Sex at Dawn

Exploring the evolutionary origins of modern sexuality

Wiki-Terrorism: Get Used to It

Wikileaks, like terrorism, relies on technological advance. Can't stop it.

Warning: If you insist that everything you read have a happy ending or hopeful message, get away while you still can. Read no further. Save yourself!

Bombs, like laptops, keep getting smaller, lighter, and more powerful. And there's not a damned thing we can do about it. There's also not much we can do to control the logical repercussions of these technological changes. In that sense, Wikileaks really is very much like terrorism.

It strikes me that our age will mark either a return to the sorts of near-egalitarianism of our pre-agricultural ancestors, or it will mark a new era of barbarism as bloody and brutal as our species has never seen. Homo sapiens, in other words, is quickly approaching the point where our path into the future bifurcates, and we'll have to chose between a radical, yet deeply humane response leading toward benevolence, transparency, and a fairer distribution of wealth or a ruthless amplification of the inequalities, violence, suffering, and wrath that already characterize our age. We can't keep edging forward with a foot on each path much longer.

What forces this historic choice, perhaps unique in human history (or prehistory), is the conundrum inherent in our own predilection for power beyond our capacity for caution, speed beyond our senses, and destruction beyond our comprehension.

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We create ever faster computer networks in order to make money on porn, spam, and video-streaming . . . but these networks can and will be used to agitate for justice and transparency. There's simply no way to stop it.

We design suitcase bombs and missile guidance systems to confound our enemies and justify the continued diversion of immense wealth into unproductive yet psychologically satisfying weapons development . . . but these mini-nukes and Pakistani missiles will soon be in the hands of angry, clever, disaffected young men from Yemen to Mexico. How can they not be? We keep making more of both: angry young men and ever smaller, more easily stolen and smuggled bombs. Eventually, the two must meet. It's the nature of things that they should.

Then what happens? When the first city is vaporised, will we stop and look at ourselves, at the bloody corner we've painted ourselves into? A world in which significant and growing numbers of our fellow beings are angry and dehumanized enough to jump at the chance to kill millions of us and have increasing access to the tools needed to do it? Or will we simply tighten the screws again? Build another aircraft carrier, another secret prison, another monument to the essential ignorance of power?

Wikileaks cannot be stopped. Determined, suicidal terrorists cannot be stopped. The systems vital to our survival grow ever more complex and fragile while the tools availabe to small groups of angry, cheated people grow ever stronger. When these two trajectories cross, as they are right now, our species must choose one path forward. Historical precedent offers little cause for hope.

Christopher Ryan, Ph.D., is co-author of Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality (HarperCollins 2010).

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