The AK-47 was the most popular weapon of the 20th century, changing the face of warfare forever. A new breed of autonomous weapons threatens to do the same for this century, and for cheap.

Words: Mic Wright
Illustration: Timo Meyer

When he was a boy, Mikhail Kalashnikov wanted to be a famous poet. Young Mikhail did grow up to be famous, but not for his words. The weapon that bears his name — the AK47 (A for automatic, K for Kalashnikov, 47 for the year it went into production) — is the world’s most used firearm. In his book AK47…

We often mistake Hollywood’s dramatic interpretation of cyberwarfare for reality.In fact, it is prosaic, pervasive and already shaping humanity’s future.

Words: Sophia Epstein
Illustration: Mike Lemanski

We’ve all consumed enough hours of Hollywood blockbusters for the expression “Cyberwar!” to trigger images of bright green code being hijacked by an evil mastermind intent on unleashing a world-ending disaster. But cyberwar exists in the world outside of movie studios and, although insidious, is far less dramatic.

“What people often get wrong about cyber operations is that they think that nations hacking each other is some kind of exceptional or extraordinary circumstance, like…

In the future, water may become an increasingly scarce resource and a source of violent conflict. But history teaches us that the scarcity of water is often a tool for brokering peace.

Words: Kira Walker
Illustration: Alva Skog

Around 4,500 years ago, the Sumerian city-states of Lagash and Umma went to war over the water of the Tigris River. Scant rainfall meant that agriculture in both states relied heavily on irrigation from the Tigris through an intricate system of canals and levees. When the king of Lagash partially destroyed a border canal and diverted it into his region, it deprived…

For most refugees, seeking asylum is a long and slow process, robbing them of agency and forcing them to relive past trauma. Even the judges presiding over the system have had enough.

Words: Phoebe West
Illustration: Paul Willoughby

In the summer of 2019, a first-tier asylum tribunal hearing was held for a young man named Habtamu who had left Ethiopia alone, aged 14, to seek refuge in the UK. Nobody in the courtroom asked for details about what his interests were — his favourite band, what subjects he enjoyed at school, or what he hoped his life might look like…

At its height, the British empire controlled nearly a quarter of the earth’s territory, ruling subjected peoples with violence and propaganda. For many, the legacy of that rule is still alive and well today.

Words: Kieran Yates
Illustration: Ari Liloan

In the middle of a boring geography lesson, a young British schoolboy falls asleep and begins to dream of a sumptuous King’s Christmas Pudding. In his reverie, he meets South Africans who gift him with oranges, Jamaicans who ply him with rum, then on to Zanzibar, Palestine, India and beyond to collect more ingredients before instructing a melting pot of…

In British Columbia, the First Nations are at war with oil and gas companies intent on exploiting their indigenous lands, and with each other over governance and tensions between a “democratic” present and their ancestral past.

Words: Dave Robertson
Illustration: Adrian Johnson

Set in the middle of a long, frigid winter, the Wet’suwet’en blockades of 2020 were the latest chapter in a long history of civil disobedience among the Indigenous peoples of Canada seeking to reclaim their right to self-determination. …

After the death of George Floyd and the resulting Black Lives Matter protests, images of heavily militarised police became ubiquitous in the media. For a state body supposed to “protect and serve” its citizens, police the world over are increasingly being trained to fight against them.

Words: Yiannis Baboulias
Illustration: James Graham

‘Violent’ was the repeated buzzword used to describe the scenes of civil unrest in the US city of Minneapolis in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd at the hands of four police officers. As the news spread across the country, the sheer scale and force of…

The voices of women have typically been written out of the history of conflicts and omitted from efforts to rebuild societies in the aftermath of war. In Syria, one organisation is looking to change that.

Words: Aarathi Prasad
Illustration: Rose Wong

Late in 2012, a mortar shell hit the Syrian home of Alia Omran, a young pharmacist and mother. Her children’s school was destroyed in the same random attack. “At that time,” she says, “it became clear that the area I was living in had become extremely unstable and very dangerous for my two children.” Alia saw no choice but…

Rising sea levels, unstable weather patterns, famine, floods and drought have all been mooted as causes of future conflicts. But are society’s structural inequalities the real risk to life as our planet becomes less stable?

Words: Phoebe Braithwaite
Illustration: Oscar Bolton Green

At 8pm every night during the months of March and April, confined to their homes and without other means of protest, Puerto Ricans bang pots and pans in defiance of their country’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The practice, cacerolazo, named for the casserole dishes used to make the din, signals the depth of Puerto Ricans’ discontent after…

After the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic eased, people around the world started to enjoy their newfound freedom. In fact, due to the expansion of anti-terrorist legislation, many were emerging into a much more restricted world than they’d known before.

Words: Suddaf Chaudry
Illustration: Sebastian König

Denial and obfuscation permitted the spanish flu pandemic of 1918 to 1919 to rage across the globe. As thousands of soldiers returned from the front lines after the Armistice, leaders were keen to play down the threat of this new respiratory disease for fear of appearing unpatriotic in the wake of a war…

Weapons of Reason

A publishing project by @HumanAfterAllStudio to understand & articulate the global challenges shaping our world. Find out more

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