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What's the likelihood of a truly major global conflict by 2025?


Guest ajc
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"More tragedies? Big tragedies!

You know, big death rates occasionally.

I think the next 100 years are going to be very interesting for some of you people."

 

                  Charlie Munger at the Ross School of Business

 

 

This somewhat morbid statement (together with my occasionally earnest interest in humanity's darker side) got me curious enough to go to the traditional font of all historical knowledge  - Wikipedia, naturally - and look up death and frequency rates for major conflicts over the past millenium.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_and_anthropogenic_disasters_by_death_toll

 

Turns out that since the year 1012, there have been thirteen conflicts that killed upwards of 0.5% of the total global population at the time.

Currently, the global population is estimated to be just north of 7 billion people meaning that a war of that same size (0.5 percent global death toll) would result in 35 million casualties.

For the sake of comparison, WW1 and WW2 both have estimates of above 2.5% - or 175 million people by today's standards.

 

Frequency for the last 1000 years then, works out at one major conflict every 76.9 years.

Tack that onto the year 1945 and you get the year 2021 (just FYI, about half of all those conflicts were in Asia alone).

 

Anyway, clearly this is totally back-of-the-envelope stuff and not real research in any rational sense of the word but nevertheless I think it's relatively interesting to consider and also it's something that most people tend to never talk about (at least not when they're in public) which makes me kind of nervous because that's one helluva big elephant in the room which I'm not sure everyone should want to be turning a blind eye to.

 

Well, no need to thank me for spreading all this light-heartedness and cheer on this fine Sunday evening...

 

Anyone have any thoughts/opinions/good places to hide/reliable gun and ammo dealers?

 

 

 

 

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I think as the world communicates more with each other (ie the Internet) people will realize that they like not dying more than they like being stupid and fighting each other. That's my glass half full perspective, anyways.

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As trade and interaction has increased it has hopefully reduced the probability of war in these regions of the world.  The economic losses in the event of war are huge.  I think that is a major factor of why the US has eclipsed Europe in the 20th century.  However, human nature being what it is, there are no guarantees.  The other major killers in the past, famine and disease, have been reduced significantly.

 

Packer

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Frequency for the last 1000 years then, works out at one major conflict every 76.9 years.

Tack that onto the year 1945 and you get the year 2021 (just FYI, about half of all those conflicts were in Asia alone).

 

Please keep in mind that probability doesn't work this way. You are probably aware of this, but it seems irrelevant.

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I don't know if there will be a major conflict by 2025 that has huge human costs. But it does seem likely that wars will be fought significantly differently than they have been in the past. Going forward, there will almost certainly be a shift to unmanned human controlled fighting machines as well as almost completely AI forces. As this shift happens, it will likely be a war not simply about the number of human bodies, but of economies. Whoever can build and maintain the largest and best drone/AI military force will dominate.

 

Another option, assuming there isn't a radical change to a drone/AI military, is nuclear wars. If it comes to that, hopefully only one nuclear weapon will be launched and whomever is attacked will not retaliate with nuclear weapons. That is is almost certainly the best option for human kind. We absolutely do not need a nuclear war. Lets say though, that the attacked do retaliate and it grows into a global nuclear war. It's likely that the largest cities would be attacked (with nukes anyways). 35 million people, I think, could easily be killed with todays modern nuclear weapons. An attack and a retaliation - two nukes - on any of the top ten metropolitan centers would definitely do 35 million people in. 175 million people would require a significantly larger war, but probably could happen. A long, drawn-out, world war could probably do it. I hope it doesn't happen though, but I can imagine it.

 

Hopefully violence in the world will continue to decline as suggested in Steven Pinker's book The Better Angles of Our Nature, but he also states that it may not continue it's decline. Nor does it seem that humans will collectively decide to abandon violence and wars in the next 12 years.

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Just something to think about with regards to interconnectedness.  At the start of WWI Europe was as interconnected as now, there was a common expression at the time that war was impossible because of all the tight business relationships.

 

As an example most German ships were insured by English insurers.

 

I've heard similar things said now, that the US could never get into a conflict with China because we rely on them so much....what's old is new again....

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I don't know if there will be a major conflict by 2025 that has huge human costs. But it does seem likely that wars will be fought significantly differently than they have been in the past. Going forward, there will almost certainly be a shift to unmanned human controlled fighting machines as well as almost completely AI forces. As this shift happens, it will likely be a war not simply about the number of human bodies, but of economies. Whoever can build and maintain the largest and best drone/AI military force will dominate.

