I came to SXSW to immerse myself in all things of the internet – what the future holds for social, content marketing, technology, how consumer behaviour is adjusting to all these variables and what businesses need to do to win. So far there’s been more on these topics than my brain can handle. 

Surprisingly, I didn’t expect to stumble upon a seminar by Dave Anthony, the Director of Call of Duty game franchise, August Cole, a former WSJ journo and national security expert, and Peter Singer, a futurist and military strategist. This panel was discussing the scenario’s that might lead to World War 3 and what weapons might be used.

They agreed that the next war, between states and nations (not smallish groups like ISIS) would be fought not only on land, in the air and sea but also in space and online. They discussed that WW1 saw the introduction of the tank, WW2 saw the first use of atomic weapons and that WW3 would see the crucial and game-changing use of cyber technology. We’re not talking just drones and high-tech weapons but bio-engineering and bio hacking (the manipulation of human cells to increase performance and stamina – think of everything that’s illegal in the Olympics) plus a very real use of 3D printing – where weapons and ammunition can be printed on the battle field thereby reducing the reliance on the supply chain. This was all interesting stuff, if not slight un-nerving but when it came back to things I actually understood some really interesting questions were asked.

During previous world wars governments would instruct local industry to change their production priorities to producing machinery to assist the war effort. The economy saw a huge upside from this. So what will happen if there’s another world war and there isn’t a need for Ford to produce land-based army vehicles. When more submarines can’t be produced quicker than a 10 year sprint? What will Google, Facebook and Twitter do when there’s a requirement of them to help with the US war effort (assuming they’re involved of course). The panel didn’t mention Apple, but would they be required to manufacture an iRocket? What will Anonymous do when states are at war with each other? Will they take sides? Especially if the future of the human race is at stake.

Another significant change since WW2 is the 24/7 news cycle. How would a war be covered in the various media platforms? Vietnam was fought with TV reporters on hand. But how would WW3 be different when news can be broken about conflicts and issues by anyone on the ground well before governments find out?

While I sincerely hope that we never need to serious contemplate these questions, but it was a refreshing break from the standard SX content. Tomorrow I’ll check out Artificial Intelligence, Immortality and the Future of Self. After breakfast.

Dan

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