In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Fred Kaplan about the ever-present threat of nuclear war. They discuss the history of nuclear deterrence, U.S. first-strike policy, preventive war, limited nuclear war, tactical vs. strategic weapons, Trump’s beliefs about nuclear weapons, the details of command and control, and other topics.Harris, S. & Kaplan, F. (2020). The Bomb. Making sense podcast.
I think it’s fair to say that I’m quite interested in the existential risk posed by nuclear weapons, as it’s a topic that’s well-covered by two sources that I listen to and read a lot: the Future of Life Institute section on nuclear weapons, and 80 000 hours on nuclear security. Obviously I’m not an expert but I have found myself covering a fair amount of mainstream content on the threat of nuclear war and subsequent challenges we’d face as a species.
But I was still surprised at being confronted with how unconcerned I am in the face of these risks. This episode of the Making Sense podcast really emphasises the insanity of how we’ve become oddly comfortable with the fact that there are two countries who are constantly on the brink of annihilating a significant percentage of people on earth, and sending everyone else back to the stone age. How is it possible that the rest of us haven’t stopped and asked, “Hang on. That doesn’t seem reasonable.”
If you’re haven’t spent much time exploring the existential risk posed by the existence of nuclear weapons, this is a podcast well worth listening to.