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The Future of Violence: Robots and Germs, Hackers and Drones: Confronting A New Age of Threat
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The Future of Violence: Robots and Germs, Hackers and Drones: Confronting A New Age of Threat

3.37  ·  Rating details ·  151 ratings  ·  29 reviews
From drone warfare in the Middle East to digital spying by the National Security Agency, the U.S. government has harnessed the power of cutting-edge technology to awesome effect. But what happens when ordinary people have the same tools at their fingertips? Advances in cybertechnology, biotechnology, and robotics mean that more people than ever before have access to potent ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published March 10th 2015 by Basic Books (first published September 21st 2014)
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Arto Bendiken
Disappointing overall, and at times shallow and boring. One emerges with the assessment that the two authors are easily impressed by surface-level phenomena. They maintain that narratives taught in civics class suffice to illuminate the origins and practice of politics. They perceive a simple world, where stated intentions equal actual objectives, costs can be judged relative to ostensible objectives without minding actual effects, correlation generally implies causation, and the direction of th ...more
Candi Cross
May 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Research gem! This book reads as an exhaustive summary and contextual theories on the technological advances that have shaped our lives for better or worse. Our innovation continues to comfort, elevate and destroy us in astounding ways. Oceans and buildings cannot keep any of us apart and that is both beautiful and dangerous. I particularly appreciated the in-your-face excerpts on privacy since we demand it from the government yet keep broadening the access, person to person, without any regard ...more
ash newton
Apr 24, 2016 rated it it was ok
a poorly conceived argument which fails at nearly every juncture to promote a deeper understanding of violence, focusing instead on the rapidly advancing technological means that empower non-state actors to be able to conduct it. i could tell something was wrong with the book early on, when the authors presented a thought experiment along the lines of "what if the bp oil spill happened, with everything the exact same, but only it was terrorists that did it and not an accident?". it felt like the ...more
Matt Heavner
Started out to be about the technology, then took a hard turn to some history of governance and then governance and legal theory. Interesting read, but not what I expected.
Apr 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: research
Look at the title of this book. The Future of Violence. War, war never changes, but violence? We are absolutely brilliant about coming up with ways to cause grievous harm to one another. What cool military and privatized inventions await is in the much talked about singularity of technology? I don’t know. That’s not what this book is about. The Future of Violence is more concerned about the question of violence on a societal level, which, frankly, is infinitely more interesting.
Drones, 3D print
So the title is misleading; as this book is more concerned with who will have the power/monopoly of violence in the future. Wittes focuses on how disrupting technologies will effect both those that currently have power and those that will gain power in the future.

Why I started it: This book caught my eye in an Audible 2 for 1 sale.

Why I finished it: Futuristic predictions and philosophy is not my go to genre, so this book was an interesting introduction to a new way of thinking about the future.
Kevin Christiansen
A chilling, yet instructive, primer on the continuing threats of violence that continue to plague us. The book provides a useful summary of a variety of threats and policy considerations, as well as discussions of the philosophical underpinnings for some of our views concerning regulation, privacy, the social contract, etc., as they relate to threats of violence. While I would recommend the book, it is neither a light read, nor one that will put your mind at ease about the current state of the w ...more
Dec 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I really liked this book It's a good examination of how advancements in technologies influence the ability (of both governments and individuals) to both defend and commit violence. It offers an interesting examination of the role of the state in protecting citizens, how it has changed over time and how it might change when subject to technological pressures. Worth reading again.
Jun 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
Overly sensationalist.
Sep 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fascinating and the amount of information was great, but could have used more structure. Many of the chapters seemed a bit all over the place.
Mar 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shall we all be scared now about the AI?
Jul 10, 2017 rated it liked it
An interesting read for those involved/interested in ways & means.
Feb 28, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book is provocative but the concepts are rather basic. I also think the authors does not do a good job to explain a few things, I.e. when they briefly use an example of large volumes of data and says "this is what big data is". Big data is not only lots of data. It makes me think if the other things that he explained are also incorrect like when elaborated on jurisdiction, chemical weapons and others.
Feb 17, 2017 rated it liked it
Modern re-hashing of Hobbes and the importance of not constantly chaining down the Leviathan because the number of threats and vulnerabilities our global civilization face today are so numerous and wide spread that hurting the Leviathan will only come back to bite us.

