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ENGINEERING PEACE Pax Technologica Sushant Gupta, Final Editor, Aerospace Engineering is unlike any other discipline of engineering or science; it is of utmost strategic importance. As an aerospace engineer and an enthusiastic flag bearer of scientific progress working towards technical advancements, what should one’s view be on the subject of technology used for “mala fide” objectives like war?


recently paid a visit to the Vredespaleis, or the Peace Palace, in The Hague. The Peace Palace houses the United Nations affiliated International Court of Justice amongst other institutions including a well-stocked library. While browsing through the books, Andrew Carnegie’s writings caught my eye. Carnegie, an American steel magnate born in 1835, turned philanthropist later in his life and was a major sponsor of the building. In his writings, as an unabashed capitalist and a philanthropist, he advocated that science, education and peace are the most important conditions for progress. Persisting with this thought, one of the tangents could be whether the science and peace binary is true, false or non-existent.

well-meaning intent of the scientific community, the harsh reality is that war continues to take place in the modern world.

As the quote goes, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”, a little indulgence in the historical perspective around war will do no harm in shaping the understanding of the issue. Since antiquity, outcomes of war have shaped civilizations. Armies have come a long way from the days of bows and arrows. As one moves from the ancient to the modern age, it is increasingly the balance of technology that has determined the victor. Despite the best efforts of the civil society and largely

Then what does an engineer think about when he/she embarks on development of a technology that may be ultimately used on the battlefield? For the sake of academic discussion, let me state two extreme positions one could possibly take: carry out one’s scientific work knowing fully well about the potential future “misuse” of technology, or simply abandon work on any strategic technology. Having said that, should the engineer even take a call on this issue? Is this not a political call? I would argue that the answer



Science and Engineering have been sucked into becoming willing or unwilling partners in the conduct and conclusion of wars. The “ulterior” use of any pioneering technology is inevitable if one looks back at the history. Prominent examples include drones, fly-bywire technology, stealth aircraft, missiles, weaponization of space and the dreaded nuclear warheads to be mounted upon airborne vehicles. Each of the technologies mentioned, much like other scientific and engineering milestones, can and have been used in warfare.

to this lies in a political/ethical mix and only the individual must be left to decide this. Having stated the above, I believe that it is technology itself that is the answer to this dilemma. Progressively, innovative technologies will lead to a point, that the act of physical war itself would become meaningless for humanity to even consider waging war and incurring loss of life. How that plays out will remain to be seen but this has happened in the recent past in Europe. In the times of Cold War, there was no large scale escalation of troops in Europe due to a credible deterrence in the form of nuclear weapons technology combined with the understanding amongst politicians and people that Europe had seen two devastating wars fought one after the other. From the arithmetical point of view, for every misuse of technology, there are several beneficial uses. The engineer and the scientist should, with increased fervor, carry on with their pursuit of novel technologies. The society will eventually come to an understanding that the misuse will be impractical. I rest my case by concluding that due to developments in science and engineering, human society would evolve into a peaceful era of Pax Technologica. More Online Read this and other articles featured in the print edition at

Profile for Anouk Scholtes

Leonardo Times April 2016  

Leonardo Times April 2016