THE END OF WAR

Your Friday author has fielded many questions recently about the chaotic state of current global affairs and the rising risks of a serious global conflict. After all, things do look pretty grim: we have an escalating trade fight between the world’s two largest economies, far-right nationalists on the rise in Europe, a US president intent on unmaking the global norms of the past thirty years, a Middle East that remains deeply unstable, and a slow-moving crisis of climate change that is only just starting to be felt.


But let’s put this current moment in perspective. Sunday will mark the 100-year anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I, a conflagration sparked by a street corner murder in Sarajevo, today the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, that became a wildfire as formal alliances brought more and more nations into conflict. Some 70 million people were sent into military action. The war killed nine million soldiers and seven million civilians, and it triggered a number of genocides as empires fell and borders were redrawn.

My grandfather, a would-be journalist, served as an American officer in the trenches in France and he left behind battlefield photographs that he took himself. They are modest portraits of scorched earth, ruined cathedrals, and devastated lives that I’ll be looking through again this weekend.

When the war ended, the soldiers’ return triggered an influenza epidemic, the so-called Spanish Flu, that infected an estimated 500 million people across the world: from the large metropolises of Europe and the US, to remote South Pacific Islands, and even to the Arctic. More than 50 million people died. My grandmother’s 11-year-old brother was among those who perished. I have no doubt many Signal readers will have personal connections to these two human catastrophes.

So as we worry over events of the day and how they might shape the 21st century, spare a thought this Sunday for all those who lived and died through those turbulent years. It may put things in perspective.

The 10-year challenge might actually be an attempt to improve facial recognition technology.

It's Tech in 60 Seconds with Nicholas Thompson!


And go deeper on topics like cybersecurity and artificial intelligence at Microsoft Today in Technology.

"Many forms of government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." So said Winston Churchill in November 1947, a time when Soviet Communism was beginning to offer the world a new alternative.

Read Now Show less

My high school history teacher Dr. Cohen once told me, as we shuffled through the school cafeteria, that computers would one day make socialism viable. Given that the Soviet collapse had already happened, and that Super Nintendo still seemed vastly more magical than anything you could put on your desk, this seemed far-fetched.

Read Now Show less

WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

Syria ISIS attack A suicide bombing in Syria claimed by ISIS killed 14 people including four Americans this week. Two questions we'll be watching: Will this attack impact the pace of President Trump's ordered withdrawal of US troops from Syria, and is the bombing part of a broader ISIS strategy to launch a wave of new attacks as US troops depart?

Read Now Show less