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Ross: Novel about the next World War may be fiction, but it feels too real

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Officially, it’s a work of fiction – the new book by Admiral James Stavridis – and I’m glad it is, because it’s titled, 2034: A Novel of the Next World War.

But when you consider that the author has done everything from command an aircraft carrier to serving four years as Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, even a fictitious story predicting a conflict with China 13 years from now is enough to take your mind off COVID.

What made it even more real for me, is that it starts with one of the scenarios I’m always obsessing about – a cyberattack – where all of a sudden, the screens go blue, and the lights go out.

So I asked him – is that just to sell books or could China or Russia actually do that?

“Yes and yes,” he answered.

I would like to think that technology is making us stronger, but looking at my own business, when I started, if the lights went out, you had a transmitter with backup, and it sent a signal through the air that couldn’t be stopped and that anybody could hear on a simple battery radio.

We typed the news on manual typewriters and reporters had walkie-talkies that didn’t need cell towers. Audio equipment was all analog, unhackable; you could plug in a microphone and put on a broadcast.

Now, more people listen on smart devices, which need to be plugged in or constantly recharged, and in the newsroom, nothing is printed on paper. I still have a couple of typewriters here at home, but they’ve been in the attic for 30 years. I think I have maybe one ribbon left and, even if it worked, I probably couldn’t read the font anymore.

Which is why I was hoping that at some point during the interview, the admiral would say, “Dave, I was just rocking your boat, it’s not really gonna happen, how gullible you civilians are!” Instead, what I got was this:

“That is not science fiction — that’s reality.”

Anyway, you should listen to the whole interview here, and then go out and get a good battery-operated radio … if you can find one.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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