196: Seth Shelden, part 1: Nuclear Weapons, the Environment, and the Nobel Prize

2019-07-06

When I studied physics and spent time in universities, I met a lot of Nobel laureates. Physics is Nobel heavy so Columbia physics connected me to 3. Other science departments led me to another 1 or 2. The business school led me to another. Seth Shelden and ICAN---the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons---won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize "for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons" Their goal is a UN treaty like the one to ban land mines for nuclear weapons. After forming in 2007, 2 years before tomorrow, July 7, they achieved, with the help of many others, The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) is adopted at the United Nations by a vote of 122-1. The Treaty, which prohibits nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices, will become law when ratified by 50 states. I wanted to bring someone on who is working on something many want but people don't see how. I hope you'll listen carefully. I picked up something I hadn't expected---a new frame for how to view nuclear weapons. It's not about the physics or engineering. I figure I know a fair amount about game theory and negotiation. While global thermonuclear war is beyond just a complex chess game, my frame still saw it that way. I disagreed with people who said nuclear weapons, through mutually assured destruction, created peace since World War II, but Seth suggested a different perspective than negotiation or brinkmanship. He doesn't look at the situation like two superpowers or even a moderate number of nuclear states. I'll let him describe it, but his view suggests different strategies than I would have come up with and makes important different players. Let's hear a new (to me at least) view on abolishing nuclear weapons.

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