chapter  7
Our Technological Future
Pages 17

Judging from past trends, technological advances in the civilian and military domain are likely to have an effect on patterns of terrorism. Generally speaking, modernisation and technological breakthroughs are part of the ‘ecology of terrorism’, in the sense that they inadvertently provide new opportunities for terrorists in terms of weaponry, targets, audiences and anonymity. Citing terrorist use of TNT after it appeared in the First World War, RDX after the Second World War and, more recently, plastic explosives, one scholar argues that we face a dangerous evolution ‘in which the terrorist seems to hold all the cards’.2 This seems inaccurate for several reasons. Technology helps governments to significantly increase their counter-terrorist capabilities. The development of such technologies has become a mainstay in the ongoing ‘war on terror’.3 By contrast, terrorist groups are ill-suited to reap much benefit of new and sophisticated technologies. The acquisition of new and unfamiliar technology is a very complex process for any organisation, let alone clandestine cell-structured illegal movements. Most terrorist groups have usually only a few of the characteristics that are needed in an organisation in order to acquire sophisticated technology.4