Israeli futurologist predicts terror horror

Run for the hills

Western nations have less than 20 years to prepare for the next generation of terror threats, according to Dr Yair Sharan, director of Tel Aviv University's Interdisciplinary Centre for Technology Analysis and Forecasting.

These could consist of suicide bombers remote-controlled by brain-chip implants and carrying nano-technology cluster bombs, or biological compounds for which there is no antidote.

It is hard to imagine how we are supposed to prepare for such a future, but Sharan, who presented his dire predictions to an audience of spook industry bigwigs last week, has some idea about what the US and its allies should do about it.

"Europe is naive with its love of privacy," he told The Register. "It's the weak point in the chain."

The spook industry is already doing its best to prepare for the worst, and gaining a sense of history about what it is doing.

Sharan's take on geopolitics can only put wind in their sails: "Why should we be more worried about death today?" he said at the Royal United Services Institute conference on Homeland Security last week.

We get a better-educated class of terrorists these days, he told the conference, while sci/tech advances can quickly find their way into irresponsible hands, or "proliferate" through the forces of globalisation. Not only that, technology is always smaller and cheaper, making it inevitable that bad people are going to get their hands on some bad-ass weaponry.

Most bizarre of all his predictions is "the recruitment of huge numbers of suicidal candidates - human bombs - by mind control techniques".

Brain chip implants could create a more obedient servant than conventional techniques like hypnosis: "Imagine that this suicide bomber is remote controlled and cannot give up, even if he wants," warned Sharan.

This might be some way off, though - Sharan estimated it would be more than 10 years. Within five years, however, we might be faced with terrorists armed with powerful new explosives delivered by robot. Even remote controlled toys might be used to deliver dangerous payloads into crowded places like supermarkets, he said.

Some of these payloads, also conceivably within five years, would be constructed using radical nanotechnology that could produce something called the MOAB, or Mother of All Bombs. Nanotechnology, which is made using components one billionth of a metre across, might also give terrorists the means to release malicious nanobots into people's bloodstreams.

Terrorists might also get their hands on new biotechnology that could give them powerful new weapons. "Imagine anthrax that would stand against antibiotics," he said. "It's possible to do that - to build a new kind of anthrax that would be resistant. It was done by Russia - the knowledge is there and might fall into the hands of terrorists."

Sharan said we should also worry about terrorists getting their hands on cluster bombs. Now where might they have got that idea? ®

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