Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

The IEET is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization registered in the State of Connecticut in the United States. Please give as you are able, and help support our work for a brighter future.

Search the IEET
Subscribe and Contribute to:

Technoprogressive? BioConservative? Huh?
Quick overview of biopolitical points of view

whats new at ieet

Anonymous vs ISIS: Vigilante justice in the War against Terrorism

These Robots Come to the Rescue after a Disaster

La science-fiction a-t-elle perdu foi en avenir?

“Prior art” is just a fancy term for “too slow lawyering up”  (Short story)

APM, Nanotech and a Solution to Middle-Eastern Stability

How the Mysterious Dark Net Is Going Mainstream

ieet books

The Brain: The Story of You
David Eagleman


instamatic on 'A Multifaceted Strategy to Defeat ISIS' (Nov 24, 2015)

spud100 on 'A Multifaceted Strategy to Defeat ISIS' (Nov 24, 2015)

ekendal on 'Ectogenesis Offers Multiple Unique Benefits' (Nov 24, 2015)

instamatic on 'A Multifaceted Strategy to Defeat ISIS' (Nov 23, 2015)

Lucifer777 on 'Why it matters that you realize you’re in a computer simulation' (Nov 23, 2015)

spud100 on 'A Multifaceted Strategy to Defeat ISIS' (Nov 23, 2015)

instamatic on 'A Multifaceted Strategy to Defeat ISIS' (Nov 23, 2015)

Subscribe to IEET News Lists

Daily News Feed

Longevity Dividend List

Catastrophic Risks List

Biopolitics of Popular Culture List

Technoprogressive List

Trans-Spirit List


Enframing the Flesh: Heidegger, Transhumanism, and the Body as “Standing Reserve”

Moral Enhancement and Political Realism

Intelligent Technologies and Lost Life

Hottest Articles of the Last Month

Why it matters that you realize you’re in a computer simulation
Nov 14, 2015
(65766) Hits
(14) Comments

The Future Business of Body Shops
Nov 15, 2015
(7653) Hits
(0) Comments

Crypto Enlightenment: A Social Theory of Blockchains
Nov 1, 2015
(6921) Hits
(0) Comments

The Incoherence and Unsurvivability of Non-Anarchist Transhumanism
Oct 29, 2015
(6249) Hits
(4) Comments

IEET > Security > Military > Fellows > Mike Treder

Print Email permalink (3) Comments (5631) Hits •  subscribe Share on facebook Stumble This submit to reddit submit to digg

On the Future of Warfare

Mike Treder
By Mike Treder
Responsible Nanotechnology

Posted: Aug 1, 2007

On July 30th I gave an hour-long presentation on “Nanotechnology and the Future of Warfare” at the World Future Society’s annual conference. You can view the presentation here.

About 60 people attended and peppered me with many excellent questions both during and after my talk. Overall, the audience was quite enthusiastic and responsive.

I opened by quoting from Harvard University professor Steven Pinker, who recently wrote:

Violence has been in decline over long stretches of history, and today we are probably living in the most peaceful moment of our species’ time on earth…

In the decade of Darfur and Iraq, and shortly after the century of Stalin, Hitler, and Mao, the claim that violence has been diminishing may seem somewhere between hallucinatory and obscene. Yet recent studies that seek to quantify the historical ebb and flow of violence point to exactly that conclusion.

The big question, of course, is whether this evident decline in violence can be expected to continue. I then discussed what I consider to be an approaching period of perilous geopolitical instability, when…

  • Weapons of mass destruction will be more varied, more deadly, more available, cheaper to obtain, and easier to hide.
  • The strength (and the ambitions) of regional powers will increase rapidly while the stabilizing might of the U.S. could be in decline.
  • New technologies such as genetic engineering, robotics, nanotechnology, and possibly artificial intelligence could enable radical shifts in the balance of power.
  • Global climatic conditions – including increased frequency and severity of killer storms, droughts, infrastructure damage, crop failures, and even whole ecosystem collapses – will contribute to growing tensions.


After reviewing the basics of nanotechnology and desktop manufacturing, I turned to the topic of WMDs and the future of warfare. I asked the audience to consider these three important points:

  1. In modern warfare, the target of attack is not the opposing military – it is the will and capacity of states to make war.
  2. The real target of WMDs is not the victims, but the survivors.
  3. WMD = Not just weapons of destruction, but also of disruption.

We then spent some time talking about the four main elements that comprise weapons systems. These are: a) payloads; b) methods of targeting; c) modes of delivery; and d) means of production. In each area we are seeing rapid change, bringing radically enhanced, more dangerous, and potentially more disruptive military applications.

The most significant of these elements may be the last, the means of production. When applied to weapons of mass destruction/disruption, it could be a titanic lever for dramatically shifting balances of power.


Finally, I asked people to think about the future of warfare in four dimensions:

  1. Technologies - Which will be the most powerful and possibly destabilizing future military technologies?
  2. Timing - How soon could change arise, and what might take us by surprise?
  3. Context - What other societal shifts, outside of technology, must be taken into account to envision a near future geopolitical environment?
  4. Policies - Which combination of national, international, corporate, and civil society policy planning will lead to the safest world of tomorrow?

It’s difficult in just one hour to convey all the complexities of such a big topic, and it’s even tougher in a 500-word blog article. Obviously, we discussed a lot more than what I’m able to include here. Please ask if you want elaboration on any of these points.


Mike Treder is a former Managing Director of the IEET.
Print Email permalink (3) Comments (5632) Hits •  subscribe Share on facebook Stumble This submit to reddit submit to digg


I’m doing a “future paper” on the future of warfare in 10, 25 and 50 years. I was wondering if you could enlighten me on the subject.
Some questions I have are; Do you think wars will become more frequent or less? Will the military be mostly robots or automated systems? Will Religion become a primary war?

Thank You,

Thank you for responding! I just have a couple more questions on the Economics. In the future will we still have malls and stores or will everything be online? Will we still be using coins and dollar bills in the future?

Thanks again,

In my un-doctoral opinion (UDO), combat-warfare will be replaced by economic warfare. However there’s always the WHEN. Futurism is a good deal (for the futurist, that is) because he can postulate any timeframe he pleases; he can write: “by 2068 all outright warfare will have been replaced by economic warfare.”
If outright warfare still exists in 2068, who is going to file a lawsuit?

YOUR COMMENT (IEET's comment policy)

Login or Register to post a comment.

Next entry: Ray Kurzweil’s acceptance speech at TV07

Previous entry: The Immortalists


RSSIEET Blog | email list | newsletter |
The IEET is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization registered in the State of Connecticut in the United States.

East Coast Contact: Executive Director, Dr. James J. Hughes,
56 Daleville School Rd., Willington CT 06279 USA 
Email: director @     phone: 860-428-1837

West Coast Contact: Managing Director, Hank Pellissier
425 Moraga Avenue, Piedmont, CA 94611
Email: hank @