Wednesday, April, 23, 2014

War! What Is It Good For?, New America, Washington

War! What Is It Good For?

Conflict and the Progress of Civilization from Primates to Robots
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In his provocative new book, War! What Is It Good For?: Conflict and the Progress of Civilization from Primates to Robots, historian Ian Morris turns Edwin Starr’s old song lyric on its head, arguing that war has actually been quite good for some things, namely the states that wage it. Indeed, he shows that, over time, wars have made governments and that governments have made peace, providing their citizens with relative safety, wealth, and larger, more organized societies.

By combining the four ways of looking at war — personal, military, technical, and evolutionary — Morris provides a new perspective on human conflict that is lost in most other histories. He notes, for example, that almost every documented society, going all the way back to the world’s first written records, has waged war. If war is really such a bad idea, why is it such an apparently permanent part of the human condition, and can anything alter that fact? Many experts suggest that by the 2040s, wealthy countries will be using fully robotic weapon systems, removing the need to risk human lives on the battlefield at all, in essence putting war “out of business.” But is the computerization of war making the world a safer place? Should a computer with humanlike intelligence be armed?   Are we truly reaching an endgame, as Morris suggests, in which man has become less violent, and a burgeoning “globocop” will make wars unnecessary?

The New America Foundation is pleased to welcome Morris for a discussion about the findings in his book and whether war has actually made society safer and wealthier, and if the future of war will truly be peace.

Copies of Morris’ book will be available for purchase by cash, check, or credit card.

Join the conversation online using #WAR! and following @NatSecNAF. 

If you are unable to join us in person, please tune in to the live webcast. No sign up is required to view the streaming video, which will appear on this page the day of the event. 


Ian Morris
Author, War! What Is It Good For?: Conflict and the Progress of Civilization from Primates to Robots
Jean and Rebecca Willard Professor of Classics and Professor of History, Stanford University

Peter Bergen
Director, International Security Program, New America