Technology

WarGames for real: How one 1983 exercise nearly triggered WWIII

Update, 11/29/20: It’s a very different Thanksgiving weekend here in 2020, but even if tables were smaller and travel non-existent, Ars staff is off for the holiday in order to recharge, take a mental afk break, and maybe stream a movie or five. But five years ago around this time, we were following a newly declassified government report from 1990 that outlined a KGB computer model… one that almost pulled a WarGames, just IRL. With the film now streaming on Netflix (thus setting our off day schedule), we thought we’d resurface this story for an accompanying Sunday read. This piece first published on November 25, 2015, and it appears unchanged below.

“Let’s play Global Thermonuclear War.”
Thirty-two years ago, just months after the release of the movie WarGames, the world came the closest it ever has to nuclear Armageddon. In the movie version of a global near-death experience, a teenage hacker messing around with an artificial intelligence program that just happened to control the American nuclear missile force unleashes chaos. In reality, a very different computer program run by the Soviets fed growing paranoia about the intentions of the United States, very nearly triggering a nuclear war.Read 47 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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