 

Another option, assuming there isn't a radical change to a drone/AI military, is nuclear wars. If it comes to that, hopefully only one nuclear weapon will be launched and whomever is attacked will not retaliate with nuclear weapons. That is is almost certainly the best option for human kind. We absolutely do not need a nuclear war. Lets say though, that the attacked do retaliate and it grows into a global nuclear war. It's likely that the largest cities would be attacked (with nukes anyways). 35 million people, I think, could easily be killed with todays modern nuclear weapons. An attack and a retaliation - two nukes - on any of the top ten metropolitan centers would definitely do 35 million people in. 175 million people would require a significantly larger war, but probably could happen. A long, drawn-out, world war could probably do it. I hope it doesn't happen though, but I can imagine it.

 

Hopefully violence in the world will continue to decline as suggested in Steven Pinker's book The Better Angles of Our Nature, but he also states that it may not continue it's decline. Nor does it seem that humans will collectively decide to abandon violence and wars in the next 12 years.

 

 

Some AI military drone army from Boston Dynamics will fight future wars...

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtRnzlO7m_M

 

 

http://www.latenightinthemidlands.com/profiles/blogs/new-darpa-robot-can-autonomously-track-people

 

http://www.bostondynamics.com/

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_Dynamics

 

http://technewscast.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/darpa-cheetah-robot.jpg

 

http://api.ning.com/files/ArREMguXCIpetC2uG4ois5wpWiDjMecJ3IZi5b2qHK8pI*Q8AM7MhC*L1uv79YN-rTWqBU4UCaH1SYSds0*1Pcy*hbg6d8hn/Boston_Dynamics_Alpha_Dog.png

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A major consideration versus WWI is the length that democracy and free market capitalism has been in place around the world and the number of totalitarian states versus today.  At the outbreak of WWI, Russia has little or no experience with democracy as did China and Japan, the most powerful part of Germany (Prussia), Italy and Japan had gained status and wealth not by trade but by war.  Today you get isolated if you want  to go the route (Iran, Syria and N. Korea).  Communism fell 30 years ago and every year that does not emerge, the lower the probability of conflict.

 

Packer

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At any given time there are around 20 conflicts going on in the globe. They result because a political solution is impossible, they continue until one of the opponents dies (age, assassination, etc.), & they are systemic promotion for business of types; from weapons through to charities.

 

Most of these are proxy wars, result in relatively few deaths (more die from everyday disease - obesity, smoking, flu, etc.) , & occur in regions where there is not much global business activity. The relatively benign drip of death versus the periodic 77 year wipe-out. Not great if you are one of those affected, but not bad for everyone else either.

 

Then there is always the Black Swan, & if you wait long enough - you will eventually see one.

 

SD

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Frequency for the last 1000 years then, works out at one major conflict every 76.9 years.

Tack that onto the year 1945 and you get the year 2021 (just FYI, about half of all those conflicts were in Asia alone).

 

Please keep in mind that probability doesn't work this way. You are probably aware of this, but it seems irrelevant.

 

No, I think what you're saying is more than half correct. I figured it was pretty obvious that I wasn't seriously implying a regular distribution, but I guess that that's not the case.

 

Hopefully no-one on here has taken it to heart and run off to live in an underground bunker somewhere as a result, but if they have then hopefully the value investing community as a whole will somehow be able to pull together and overcome that particular loss.

 

What does sort of interest me - and this is quite probably just a complete coincidence, especially given the minute sample size - is that 76.9 years equates roughly to 3 generations and is basically the same length of time between the start of the Great Depression and the start of the Great Recession.

So, if you look at things in terms of 3 generations or 4 generations or whatever and consider what that says about human nature and our collective forgetfulness and stupidity then maybe that dramatically changes the probability equation once you go past a certain point.

 

Anyway, right now on a small sample size it's is advantage Scott to be sure since there's the unfortunate matter of none of the limited evidence supporting my thinking but then again letting the facts stand in the way of an argument is something I really hate to be accused of so you can probably count on me looking for some ingenious, guerilla-like way to circumvent that specific concern!*

 

*I'm kidding of course, but I will say that all these things might turn out to be far more complicated and subject to human nature than any modeller expects and therefore I find it's sometimes best to be practical and reserve judgement before rushing in with a unique opinion.

