If the World Wars hadn’t hap­pened, would to­day’s tech­nol­ogy be less ad­vanced?

Asked by Dave Gray

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Al­most cer­tainly, but not en­tirely be­cause of why most peo­ple think. With­out doubt the tech­nol­ogy de­vel­oped be­fore, dur­ing and just af­ter th­ese two wars was as­tound­ing to say the least. Au­to­matic weapons, tanks, and the Man­hat­tan Pro­ject are just three of many ob­vi­ous ex­am­ples. How­ever, there are more im­por­tant ad­vance­ments that came about be­cause of th­ese wars. The first ad­vance was the use of com­put­ers, which came into ex­is­tence dur­ing World War II and were used to break down and de­ci­pher in­for­ma­tion, pro­cess­ing in­tel­li­gence to help stream­line the fo­cus of both sides in the war. While the com­put­ers of this era would hardly be rec­og­nized to­day – mas­sive, block­like, ex­pen­sive and in­ef­fi­cient – they still man­aged to rev­o­lu­tionise the world. Com­put­ers im­me­di­ately had an im­pact, crunch­ing large num­bers and play­ing a ma­jor role at the UK’s Bletch­ley Park in crack­ing the Enigma ma­chine used by the Nazis. Com­puter tech­nol­ogy also be­came a fix­ture in our col­lec­tive imag­i­na­tion, and would fuel dreams, vi­sions, sto­ries and the rapid ad­vance­ments that ac­com­pa­nied this en­chant­ment. We wished our­selves into Moore’s

Law (that com­puter pro­ces­sors have con­sis­tently dou­bled in power ev­ery 18 months). The sec­ond and more di­rect im­pli­ca­tion for tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ment was the en­su­ing Cold War

be­tween the USA and the USSR. The Sec­ond World War showed that the side with the big­ger guns – or in this case, bombs – would rule the day. Af­ter the war, two clear ide­o­log­i­cal camps were es­tab­lished. The race to outdo the other caused rapid ad­vance­ment in the sciences. We be­came the masters of the world around us, and in our mas­tery pos­sessed the power to an­ni­hi­late the very world we had tamed.

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