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15 minutes to save the world’: a terrifying Virtual Reality journey into the nuclear bunker

15 minutes to save the world’: a terrifying VR journey into the nuclear bunker, Guardian  Julian Borger in WashingtonTue 14 Dec 2021 Nuclear Biscuit, a simulated experience, allows US officials to wargame a missile attack and see the devastating consequences of their choices…………

I was experiencing what a US president would have to do in the event of a nuclear crisis: make a decision that would end many millions of lives – and quite possibly life on the planet – with incomplete information and in less than 15 minutes……………

The VR simulation has been developed by a team from Princeton, American and Hamburg universities, based on extensive research, including interviews with former officials, into what would happen if the US was – or believed itself to be – under nuclear attack. They have called their project the Nuclear Biscuit, after the small card bearing the president’s launch authorization codes.

……………………….. In 1979, the world came within minutes of nuclear war because someone had left a training tape simulating a Russian attack in the early warning system monitors. In September 1983, Russian computers erroneously showed incoming US missiles. Armageddon was only averted because the duty officer, Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Petrov, went against protocols and decided not to act on the alert because his gut told him it was a glitch……….

…………… The pressure to take one of the options presented by the Pentagon felt almost overwhelming. At one point an aide asked how I would be able to face my country if I failed to respond. The simulation raises the question of who chooses those options in the first place. In the 15 minutes available, it would be impossible to put all feasible alternatives in front of a president, so whoever whittles them down holds a huge amount of power. All we know is that it is someone from the US military. Diplomats, politicians or ethicists are not part of the process.

……………  Shockingly, the researchers found no evidence that any US president except Jimmy Carter, had taken part in realistic drills to practise potentially world-ending decisions. Other presidents occasionally participated in table-top exercises with aides to discuss options but more often sent surrogates in their place.

In January, the research team will take their experiment to Capitol Hill, with the aim of provoking some contemplation about the realities underlying US nuclear planning.

“Hopefully members of Congress will come to experience this and at least see the consequences of the choices they’ve made about nuclear weapons issues,” Weiner said. “They will see everybody in that virtual room is trying to do their job, but it’s an impossible job.”

December 16, 2021 - Posted by | USA, weapons and war

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