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2019: Are you Ready for a New World War? A Statistical Analysis

2019: Are you Ready for a New World War? A Statistical Analysis

Detail from Picasso’s “Guernica” – 1937

With the end of 2018, also the centennial of the end of the Great War (or WWI) is past. It passed remarkably in silence: a few celebrations, but little or no discussion of the reasons and the consequences of that war, supposed to be the one that would “end all wars.”

Reasonably, it was too much to expect that wars would ever end but maybe we could have at least learned something from rethinking to a conflict that caused some 40 million victims. But that didn’t happen (if you can read Italian, you may be interested in a reflection of mine on the subject). The world situation, today, looks more and more similar to the military build-up that took place in Europe in the years preceding the Great War. The “Great Powers” are arranging their forces as if they were setting their pieces on a giant chessboard. At some moment, someone may well decide to make the first move. And in this giant chess game, the kings can wipe out all the pawns in a single move with their nuclear warheads.

It would be nice to follow Steven Pinker’s optimism about modern times becoming less violent. There may be such a trend for the past few decades, but it is always dangerous to extrapolate from a limited dataset. In this case, the optimism of Pinker seems to be simply wrong if measured over a time span of several centuries. This is the result of an analysis of the data for the conflicts of the past 600 years that myself and my coworkers Martelloni and Di Patti performed in 2018 — it was thought, in part, as a way to celebrate the centennial of the Great War.
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