The internal threats to humans correspond with the external threats, and they are equally ominous. Humans are intelligent, but also emotional; we are able to discern many complex things, but we can also be influenced by our emotions and take irrational actions.
We have always been aware of the self-threat humans pose to themselves, but this knowledge is far from profound or objective. The self-threat (or internal threat) we discuss here is only the portion that has been generally recognized. We will analyze these factors in order to find the internal elements that truly pose a major threat to the overall survival of mankind.
SECTION ONE: THE KILLING OF EACH OTHER
While mankind’s intelligence has far surpassed that of other animals, we have retained many negative animal features, especially intra-specific competition—that is, the killing of each other. Furthermore, humans kill their own species with much more cruelty and on a far larger scale than any other type of animal. War and criminal homicide are the two main forms of such internal killing.
Any person with common sense knows that war has existed since the birth of mankind. There has been war as long as there has been human society. When we flip open history books, we find the pages filled with war. Not only are there written records, but most oral legends center around war as well. It is a basic historical fact that human society goes hand in hand with war.
According to the theory of evolution, intra-specific competition exists in all species. In animal species, the losing party will usually run away, and the victor usually allows this escape. Although deaths do occur, they are not the norm. Human struggles are very different. Since humans possess far superior intelligence, they will often take intra-specific competition to the extreme. Humans can predict the future and take preemptive attacks; humans can organize large forces to combat stronger enemies; humans can manufacture weapons of mass destruction; and humans have far more complex psychology that can breed generations of hatred and fury.
Of course, humans first evolved from ordinary animals, so the earliest human struggles were not much different from those of animals. War was a product of human society’s scientific and technological development.
The history of human warfare can be summed up in three points. First, the scale of war is increasing exponentially; second, the brutality of war escalates continuously; and third, the weapons of war have become more and more advanced.
As there have only been five thousand years of recorded history, the earliest scale of war can only be estimated through experience. A tribe has a few thousand people at most, meaning that only a few hundred or one thousand people would participate in war. For a war of such scale, one or two hundred casualties would be an astronomical number.
The formation of countries changed everything. The first city-states had an average population of thirty-five thousand people, making it possible to mobilize thousands or tens of thousands of war personnel. Therefore, tens of thousands of people would be engaged in battle, allowing the casualties to rise into the thousands. A casualty of one or two hundred people would signify a mild battle.
War was an important factor in the expansion of countries. The purpose of war was not only to obtain wealth, but also to conquer territories. Rulers hoped to expand the country through such conquests, since the larger a country was, the greater its strength and resources would be, thus ensuring it a better chance at victory in the next war. As countries continued to expand, the scale and brutality of war expanded accordingly.
Two thousand years ago, during Qin Shi Huang’s war to unify China, over one million troops were deployed, and hundreds of thousands died as a result. Alexander the Great eastward conquest deployed hundreds of thousands of troops as well.
As war is a matter of life and death, any country will first apply its most advanced technology in warfare. The earliest wars took place during the Neolithic Age when people used stone knives, stone axes, and flint arrows in war. In the Bronze Age, the rarity of bronze meant that it was seldom used in agriculture or production, but mostly used to produce bronze swords, spears, and armor. Similarly, chariots were used in war shortly after the invention of the wheel.
Iron smelting technology was relatively advanced during Qin Shi Huang and Alexander’s time, and most of the weapons and armor of that time were developed in iron. Siege ladders, battering chariots, and war chariots were used in large quantities.
During the cold weapons era, wars not only grew in scale, but also in brutality; weapons grew more advanced as well. Battles also increased in length: a feature unique to the cold weapons era.
During this era, weapons were less efficient and had limited impact. The fastest transportation at the time were horses, who had limited speed and needed time to rest and graze, thus limiting the speed of advancement. As wars continued to expand in scale, low efficiency of weapons coupled with low transportation speeds caused large-scale wars to draw on for a lengthy period of time. The Crusades lasted nearly two hundred years, and the Mongolian conquest continued for ninety years.
