Page 65

accomplished, the residual capabilities of the United States and Russia will be virtually as lethal to each other as they were at the height of mutual antagonism. In terms of political consensus and institutionalized procedure, neither establishment knows how to do it in any other way.

Understandable as this situation may be, it cannot be continued indefinitely. The entire context of international security is being radically altered, and the emerging problems require different organizing principles. Moreover, all along there have been underlying dangers whose importance was obscured by the ideology of the Cold War. It is not responsible to tolerate those dangers in the new context. The prevailing practice of deterrence will have to be substantially revised. The sooner this is appreciated and the more systematically it is accomplished, the better off we all will be.

CHANGING CONTEXT

There is as yet no agreed formulation or summarizing imagery to characterize the period of history that is to follow the Cold War, but already it should be evident that it will involve a major transformation of international relationships.2 A globally extended economy is forming, driven by a revolution in information technology. The scale of this extended economy will have to undergo an unprecedented expansion as the world population surges over the next five decades. The effects associated with these two phenomena can be expected to generate extensive changes within most societies and will certainly alter their interactions.

The revolution in information technology is already a familiar event in terms of its effects on consumer products and thereby on daily life. Over the past two decades the inherent costs of performing the basic functions of storing, processing, and long-range transmission of information have undergone precipitous declines. Though agreed measures of these cost declines have not been fully established, they clearly amount to several orders of magnitude—factors of a thousand to a million or more. That appears to be the largest efficiency gain of any commodity in economic history. Highly facilitated information flows are enabling the production of goods and services to be conducted on a global scale and the market forces derived from that fact are spontaneously inducing an integrated international economy. This process is also diffusing technology and basic cultural information so extensively that the entire pattern of social organization seems likely to be affected.

At the same time we are encountering an unprecedented surge of the world population—the rapid rise associated with an exponential growth sequence before it reaches some natural or induced limit. Barring a cataclysm, the world population will increase by roughly 1 billion people per decade over the next three decades and will exceed 8 billion by 2025. The trend thereafter is not yet

2 Steinbruner, John. 1994. "The Problems of Strategic Realignment," paper prepared for the 1994 meeting of the Atlantic Conference of the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement