Review: The Future of Violence: Robots and Germs, Hackers and Drones…

… Confronting the New Age of Threat

Benjamin Wittes & Gabriella Blum

This book does exactly what it says on the tin. It covers new age threats from biowarfare to specialised robots with the prime purpose to kill. As the world faces new threats everyday, Benjamin Wittes and Gabriella Blum open your eyes to killer insect drones, attack spider drones that equally match the agility of real-life arachnids, the simplicity of cyber warfare: no one is safe online, and how easily accessible a strain of DNA is – scarily so. If you weren’t paranoid about stepping outside your front door and being infected with a lethal virus, you will be after you read this book. The Washington Post’s review: “A lively and often terrifying exploration of the dark side of our technological age” is not far from the truth.

In 268 pages, the co-authors cover a lot, and impressively in-depth too. This book could almost benefit from being a trilogy, covering each topic singularly, rather than altogether. Its downfall is the chronology of events and topics – one minute you’re reading about the ILOVEYOU computer virus, the next something completely different. The four ‘threats’ get a little jumbled from time to time and can be difficult to follow.

Future of Violence

What this book does well is pose more questions than it answers. Whilst this might cause frustration for others, it allows for further research and heightens the interest in the subject.

By using everyday examples – part II, chapter 4 begins with an introduction to M’s character in James Bond – the ideas are put into perspective, allowing those less knowledgable on the subjects to have reference points, thus aiding a better understanding. However, some of the links between theories and threats are tenuous, for example, the Ancient Romans building roads: “a network of more than eighty thousand kilometers of passable stone roads…” (pg.177) are compared to new technologies of mass empowerment: “New platforms unleash human creativity and provide bases on which to build new frontiers of power and culture.” A simple and arguably well-linked idea, but a little far-fetched.

In reading this book, it appeared that it would be great as a reference, sifting through to find relevant chapters and theories rather than reading as a whole.

The Future of Violence: Robots and Germs, Hackers and Drones not only has a very catchy title, it also cannot be criticised for its thorough research and in-depth study across history. This is a must-read for anyone with an interest in the future of warfare.

Released: 10th March 2015
RRP: £16.99
Publisher: Amberley Publishing
Author: Benjamin Wittes & Gabriella Blum
Type: Paperback
ISBN: 9781445655932
Pages: 324

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