The Corner

Kahn Thought of The Continuum First

From a reader:

Way back in 1964, Herman Kahn promulgated a broad spectrum continuum

of lethal force with a convenient numerical scale for rating one’s

own preference:

The fact that such unilateral restraints exist should not

surprise anyone. Indeed almost all nations and individuals

are likely to have limits which they will not cross even if

under great pressure to do so to protect themselves or to

further their policies. I have used the following chart to

illustrate this point:

Where Do You Draw the Line?

1. Insecticides

2. Eating meat

3. Any violence

4. Police

5. Conventional warfare

6. Kiloton weapons

7. Megaton weapons

8. Gigaton weapons

9. Doomsday machines

10. Galaxy-destroying machines

It is the purpose of the above chart to make it clear to both

the pacifist (who generally draws the line somewhere between

3 and 5) and the more resolute militarist (who draws the line

somewhere between 7 and 9) that both believe in some degree of

universal disamarment; that there are means neither would use,

no matter what risk results. In particular, if one could show

that by building a doomsday machine one doubled one’s personal

(or one’s nation’s) chance of survival, one would still be

unalterably opposed to building such a machine.

– Herman Kahn, “Thinking About the Unthinkable”,

Chapter 7, Footnote 6, p. 232 in the 1964

paperback edition.

Assault rifles? Call it 4.7

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