1 July 2013

The dimensions of contemporary war and violence: How to reclaim humanity from a continuing revolution in the technology of killing

Robert Jay Lifton

Lifton is a lecturer in psychiatry at Columbia University and Distinguished Professor Emeritus at The City University of New York. His books include, most recently, Witness to an Extreme...


An emerging school of thought contends that the world is becoming increasingly safe. Proponents of the peaceable-world argument point to statistical evidence that war and violence have diminished since prehistoric times and to the non-use of nuclear weapons since 1945. The peaceable-world claim is misleading because it does not confront a continuing revolution in the technology of killing and the increasing capacity for numbed technological violence evidenced by the Holocaust, nuclear weapons use, and drone warfare. We, as human beings, are not surely destined for either extinction or continuation as a species. We must embrace a broadening identity and recognize the profound contemporary existential danger so we can reclaim technology and imagination to serve life.