When we think of war, a few words come to mind: hardship, guns, weapons, death, etc. All wars result in some form of devastation for either side, whether it’s a large or small scale. But are there any benefits to war? How has technology played a role in the history of war?

In all of human history, the earliest evidence of weaponry was spears, which were thought to be used in 400,000 B.C, and we didn’t see any new advances in weaponry until the introduction of firearms in the 13th century. After the invention of the gun in the 19th century, war technology progressed significantly, with the machine gun, tanks, and chemical warfare following closely behind. Looking at the history of weaponry technology is a clear way to mark how technology has advanced over time. It’s a specific enough category where we can clearly see how technology grows more complex and efficient, but it’s a broad enough category where it can include many different forms of weaponry. Additionally, it allows us to see that we are using different tools to accomplish the same task. For example, chemical warfare is very different from a primitive spear, yet they’re used for the same intended purpose.

While this timeline shows us that humans become more efficient over time, that efficiency could be a catalyst for detriment and destruction. Back when war technology was more simple than it is today, agreeing to a war meant a much larger sacrifice than it does today. Now, we have weapons such as nuclear missiles, and a country can send them and cause immense destruction without even being there. However, in wars that required face to face battle, there was a much larger risk of losing valuable materials and soldiers, so there was less of an incentive to agree to a war. With the technology we have today, there’s less of a physical consequence of getting involved in a war, which may mean that the chance of war is greater. Although this is just speculation, it is certainly an important point to consider. There is no way to “unknow” something; once guns were invented, no one used a bow and arrow in a war again.

Even though developments in war technology can be detrimental to our society, it also has some benefits. Like I previously mentioned, advancement in weaponry shows an overall advancement in human discovery. In the 20th century with the development in chemical warfare, scientists learned things about chemistry that can be applied to so much more than just war technology, and the same goes for any of the other weaponry advancements.

The history of war has shown us that we, as humans, are always striving to be as efficient as possible. What we must do, however, is ensure that this efficiency does not catalyze more war than is absolutely necessary. and we should start using these advancements in technology for the betterment, and not the detriment, of society.