The characteristics of war changed as gunpowder became widely used in warfare. This change happened gradually. The use of firearms, stone cannons, lead guns, and iron cannons was not the decisive factor. It was the use of explosives that changed the situation. Explosive bombs could cause mass casualties, and they did not distinguish between soldiers and civilians. Therefore, weaponry efficiency was greatly improved and civilian casualties started to rise. Wars became more brutal as they shortened in duration. After entering the gunpowder era, even large-scale wars did not last more than twenty or thirty years, and wars that lasted centuries disappeared completely.
After the Industrial Revolution, a number of scientific and technological innovations emerged and were applied to warfare. As war became increasingly short and more brutal, it also further escalated in scale. As humans entered the twentieth century, technical conditions matured enough to facilitate world war. The telegraph was invented in 1844, and the telephone was invented in 1876, forming the basis for communication in world warfare. The car was invented in 1886, and aircrafts were invented in 1903, facilitating conditions for world war transportation. Once these conditions became available, it was in the nature of mankind to launch a world war.
In July 1914, the First World War broke out, involving over thirty-three countries from all over the globe and 1.5 billion people—two-thirds of the global population at that time. Over seventy-three million troops were mobilized; among them, twenty-nine million were directly engaged in warfare, ten million were killed, and twenty million were injured. A war of such large scale and such mass-casualty would have taken more than one hundred years to fight during the cold weapons era, but World War I only lasted four years.
Only twenty-one years after World War I, a larger and more brutal world war broke out. World War II lasted six years and involved more than 1.7 billion people from over sixty countries; 110 million troops were mobilized, more than 55 million people were killed, and even more were injured. Both the scale and casualties of this war set unprecedented records. In addition to the widespread use of guns, cannons, tanks, warships, submarines, and aircraft carriers, chemical weapons, biological weapons, and nuclear weapons were also deployed. A large number of civilians were killed in this war, and the aftermath was devastating.
Though no outbreak of world war has happened since World War II, localized war has never ceased. The number of deaths caused by war has surpassed twenty million—more than twice the casualties of both world wars combined.
The continued development of science and technology has successfully sent humans to space, and the study of nuclear weapons is no longer in the development stage. The US is no longer the only country with nuclear capabilities. According to simple calculations, the world’s nuclear warheads could destroy humanity many times over. As genetic engineering continues to develop, genetic bio-weapons that are even more lethal than nuclear weapons have appeared. The variety of precision guided missiles, nuclear submarines, strategic bombs, and other forms of technology could send these destructive weapons to every corner of the earth.
Based on current warfare technology, if a third world war broke out, it would be larger in scale, even more brutal, and shorter still in duration. Moreover, this war would almost certainly spread to space. If nuclear weapons, genetic bio-weapons, and intelligent robots were all used, the number of casualties could reach billions in a matter of months.
Two: Criminal Homicide and Terrorism
Criminal homicide can be divided into a variety of categories, such as robbery homicide, revenge killing, and so on. Terrorism is an extreme form of homicide; it is not only large in scale, but it also has great effect on the social order at large; thus, terrorism will be a main topic of discussion within criminal homicide. When it comes to acts of terrorism, it is often difficult to distinguish between war and crime (particularly organized terrorist attacks from terrorist groups). We are classifying it as criminal homicide for easier discussion.
Terrorism has existed since the dawn of human society; assassination attempts were earlier forms of terrorism. However, terrorism has expanded far beyond just assassinations, bombings, hostage-takings, and armed attacks. Terrorist attacks that caused large-scale casualties were rare in ancient times. To be precise, large-scale terrorist attacks have only started to occur frequently in recent decades, especially in the past twenty years. Terrorism has become one of the most serious threats to global security.
Analysis of terrorist attacks shows that contemporary terrorism has the following four main characteristics:
1. It seeks the largest casualty and most dramatic sensation. Terrorist attacks often aim to kill as many civilians as possible in order to maximize public reaction.
2. It uses the most extreme means. Terrorists usually employ the most brutal and lethal tactics within their abilities.
3. It disregards personal life and death. Many terrorists will choose suicide attacks as their method, showing no consideration for their own life.
4. It goes against human morals. Terrorists often target the weakest parts of society—those who most people of conscience would seek to protect.
