"Arms race" is a term generally for the advancement and increased quantity of weaponry and forces, in a militaristic sense. If every country has swords, they're on a pretty level playing field. If one gains archers, the rest must follow suit to avoid an easy slaughter. This gradually goes higher and higher, from black powder muskets to bolt action rifles, to semi-automatic and automatic rifles, eventually to tanks, aircraft, and nuclear weapons. The interesting thing is that to be a respected country, you have to be as dangerous as any other country. At least pose some threat to life of a nation's citizens and only then are you guaranteed the option to negotiate.
This term is also quite applicable to many other parts of life. Some would say with computer security, and I disagree. Security is less about brilliant technology and more about plugging holes. At most advanced, it's mostly about isolating holes. So even as the hacker's toolkit gets more advanced, the countermeasures are pretty much as they've always been.
I'm thinking arms race applies better to say even something as simple as vehicles on the road. In Prius-land California, you might feel safe in a Honda Civic. Vehicle masses are fairly comparable and neither of you in an accident is likely to annihilate the other. But in Texas, you might feel scared with so many big trucks on the road -- an accident with one of those and the safety features may not be enough, just as a matter of physics. So as the "big vehicle" populace goes up for whatever reason, others are buying big vehicles just to feel safe near the neighbor vehicles, which naturally has a recursive effect. Now vehicle size is an arms race. Or even with motorcycle volume, some are convinced they have to be heard to be safe. Especially among motorcycle groups, as one person gets a louder exhaust, the others have to follow suit else they can't be heard. By then it becomes an arms race of ego and a race to the bottom with deaf ears, but an arms race nonetheless.
One field where I think this is particularly relevant, is attention span. Marketing has become so aggressive, websites and apps flashier and flashier, and even the words themselves are bolder than ever. To get someone's attention before, bold letters might have done it. Now, in the age of Tiktok, Youtube, and ads galore, you have to be just as flashy and just as loud to even have a chance of being heard.
My website is a prime example of something that doesn't keep up. You actually have to slow down your regular input speed to find it palatable. How many people actually take the few minutes it takes to get to this point in the text? How many are so rushed they skim it, then start looking for their next dopamine hit of information?
I watched a video recently with four guys keeping their hand on a Lamborghini. The last one with their hand on the car would get a different Lamborghini (a much less expensive one). These four guys were very used to their phones, but any source of entertainment as taken away. After about an hour, probably bored out of their minds, their personalities began to come out. Even with nothing to do, they were much more animated. I think this is observable anywhere. As the stimulus levels come down, your inner drive for mental stimulation goes back up to try and keep dopamine levels reasonable. As a result, imaginations come back, drive comes back. You can't just thumb through Facebook and get a dopamine high of the most morbid, bizarre, and unlikely of events. The constant noise, shows, and visuals override our senses. It takes a logarithmic step in a "wow" factor for anything to stand out. At a certain point, we will reach the golden age of stimulating content, only with slow gains from there.
Hopefully before then, we might realize we aren't growing, but rather playing an arms race game to no good purpose, competing for attention, forgetting about the issues that take longer than ten seconds to process, and go back to the time when you could enjoy sitting and talking with someone.