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

July 6, 2019 by Joshua
in Podcast

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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