Then again, maybe I'm just plain wrong and if that's the case then I would definitely have no problem whatsoever with being completely and utterly Keynesian about all of this.

 

Thanks for posting.

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Its certainly no zero, and the conflict could well start in Asia.

 

Agreed. Half the global population, major geopolitical shifts and a bunch of nuclear powers - what could possibly go wrong!

 

All this is idle speculation clearly, but China/Japan, the Korean peninsula and the Middle East all seem like they've got more than their fair share of tensions and frankly I'm not that enthused about India or the entire Mediterranean region either if their economies end up becoming more and more dysfunctional which does not seem like an entirely impossible thought.

 

Going to become a bona fide Chicken Little* here if I'm not smart about it.

 

 

* Coincidentally, 'bona fide Chicken Little' is also my favorite meal at KFC. Just thought I'd share that.

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Guest deepValue

Its certainly no zero, and the conflict could well start in Asia.

 

Let's not kid ourselves. World War III will start as the result of a "preemptive" strike by the U.S. on some country or stateless region we've bullied into hating us.

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Its certainly no zero, and the conflict could well start in Asia.

 

Let's not kid ourselves. World War III will start as the result of a "preemptive" strike by the U.S. on some country or stateless region we've bullied into hating us.

 

Yep, but the original comment is still correct as this will be either in the Middle East or Asia.

 

Unfortunately as long as states* exist large scale war will always be a possibility.

 

*states defined as organizations with the "legitimized" power to levy taxes to fund wars and run by relatively few people who are always the most power hungry con-men in any society, and therefore the most likely to wish to engage in wars. And run "education" systems which take children from their parents in their formative years and indoctrinate them in "patriotic" state-worship, such as the daily ritual of holding of their hands over their hearts and pledging allegiance to a piece of colored cloth representing the symbol of the state, making them more likely to agree to fight and die in wars.

 

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For what it's worth, I'm slightly more in line with Nate and SD on this although I think (and hope) that LC and Packer will quite probably be right over the long-term.

 

Basically, I'd say complacency over this right now - because of decades of improved global commerce, communication, etc - is pretty high especially when you consider what happened the last time worldwide economies did this badly and unemployment everywhere was moving ever upward. Political dysfunction, stagnant wages, growing unemployment are worsening in just about every country - to me, that's a toxic combination even at the best of times and in the short run anyway that's certainly not what these are looking like.

 

Further, the internet and interconnectedness are going to be awesome for humanity to my mind over the long pull but when wars happen I think the general experience has been that technologies (radar, telephone, whatever) get co-opted by governments and armies for military ends and are not allowed to remain neutral because of the threat that sensitive information can pose if your enemies get a hold of it.

Essentially, when it comes to conflicts it's technology that ends up coming under the influence of the army and not the other way around!

 

One final point on this aspect of things is how disruptive technology can be to political and social systems as we saw across North Africa. It's no secret that North Korea and China both have a whole lot of censorship and it might be interesting to see how the transition between media control and open access takes place. Usually, I think governments tend to be more confident than they should be about slowly letting the air out of these potentially high pressure situations and if for some reason there happens to be a torrent of previously hazy information that enters these societies it could create alot of anger and bad blood at lightning-quick speed and having a not insignificant percentage of any of these populations suddenly agitating for greater freedoms or political revolution. So really, I think events like that can quite easily create a scenario where things spiral out of control relatively quickly.

 

In my opinion, that's the bad news. The good news is that long-term I agree that the internet and medical science could well result in less global conflict. The internet obviously not only allows cultures and people to exchange ideas and develop social bonds but it also allows for the widespread dissemination of news, video and images from warzones wherever they are and that's one example of people realizing I think 'that they like not dying more than they like being stupid and fighting each other'.

 

Another thing which relates to disease and the eradication of other types of premature death is that folks tend to live longer and I wouldn't be surprised if the impact of someone who lived through a war and is still around to tell the tale (same with financial depressions) has often been underestimated and so people living longer might then result in wars being spaced even further apart on average because of all these advances in science and medicine.

 

Anyway, that's my 2 cents worth. Not exactly dinner party conversation, but I tend to enjoy breathing so once in a while maybe it's worth going there.

     

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  • 1 month later...
Guest deepValue

How about U.S. intervention in a regional conflict escalating into global warfare, say, in the next few days?

 

Russia, China, and Asian dictatorships vs bankrupt Western nations. This should be a fun time for the markets.

