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From National to Global Security?

Marconi Society Coronavirus and Our Connected World

By Martin Hellman

Martin E. Hellman co-invented public-key cryptography which is used to protect privacy on the Internet, assure the integrity of digital content and enable fundamental security off and online. Hellman has received the Marconi Prize, the A.M. Turing Award and the IEEE Richard W. Hamming Medal.

Admittedly what follows is a dream, but dreams can come true. The work that won me the 2000 Marconi Award and the 2015 A. M. Turing Award was initially seen as foolish by all of my colleagues, and that is true of most ideas that change the world. So here’s my dream.

For years, scientists had warned that it was just a matter of time before another pandemic, comparable to the 1918 flu or even worse, devastated an unprepared world. And then it happened. Commerce ground to a halt, the stock market crashed, and deficit hawks suddenly became big spenders. This wake-up call got the world to look at other warnings that were being ignored.

Suddenly, there was energy for really dealing with climate change and the risk of nuclear war. Genetic engineering, as well as AI and cyber-weapons, got the attention they deserved before they became existential threats.

People came to see that national security had a whole new meaning. It no longer could be bought at the expense of other nations. It only could be cultivated by ensuring the security of all nations, including those we thought of as adversaries. Global cooperation was needed to stop the global pandemic, and it also was needed to solve all those other challenges.

As this new way of thinking gained traction in society, previously inconceivable, positive changes occurred. Just as the last war in the Western hemisphere ended in 2016, the last war in the world ended in 2030. There were still small scale conflicts, but none of them met the definition of war. At the turn of the century in 2100, people wondered why their ancestors had behaved so primitively and self-destructively.