set foot on the moon?

Take the internet itself!

The god of all things today started out as a defence network in the USA. It was supposed to link up the US scientific and defence establishments. And why was it so breathlessly developed – to ensure information and instructions could be disseminated in the event of a nuclear attack! Ha, there goes!

So what brings improvements, what spurs urgent advances in aeronautical engineering, space technology, genetic engineering, biological engineering, cyber security, artificial intelligence, big data analysis?

Is it the pursuit of peace or the guttural paranoia of the ‘other side’ cracking it first?

What is egging scientists to devise military grade lasers today, weapons that can potentially finish the reign of projectile weapons. Is it the pursuit of peace?

Remember, projectiles have had a long reign over human conflict, right from the days of the first stone chucked by the caveman, to the hypersonic missiles of today. 

Many reports have cautioned that China has been amassing vast amounts of data about the western nations. It has been using AI, machine learning and big data analytics to try and build some kind of expertise not just about military systems but also about civilizational facets like values, opinions and beliefs. Think what such a humongous database can do when it educates some machine learning entity like the suddenly famous ChatGPT? China’s aims are understood to be anything but peaceful.

You could give me many examples of technological development during peace time. Yes, there is a fair bit of that too.

But is there anything that galvanizes like war does?

Consider the ancient nomadic tribe of homo-sapiens?

Would you agree that the presence of a tiger, or another band of sapiens in the nearby territory galvanized our tribe to sharpen their spears, gather the heaviest stone clubs and form alert bands of spies and sentries? Even develop hidden calls and sounds to communicate?

Consider the first man to discover that a spear works best and sinks deepest if it is heavy at the front. Was this a peacetime passion?

Forget these. 

These might be considered too incidental and too tiny in the story of human beings on earth. But what about things totally different from technology, things that act as the base of civilization today?

What about the nation state?

What gave birth to the concept of an identity, a geographical region native to the identity, a border surrounding this region and the need to protect this border? Wars are fought between nation states (and many times by non-state actors but with a severe identity issue).

The thought keeps churning in my head that if there was no threat of war in human history, what all would we have missed, or developed late, or never at all?

The teachings of war are not limited to technology and science. War teaches courage and patience, the ability to handle adversity, the capacity to absorb loss, the will power to survive and forge ahead.

As human beings, do we then live in a blissful continuity of peace with some wars thrown in, or, do we live in a cacophony of wars with rare sighs of peace? And which would be better?

These pieces are being published as they have been received – they have not been edited/fact-checked by ThePrint.