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How about U.S. intervention in a regional conflict escalating into global warfare, say, in the next few days?

 

Russia, China, and Asian dictatorships vs bankrupt Western nations. This should be a fun time for the markets.

 

Who's to say?

 

I hope not, but I can be somewhat cynical at times.

When that happens, I tend to see numerous economic similarities between now and the pre-WW2 era - though from a lay point of view, so those thoughts may not be worth a damn.

 

Luck, good or bad, plays a greater part than I think most want to admit. The difference between a missile hitting its target or a nearby school can be massive in terms of mobilization. So can a bluff by a military leader that goes wrong, or an accident that gets mistaken for an attack.

 

One of the problems right now to my mind is that the world generally is alot more stressed out than usual because there is economic fall-out everywhere, and it seems that most governments and central banks have used up all their tricks and many will in fact need to break some significant social promises going forward.

That to my mind makes it more likely that one of those governments might try to externalize the resulting anger by declaring or inadvertently causing a war.

 

So, with heightened stress levels and alot at stake I think people tend to become more violent and/or make worse decisions - it's clearly no coincidence that ghetto's have so much crime, just look at the situation...

 

To some extent and in my limited experience, I'd say the world is on far more of a knife-edge today than at any time (probably since WW2) and so obviously that's dangerous and concerning.

How it plays out, and whether it gets resolved peacefully, I'm not sure anyone can say but your point about Syria is apt.

 

What if oil shoots up to $150 a barrel? What happens to fragile recoveries then? And what happens in China and India as a result? What if Russia limits energy exports as a military strategy like they were going to do by dumping US paper in the last crisis?

It seems to me like no-one could satisfactorily respond to all these sorts of questions and yet it appears like there is a move towards war in a region where Russia, Turkey, Iran, S Arabia, Egypt, Israel and the US have all recently made public their strong interest and that just by itself contains enough negative variables that the mind simply boggles.

 

Who can honestly say they know how all those parties are going to react to every situation and yet it looks like that is probably exactly what we're going to find out.

 

Then again, maybe CorpRaider's alternative scenario plays out and we all literally dodge a bullet and heave a big sigh of relief...

 

Hopefully some of the older, wiser heads on here can comment because they've been around longer and could offer better insights on just where we are now in relation to previous wars and global economic crises and just how the stress levels they've seen compare?

 

   

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No I was only jesting, regrettably.  I posted in one of the North American E&P company threads that the whole middle east is basically involved in a sectarian regional quasi-hot war to my mind.  I see no reason the UK, US and/or France should do the dying and the pay the price for the sunnis' fight.  Quatar, UAE and the Saudis, (arab league, whomever) can pay if they want to play.  Same for the shia, imop.  I don't think Obama is going to go plowing in there, he will just do something like Clinton did with the serbs.  I'm a political or at least non-partisan but just be glad we don't have a president with a different "world view" in office.  Bombing probably won't stop the genocide/chemical weapons though, but if Turkey and/or the Saudis want someone to do more, they can step up instead of whining to get the Americans and the Brits involved and then bitching about how we do it.  All just my opinion.

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Guest deepValue

Russia wants war. Syria/Iran will help it get it. Obama may be a reluctant general, but whatever small action he takes against Syria will be used as justification for an attack on Israel, and then he'll have no choice but to start another war in the Middle East (the Jewish lobby is more powerful than the president).

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Guest deepValue

Russia wants war.

What makes you think that?

 

The U.S. loses no matter what. Russia and China can supply our enemies in the Middle East -- the ones in those pesky stateless regions we've created -- indefinitely. Nobody wins wars in the Middle East except those who stay out of them.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think the annual probability might be about 50bps or less - hard to say really.

 

I think the world is a much safer place now vs. prior to WW2 for the following reasons:

 

1.  More trade

2.  Better communication

3.  More free democracies 

4.  The US is a free democracy and is now the most powerful country

5.  Nuclear weapons - the ultimate deterrent

6.  Economic competition vs. competition for land historically

 

If there is a war it could be nuclear so even though the probability is probably much less, the death toll could be far higher.

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Another option, assuming there isn't a radical change to a drone/AI military, is nuclear wars. If it comes to that, hopefully only one nuclear weapon will be launched and whomever is attacked will not retaliate with nuclear weapons.

I don't think the likelihood of this happening is low imo. What other military strategy is there besides retaliation against a nuke?

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