Nuclear war is not an existential threat

From: Phil Goetz (
Date: Mon Sep 26 2005 - 12:02:35 MDT

> The problem is not a comet hitting the planet and
> killing us all off before we get to the Singularity.
> The problem is humans developing (and subsequently
> misusing) nanotechology, or a nuclear war breaking
> out, or any other number of human-generated worldkills.

In 1979, the US Office of Technology Assessment (since dissolved
by the W. Bush administration) put out a publication called
"The Effects of Nuclear War" (still available on the OTA CD set).
It evaluated the destructiveness of various nuclear war scenarios.
The worst scenario conceivable at the time resulted in at most,
IIRC, a 25% fatality rate in the US and USSR from
weapons and fallout. Deaths from agricultural productivity,
infrastructure damage, disorder, etc., were not calculated.
However, the report showed that it was quite impossible
for an all-out nuclear war to wipe out human life on earth,
and unlikely for it to cause as much destruction as the
Black Death did.

I believe we have generally less capability now than then, as there
as AFAIK been more missile destruction than building, and also
as whereas older bombs and missles had huge megatonnage in order
to compensate for their limited accuracy, whereas newer ones
tend to have lower yields and higher accuracy.

- Phil

Yahoo! Mail - PC Magazine Editors' Choice 2005

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