Technological escalation

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Technological escalation is a somewhat more generic term for what is commonly called an arms race. However, in recent years analysts of arms races have recognized that very rarely are technologies deployed in warfare entirely developed for military purposes. Many "dual-use" technologies are useful in civilian (consumer, industrial) police and military applications, e.g. cryptography, surveillance. Accordingly some competitive "races" exist that do not initially appear to have any impact on the arms industry or future weapon design. Only after a technology is established does it then become obvious that it has had a major impact on the conduct of warfare and the design of weapons and defenses. In World War I, for instance, technologies developed for civilian use in the chemical industry were turned into the first chemical weapons. The competition to develop chemical research and development, and a flexible chemical industry in the UK and Germany thus became an arms race after the fact.

The impossibility of telling what technologies will and won't become part of future weapons makes it necessary to consider the phenomena of technology escalation in general, apart from its obvious character in arms races proper.

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