Re: Hiroshima Day

From: Phil Goetz (
Date: Thu Aug 11 2005 - 08:59:27 MDT

Recently I saw a documentary about Robert McNamara. Part
of it involved his role in World War II, planning the
bombing of Japan. They flashed across the screen names of
different cities, and the number of Japanese civilians
killed in each one.

I also happen to know a little bit about the number of
German civilians killed in bombings of German cities. My
mother was at Dresden the night it was bombed, and she said
the entire city was packed with refugees.

Anyway, what I'm getting to is that the number of civilians
we killed in WW2 with conventional bombs was somewhere
between 10 and 50 times as many as we killed with nuclear
bombs. Curiously, a brief Google search turns up many
references to the number of civilians killed by the atomic
bomb, and a few references to Dresden and Tokyo, but I
don't see anyone who has attempted to estimate the total
number of civilians killed by conventional bombs. Total
civilian deaths in World War 2 were about twenty million,
not counting 30 million or so Soviet citizens killed by
their own government throughout the 30's and early 40's,

But even conventional bombs are more tech than you need.
The most massive exterminations in history - in China,
the USSR, Germany, Cambodia, Rwanda, and Uganda, for
instance - were conducted with knives, clubs, and guns.

On one hand, you could say this suggests that we shouldn't
worry about future technologies for killing people, as we
already do that quite well. On the other hand, you could
say that comparing nanotech, biotech, and unfriendly AI to
the atomic bomb trivializes the former. The atomic bomb
is just another weapon by comparison.

- Phil

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