In the infamous “9/11” attack, nineteen Islamic religious extremists hijacked four commercial planes in the United States. Two planes crashed into the New York World Trade Center buildings, one crashed into the Pentagon US Department of Defense building, and the other planned to crash into the White House. The attack caused a total of three thousand deaths and disappearances.
In the 1995 Tokyo subway sarin attack, cult organization Aum Shinrikyo released sarin gas into a subway during peak hours, causing twelve deaths and over 5,500 injuries.
In September 2004, thirty Chechen terrorists abducted over 1,200 hostages from a school in Beslan city; 330 were killed, and over 500 were injured, most of which were children.
On July 22, 2011, a Norwegian man detonated a car bomb near the executive government office in Norway before opening fire on a youth league summer camp in Utøya. This lone wolf terrorist killed seventy-seven people all by himself.
In recent years, ISIS has been organizing terrorist attacks all over the world. The November 13, 2015, Paris attack alone resulted in 132 deaths and 300 injuries. Terrorist attacks mainly stem from economic and political purposes, or they are derived from hatred and psychopathy; the latter three are the most brutal and large-scale.
The hatred that leads to terrorist attacks can be hatred for individuals, or for society; it can be ethnic hatred, religious hatred, or national hatred. Terrorist attacks caused by hatred are sometimes related to the psychopathy of the terrorists, such as psychopathic disdain of society. Such attacks are usually perpetuated by individuals who stab people in the streets, hijack planes, or blow up buildings. They are usually isolated events that cause great harm but are relatively minor compared to other more organized terrorist attacks.
In spite of this, if such perpetrators obtained specialized weaponry, these isolated attacks would become much more destructive. These terrorists are usually desperate individuals who want revenge on the entire society, even at the cost of their own lives. Speaking in the extreme, if such people could master a means of destroying the world, they would not hesitate to do so.
National, religious, and ethnic hatred are often aligned with political purposes. Before Israel was founded, the Jewish people initiated frequent terrorist attacks in the Palestinian territories, both out of ethnic and religious hatred and in the hopes of eliciting support by alerting the international community. Palestinians initiated frequent suicide bombings and armed attacks in the Israeli-occupied areas out of a combination of national hatred, ethnic hatred, religious hatred, and political purposes.
Analysis of attacks like this show that terrorist attacks motivated by national, ethnic, and religious hatred as well as political agenda are usually large in scale, meticulously organized, and highly destructive. The aforementioned 9/11 attack, Beslan school siege, and ISIS attacks all belong within this category.
In recent years, large-scale terrorist attacks have intensified exponentially. On one hand, this is due to the increased conflicts between nations, ethnic groups, and religious organizations in our society. On the other hand, such attacks are facilitated by the rapid development of science and technology since the Industrial Revolution.
Before the Industrial Revolution, the means of killing were primitive and inefficient. The Industrial Revolution sped up the development of science and technology, and the inventions produced were always first applied as means of massacre. A variety of new weapons emerged, and all sorts of new technology provided abundant conditions for terrorist attacks.
Newly invented bio-toxins, chemical gas, and potent explosives all increase the destructive effect of terrorist attacks. One of the most popular terrorism targets, aircrafts, are also used widely as a result of scientific and technological developments.
As long as nations, ethnic groups, and religions exist, organized, large-scale terrorist attacks cannot be eradicated. As science and technology continue to develop, terrorists will be better equipped with increasingly terrifying weapons of mass destruction; however, it is likely that the most dangerous terrorist attacks of the future will not be the ones motivated by political purposes or national, ethnic, and religious hatred. After all, such attacks are limited to clear specific enemies—they are not aimed against their own countries, ethnic groups, or religions.
The increased development of science and technology will eventually cause high-tech weapons of mass destruction to fall into the hands of ordinary people. At that time, those terrorists motivated by a personal hatred of society will become the most devastating and dangerous type of murderer. Terrorists like this are undiscriminating in their hatred. They target all of society and don’t think to spare even their own parents, wives, or children. When people like this can easily obtain and use weapons of mass destruction, the attacks will be unimaginably terrifying.