Friday, February 11, 2005

Advanced warning of 9/11 -- by about 25 years

In October of 2001 I wrote
Over the past century technology has increased destructive power more than it has increased defensive capabilities. Technology, including communication networks and knowledge distribution, has brought to individuals and small groups (micro-powers) the capabilities once limited to nation states; the cost of acquiring and deploying nuclear and particularly biological weapons has decreased substantially. It has increased the harm potential of individuals and small groups. I sometimes call this the AIM problem, a pseudo-acronym for Affordable, Anonymous Instruments of Mass Murder. Our technologies are lowering the cost of the havoc, and the new weapons can be deployed anonymously. Anonymity means invulnerability. We cannot be anonymous, so we are are at an enormous disadvantage -- eventually contending against an invulnerable opponent with irresistible weapons.
In 1978, at a Berlin conference, Brain Michael James of the RAND Corporation said
We are approaching an age in which national governments may no longer monopolize the instruments of major destruction. The instruments of warfare once possessed only by armies will be available to gangs...
1978. Fallows, writing in the Jan 05 Atlantic (paywall), says James first wrote about this even a few years earlier, in 1975.

The Fallows article is essential reading. When will we start to talk about this new world like adults? I see no sign that we're ready to begin.

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