Future History: The Third World War: Causes and Effects

In the future history of our world that will underlie the “Game of Life” sub-series of my Shine Cycle, I’ve developed events primarily based on “trends” that either are extensions of patterns I see in the present and past or are (rarely) required for the stories I feel called to tell. But today’s topic is an event that, despite recent historical trends, I fear is all but inevitable: a third World War.

In the “future history” I project as background for The Invasion and its sequels, the Third World War takes place at the end of this century. The proximate cause is an escalation of the tensions between Taiwan and mainland China to the point of armed hostilities (making it, yes, “a land war in Asia”), but there are a few earlier items that deserve explanation.

A less immediate cause of the Third World War is a decade-long Second Great Depression, itself caused by the collapse of the fractional-reserve banking system. Economists and political commentators of various “conservative” schools of thought have been warning for decades about the perils of building an economic system on a fiat currency with built-in gradual devaluation, among other objections, and every unstable system will eventually fall.

In the comparatively-immediate part of the future my fiction projects, various countries build fairly-comprehensive missile defense systems to try to prevent future use of nuclear weapons. (Ruling out any “after-the-atomic-wars” plots.) These systems are tested by a small war in the Middle East in the middle of the century, and prove effective enough to dissuade any attempts in the Third World War.

Demographic trends also played a role in the lead-up to the war. It began not quite half a century after the population of mainland China stops falling and begins to rise again. And in the decade before the Second Great Depression, both governments and nonprofit organizations tried to address population pressure in the rest of the world, through attempts to construct and fill arcologies and through laws requiring population control.

I know very little about the actual events of the Third World War, so I’ll skip right over the war itself and turn to its aftermath and consequences. First, in accordance with the lessons learned from the First and Second World Wars, the West invested significantly in reconstruction of the affected areas of Asia. This began essentially immediately after the war, continued in earnest for a few years, and then gradually diminished with the number of remaining obvious tasks.

A second major consequence of the war was a particularly-strongly-enforced international treaty banning the testing and use of weapons based on nanotechnology. Presumably at least one side attempted to use an early-in-development nanotech weapon in a way that proved disastrous for all concerned and was nearly far worse; the treaty provided so strong a set of penalties that while weapons designers continued to use nanotechnology under carefully controlled conditions to develop their products, no conflict thereafter involved weapons that themselves used nanotechnology, even after non-signatory independent planets beyond the Solar System had mooted most international treaties.

About two decades after the end of the war, journalists discovered that several individuals and companies had made vast fortunes in the war at the public’s expense. A great public outcry followed, and the resulting landslide in the next election produced a general “disassembly of the military-industrial complex” in most if not all of the West. The Supreme Court justices appointed by the President elected for that term also wrote the decision, about twenty-five years later, that for the first time declared a long-standing government program unconstitutional on the basis of the Tenth Amendment.

During the war, soldiers and support personnel alike had the importance of communications security all but drilled into them. So after the war, the basic habits spread out from there, until not long after the turn of the century the use of cryptography to ensure the privacy and security of individuals’ communications was widespread.

There should be, of course, other implications and causes of the Third World War to explore. But these are what I’ve thought of. Do you have any thoughts?


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