“So when are the intergalactic robot wars coming?” This is a question I’ve been asked (more than once) by colleagues who’ve heard that I’m working on posthumanist thought and international security. The implication is that what I’m doing is a kind of science fiction. Well, there’s definitely science (including robots – see below) and a rich fictional literature to draw on, but it’s not taking place in a galaxy far, far away. It’s very much rooted in, and attuned to, this planet.
The Ethics of Armed Conflict: A Cosmopolitan Just War Theory. John W. Lango. Edinburgh University Press. January 2014.
In recent years, just war theory has witnessed a remarkable intellectual revival. Predominantly a phenomenon in English-speaking philosophical circles, contemporary just war theory has tackled many pressing issues relating to the use of armed force with increasing philosophical sophistication, drawing upon insights from other philosophical subfields, such as political theory, legal theory, and bioethics. John W. Lango’s latest book is best viewed against this background.
Mirroring recent debates on global justice in political theory, contemporary just war theory can be roughly divided into non-cosmopolitan and cosmopolitan approaches.
In a nutshell, the former approach attaches moral significance to communal and state boundaries, whereas the latter, upholding an ideal of world citizenship, deems borders morally irrelevant. As its title suggests, Lango’s book is committed to the second perspective.
It is ironic and indeed counterintuitive that our own human nature has a huge potential to drive us towards physical and cognitive enhancements that may completely alter the characteristics of our species. As I have outlined in a previous work, human nature is defined by emotional amoral egoism[i]. Humans are genetically and neuro-chemically programmed to `feel good` and are driven by a number of factors, which I call the “Neuro P5”: “power, profit, pleasure, pride and permanency”. Consequently, if a technology appears which enhances any of these strong motivators, our neurochemically-mediated calculations, emotions and survival instincts will intuitively push us in that direction. I therefore believe such technologies bring us on the brink of inevitable transhumanism. This radical human metamorphosis and enhancement (physical and cognitive), through the convergence of various emerging strategic technologies, is not a question of ‘if’ but of ‘when’, ‘how’, and “at what cost”.
A recent thought-provoking and provocative op-ed in the New York Times has presented a serious challenge to those who view drones as nothing more than the evil extensions of secretive warfare. According to Andrew Stobo Sniderman and Mark Hanis, “[i]t’s time we used the revolution in military affairs to serve human rights advocacy.”