Government adviser reveals the greatest threat facing humanity (and it’s not nuclear war)

In Politics & Society, Science & Technology
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A decade ago, no-one could have predicted the sheer size and impact the Internet has made on our planet. Now that everything including government, healthcare, commerce and financial services are brokered through connected devices, the stakes are much higher.

In the 20th century, nuclear war was the single greatest to human existence. With our ever-increasing connectivity, there is a looming threat on the horizon that makes the threat of nuclear warfare pale in comparison.

As the geopolitical strategist, historian and government adviser Gregory Copley says in the video below, “the threat of nuclear warfare is so 20th century.”

The new threat we’re facing is cyber warfare in an age where everything is connected. The impact of cyber warfare is potentially calamitous, as Copley explains below.

Copley is President of the Washington based International Strategic Studies Association and is the author of over 30 books. His views are regularly sought out by governments around the world. Copley was the keynote speaker at the ADC Forum’s Australian Leadership Retreat, where he shared some fascinating insights on the future of humanity.

Ideapod CEO Justin Brown sat down with Copley to explore his ideas in more depth in the Facebook live video below. Copley began setting the scene for the global threat we face by explaining that new technology can always either enhance or destroy societies. We often make the mistake of extrapolating forward based on recent history rather than seeing that historical trends are usually short lived.

We’re currently going through a time of enormous change, and the growth of disruptive technology is not occurring at the same rate as a generation ago.

The major change, according to Copley, is that “we’re coming into a period of enormous population decline. This is global but it’s disguised by growth in the major urban areas.”

During the 20th century human population grew from 2.5 billion to 7 billion people today. However, now that we’re becoming more urbanized, we’ve changed our reproductive patterns. Urban societies aren’t reproducing enough to replace themselves. Our fertility rates are decreasing.

This is going to fundamentally change the productivity of society and our social cohesion. People will start to move to rural areas as the appeal of living in cities declines. This is going to reduce the value of urban real estate.

Declining property prices will have huge consequences. There will be less capital available for investments into disruptive technology which is only going to accentuate the slowing down of major technological growth.

Here’s the key point:

The current era of constantly rising demand and rising scale is coming to an end. How will we cope?

Cyber weapons will have a greater impact due to centralized power sources

Right now our cities are run by electricity, and we get our electricity from centralized power sources. In an age of global connectivity, if our power supply was disrupted by cyber warfare or natural disasters, then the result will be complete disaster in our cities.

Copley said that if you live in the northeast of America, if you turn off the electricity for two weeks, 30-40 million people will die because they can’t access gas, sewerage systems will be compromised and our water supply will become poisoned. Food won’t be able to be transported in to feed everyone.

Here’s the key point:

Cyber weapons and natural disasters will have a far greater effect than they ordinarily would have.

How you can prepare for the threat

Brown asked Copley how individuals can prepare for this potential dark age of technology. Copley made three suggestions:

  1. Create your own autonomous supply of energy off the grid. Storage instruments and batteries are becoming far more capable than a decade ago. Solar panels are now available.
  2. Stockpile food. This may be a drastic step but Copley says it’s worth looking into.
  3. Decentralize water purification. Don’t be completely reliant on centralized water services. Invest in your own water purification.

It’s going to become a major national security issue for governments around the world to ensure their citizens are protected from the threats of cyber warfare and natural disasters by decentralizing energy supply. We need to transition into smaller power sources.

Copley wasn’t only sharing a bleak perspective. He also said that the current transition period provides incredible opportunities.

“When you see a break in a rigid social structure, there is opportunity. We are leaving behind a managed period and seeing opportunities for people to take leadership and move society forward in new ways.”

Here’s the video with the full discussion. You can also see the ideas shared from the Australian Leadership Retreat here.