Choose your wars

War is awful. Philosophically, I’m not a pacifist. I think there are times where the more moral action is to fight a war. But war is always awful. I don’t like seeing photos of old women holding assault rifles, portrayed in a manner meant to be inspiring. Yes, they are doing a brave thing. Maybe they are doing the right thing. But I don’t feel good about the portrayal. Some of those women are going to kill people. Some of them are going to be killed. That’s awful.

I feel the potential in me to get excited about the war. To celebrate the brave men and women defending their home against invaders. To wave the Ukrainian flag and denounce Putin’s actions. To volunteer to help bolster cyber defenses. To fight for what feels right.

I feel it and I lean away from the feeling. I’m not fighting this fight. I don’t want to be emotionally enlisted to fight this fight. It’s not my fight.

The war makes the world worse. It decreases geopolitical stability, elevates risk of nuclear war. It will likely make arms control treaties more difficult. I’m not sure how much worse it makes the world. Maybe severe cyberattacks will lead to more cyberdefense cooperation in a way that will positively impact AI security, which is good. Maybe future regulation of AI chips will be harder to coordinate, which is probably bad.

I hate war. I hate when humans use violence against one another to get ahead. I want better forms of competition than that. If we survive the next few centuries, I think we’ll find ways to eliminate violent, destructive competition. And to that end, I’m going to prioritize fighting other battles. I see this war and I feel sad, angry, and a little scared.

This war, this pandemic, next war, next pandemic—I feel similarly about them. They’re like HIV, dementia, cancer, depression… They’re all sources of suffering, ways the world is but doesn’t have to be. I don’t want to ignore the present war or get pulled into it. I want to face the fear, sadness, and anger, and remember why I’m fighting the battles I choose to fight.