Technology is empowering both organizational and individual actors in unprecedented levels, making single individuals capable of causing tremendous harm to untold thousands of people. Without anyway to push back and create a more ba
Matt Halvorson
Sep 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
While I don't agree with all the points and possible conclusions, as an IT Professional I see many of these issues an big problems and I am worried that they ain't being taken seriously enough. I am glad to see these points brought to people's attention and I think more people need to read books like this so a discussion on how to proceed as a nation can happen. With our current politicians making jokes about wiping email servers with a cloth I worry that we are a long way from taking IT securit ...more
Chris Laimit
Nov 06, 2015 rated it liked it
The authors did a very thorough job of researching and presenting their material. This is a very thought provoking book on the title subjects. While most of what they wrote is valid, there are some statements made that I disagree with. I would give this work a 5 star rating for research, effort and drive. Overall I would give it a 3.5 due to the wordiness. Their explainations, case studies are quite thorough and in many cases not really needed as the informed reader believes much of what they sa ...more
Maged Zeineldin
May 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
I was not sure to give this book 3 or 4 stars (I would say it is 3.5 stars) I decided to go with 4 because it covers a really interesting topic. The technology empowers people in a non-precedent scale. This mass empowerment together with it is transnational nature challenge many of the concepts of the rule and sovereignty of the state within its territory. The authors discuss many ideas and historical concepts of the state and the possible effects of the new technology of violence on them. I wou ...more
Brock Nicholson
Sep 30, 2016 rated it it was ok
A boring and repetitive writing style mar what could have been an interesting subject. The author is primarily focused on political theory, not the technological or tactical aspects one might expect. That isn't a bad thing necessarily, but is a little disappointing. The subject matter coupled with the dry, repetitive, intro to polisci level of writing, means this book did not live up to my expectations and I would not recommend it.
Jul 14, 2016 rated it it was ok
How can you make such an exciting topic this boring? Oh, yeah, you can talk about legislature for half of the book. I should've seen this coming after the introductory disclaimers: "we're not experts on technology" - what are you going to talk about then? Figures. Loved the idea of mechanical spiders injecting businessmen with poison - a brief respite in an otherwise pedestrian exercise in fearmongering.
Alex Lennon
Jun 27, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: global-affairs
Chapter 1 is a very good standalone article about the emerging threats from interconnected computers, biology and eventually robotics and even nanotechnology. After that, a lot of the book devolves into poli sci 101 about the social contract which basically concludes that states are less useful as non-state actors are growing more lethal.
This book is not what the title says it is. Sure it discusses violence and its possible future manifestations, but it's mostly a philosophical analysis of freedom, security, privacy, and the role of the government in protecting its citizens from the Hobbesian state of nature. I found the book informative and thought provoking, but not particularly compelling.
Eli Weinstein
Mar 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating discussion of emerging security threats, focusing on the concept of "many-to-many" technologies that empower individuals or small groups to harm large numbers of people. The authors' primary interest is in the new governance and policy problems that these technologies create for states. I found their discussion of privacy and cybersecurity particularly unusual and enlightening.
Aug 06, 2016 rated it it was ok
This book was surprisingly nothing like it's title. It seems like it spent about 100 pages on the topic of the title (robots, germs, future of warefare) and then the rest was on forms of government, liberty, how states will deal with each other.

So I was very disappointed.
What a disappointment! The title is rather misleading as the book focuses on security, not violence. Nevertheless, the topic seemed interesting. Unfortunately, it got butchered by the tedious way it was presented. Barely finished it.
Samuel Lubell
Feb 07, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club, nonfiction
I don't know how the authors made a book about violence so dull. In part it was because much of the time they weren't really writing about violence but security concerns. It was frequently repetitive, using the same examples.
Sep 24, 2015 marked it as to-read
Interesting so far, but due back at the library so back on the "to read" shelf it goes since I can't renew it now.
May 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Very compelling, particularly the chapters about the legal theories surrounding future security concerns
C. Leist
This is an excellent read. The first 90 pages read like a sci-fi novel, but it isn't fiction.
rated it it was ok
Oct 10, 2017
rated it it was ok
Aug 11, 2018
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Benjamin Wittes is a senior fellow in Governance Studies at The Brookings Institution. He co-founded and co-writes the influential Lawfare blog (, which is devoted to non-ideological discussion of the "Hard National Security Choices,” and is a member of the Hoover Institution's Task Force on National Security and Law. Between 1997 and 2006, he served as an editorial wri ...more