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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

3.40  ·  Rating details ·  189 ratings  ·  35 reviews
The ability to inflict pain and suffering on large groups of people is no longer limited to the nation-state. New technologies are putting enormous power into the hands of individuals across the world—a shift that, for all its sunny possibilities, entails enormous risk for all of us, and may even challenge the principles on which the modern nation state is founded. In shor
Kindle Edition, 334 pages
Published March 10th 2015 by Basic Books (first published September 21st 2014)
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Start your review of The Future of Violence: Robots and Germs, Hackers and Drones—Confronting A New Age of Threat
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Mar 24, 2015 rated it liked it
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
Pete Zilla
Fascinating book about how technology will empower the masses and upend the national and international order as we know it. The book goes in depth about how recent and expected technological development and revolutions will enable an individual to have a terrifying amount of potentially unregulated power The form of various platforms, consisting of miniaturized, autonomous, biological, and cyber weapons. The book dragged a bit with discussions about international relations and law, but to be exp ...more
Douglas Meyer
A well-researched, well-written, and well-organized discussion of the progression of violence and its implications on future conflict. Authors Blum and Wittes provide information, context, and responsible analysis in a format that is both easily digestible and engaging. This book is of the same ilk as books like Peter Scharre's Army of None, Fred Kaplan's Dark Territory, Sean McFate's The New Rules of War, and Robert Kagan's The Jungle Grows Back. This is a great read for anyone looking to under ...more
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
Paul Holden
I should have read the credentials of the authors more carefully. This book was not what I was looking for, it’s actually about regulation and legal mechanisms. Which I did not find particularly interesting. There seemed to be a lot of repetition without anything actually being said.
Mar 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shall we all be scared now about the AI?
Sep 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Apr 06, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting. The legal implications of near future options, so near they are passing us by as we speak.
Isabel Straw
Jun 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A thorough analysis of the threats that exist in todays world/the near future, and the role of the domestic and international communities in combatting these challenges.
Jul 10, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting read for those involved/interested in ways & means. ...more
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.
Milly Wonford
... Confronting the New Age of Threat

Benjamin Wittes & Gabriella Blum

This book does exactly what it says on the tin. It covers new age threats from biowarfare to specialised robots with the prime purpose to kill. As the world faces new threats everyday, Benjamin Wittes and Gabriella Blum open your eyes to killer insect drones, attack spider drones that equally match the agility of real-life arachnids, the simplicity of cyber warfare: no one is safe online, and how easily accessible a strain of D
Feb 17, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 14, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Brock Nicholson
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.
Eli Weinstein
Mar 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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.
Alex Lennon
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.
Samuel Lubell
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.
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.
Aug 06, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
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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

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