WIRED has always was a post about the future – about the forces that shape it and the shape we would like it to take. Sometimes for us that means being wild-eyed optimists, envisioning the scenarios that turn us on the most. And sometimes that means taking the trouble to consider futures that we really, really want to avoid.
By giving clarity and definition to these nightmarish trajectories, the hope is that we can empower people to recognize them and turn away from them. Almost, say, the way a vaccine teaches the immune system what to avoid. And that’s what this issue of WIRED is trying to do.
In recent years, relations between the United States and China have molded. And they’re not likely to solidify anytime soon. At this point, the two countries are not only strategic and economic competitors; they also began to divide into increasingly distinct technological spheres, thus turning the race for innovations into artificial intelligence, quantum computingand cyber weapons in what could turn out to be a zero-sum game. Hypernationalist politics are also not likely to go away. It is something that eats away at us.
A few months ago we were on the phone with the writer and novelist Elliot Ackerman, discuss the changes on another WIRED story, when he said something that woke up our ears. He mentioned he was finishing a novel with Admiral James Stavridis who imagines how today’s political and technological conditions could erupt into a war between the United States and China.
A bit about these two authors: Ackerman, who wrote five novels and a dissertation, also served five missions as a Navy in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as a tenure as a White House Fellow under the administration. Obama. Stavridis commanded destroyer fleets, a carrier strike group, and US Southern Command before serving as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander from 2009 to 2013; after that he became dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. The two authors reflect deeply on national security. And neither has an appetite for war with China.
When we spoke to them, Stavridis told us that he was inspired to write this novel by works of fiction from the Cold War. Perhaps one of the reasons this conflict did not erupt in World War III, he said, is that so many authors worked meticulously to imagine the worst-case scenario – to make the unthinkable as alive as possible. Stavridis gave some examples. (The one who occupied an important place: The Third world war, by John Hackett.) We were reminded of the years 1983 The next day– the most-watched made-for-television movie of all time, which painstakingly depicts the aftermath of nuclear war in a Kansas town. It has been seen by 100 million Americans, including the President and Joint Chiefs.
The collaboration of Ackerman and Stavridis, 2034: A novel from the next world war, is an extremely knowledgeable effort to cast a similar spell on sleepwalking in a war with China. “The case of this book with Elliot was that an uplifting narrative could help us stay away from anything like this,” says Stavridis.
So we decided to do something unusual: We’ve turned the entire February issue of WIRED as an excerpt from their book, and here on WIRED.com, we’re rolling it out in six parts, once a week on Tuesday. (The full novel will be available where the books are sold on March 9.) Think of this as another vaccine against disaster. Fortunately, this dose won’t cause a temporary fever and it turns out to be a heartbreaking read. Turns out, even uplifting stories can be thrilling, when the future we are most passionate about is one where they never come true. –Editors
- Part I: Peril in the South China Sea
- Part II: Blackout in Washington, DC (Coming February 2)
- Part III: One to Tell the Story (February 9)
- Part IV: The Spratly Islands Ambush (February 16)
- Part V: Navigating the Darkness (February 23)
- Part VI: Crossing the Red Line (March 2)
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