Most people cringe when they think of more ominous, powerful, and destructive weapon systems. The mere thought of huge monetary and economic resources going into weapons that ultimately help kill people makes one cringe, and yet, there is an upside to advanced weaponry – and the upside is huge. I’d like to discuss this for a moment because recently I was interviewed on the topic.

Daniel (the interviewer) asks: How can the development of new weapons help the humankind?

You know, when I speak at Universities, I get this question early and often. Look, no one wants to have a war. There is nothing noble about killing members of one’s own species. It’s a tragic flaw of humankind, although evolutionarily speaking this streak of aggression which runs deep, well let’s just say it’s there for a reason. Nevertheless, while I do not condone the carnage, I do know that only 1% of all the people who have ever lived have actually died in a war. Most die of old age, I believe we should focus maximum research funding on life-longevity, maybe then we’d remember our past and not repeat it, perhaps ending war in the future.

However, we do not live in the future, we live now, and without debating the philosophical scientific question; “What is time?” we must defend ourselves when our leaders reach political impasse and the fighting begins. “The best advice when it comes to war is not to have one, but if you find yourself in a war, it’s best to win it quickly and decisively,” I often ponder; if Karl von Clausewitz were alive today, would he give a ‘thumbs up’ to that?

Now then, back to the question, and sorry to digress there, but it’s important, especially for the next generation whose talented minds will be keeping us safe. There is a reason why nations spend so much on defense and why it is so necessary.

If we look back, we see Leonardo da Vinci who spent a portion of his time inventing and sketching war machines, about 1/3 of his time judging from the large volume or work he left behind. It was as important back then as it is today.

Now then, consider if you will all the technology – originally used for making weapons, that helps us in our daily lives today. How about jet air travel? Jet engines were developed to propel war planes faster. How about rocketry, or how about the Internet, originally developed by ARPA and Bell Labs?

My grandfather worked with radars, we use those for air traffic control. He also worked with microwave beams, pure Naval Research, today we cook food with the same technology. What about GPS Navigation? What about Satellites? Think about it, what would our lives be like today without those things? What about that smart phone in your pocket, the one you just used to text, buy a coffee, scan your boarding pass, and set up a meeting? Yep, you can thank defense spending and research.

New materials used in our high-tech aircraft will be used to make cars, trucks, buses, planes, future flying cars, and trains lighter, meaning they use less energy (less fuel) and are stronger and safer, likewise we will have better building materials, more durable, and stronger. How about lasers for manufacturing, dentistry, or on the Mars Rovers?

Indeed, I think we owe a lot to the development of weapon systems, just as we owe a lot to our space exploration and particle accelerator technologies. This is the message I’d like to bring because I see these innovations and the transfer technologies, as well as what they’ve done in the past for humankind, I see that as a trend which will definitely continue. Please consider this and think on it.