Can Science Make Us More Secure?

Can science make us more secure? We put this query to a few thoughtful people.


Can science make us more secure? Ten experts weigh in.

National Security Fellow,
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

These guys didn't need to bring weapons to the
country; the weapons were in the country. They were
airplanes. I'm not much afraid of chemical weapons stolen from Russia;
I'm afraid of perfectly legal
agricultural chemicals
that sit around in ton lots.
The thing I worry about
is the terrorist who enters
without his or her
tools and slowly builds them.

Executive Director,
Educational Foundation for Nuclear Science

Politicians think that if they just keep science bottled up, and
keep people locked away behind high fences, we will be able to maintain our lead forever. But that's not how science works. There are eight countries in the world that have nuclear weapons today, and most of them didn't get help from the U.S. There are no secrets in science.

Senior Staff Scientist,
Union of Concerned Scientists

Has technology made us safer
relative to 50 years ago or 60 years ago? The clear answer is no. Now there is a real potential for radiological weapons and nuclear weapons, because technology has basically distributed all this stuff around the world, so people have access to it. People often assume that the U.S. is going to be the only one gaining from advances in technology. that's not true.

Author, Future Shock, The Third Wave,
and War and Anti-War

We're entering into a new way of life, and we're just as ignorant of this new environment as the paleolithic warrior was in his environment. I think we have to accept risk in our lives. You cannot eliminate all risk without being dead.

Professor of Theoretical Physics,
California Institute of Technology;
Chairman, Jason, a science and technology advisory group to the Pentagon's Defense Research and Engineering Division

Data mining is the most important technical problem we currently face. (The National Security Agency) collects zillions of bits of information. How do you get the
different data sources together--broadcast data, agent reports from the FBI, purchasing and
shipping records--and how do you filter through it? All the
algorithms you would need have not been developed yet. You need
a flow of younger researchers who know the latest technologies involved and how to apply them. You would hope that there's a resurgence of patriotic feeling post-9/11, you would think that people would be more willing to (work for the government), but it's still
a difficult working environment.


Chief Technology Evangelist,

Sun Microsystems**

There's no point in having that idealistic view that in the future technology is going to rescue us. There's no point in thinking technology is evil and it's going to destroy us. The good and the bad come from the people.


Competitive Enterprise Institute

The search for a safe society is dangerous as hell. One of the most frightening things is that in response to terrorist threats you create a repressive government, that we try to put the lid on everything, that you now look at technology and ask, Is there anything that might possibly go wrong? The solution is to think carefully before rushing out and adding more regulations and bureaucracies.

Author, The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity

If modern science exemplifies the dialectic between good and evil then nothing represents evil so clearly as the research, design,

and production of nuclear weapons of mass destruction.

In the bomb lies the spirit that could negate all. The failure of the West

to inaugurate a process of nuclear disarmament has led states elsewhere to acquire plutonium and manufacture their own bombs.

Do I feel safe? Like hell I do.

President Emeritus,
Nuclear Control Institute

The longer the time frame between attacks, the more likely it is that people will let their guard down and deny the seriousness of the threat. the record of al Qaeda is that they take their sweet time and they have patience beyond all imagination. So it makes me somewhat pessimistic in terms of our ability to do the things that need to be done to maintain an effective defense against these kinds of horrific attacks. denial is a very human response, but it does run counter to what's necessary to maintain vigilance.


Consumer Advocate,

Former presidential candidate

We could spend our entire gross national product on security. I mean there is an

infinite demand, right? Look how much we can spend searching every truck and vehicle that comes from

Mexico. So we have to realize that there are limits. While you can reduce some risks, avoid some risks, mostly we have got to be alert. Do what's

reasonable, and then pursue global justice.