Speak to any ‘expert’ and they immediately talk about WW3 being a complete nuclear assault devastating the entire earth, leaving a nuclear winter lasting hundreds of years. Nothing can be further from the truth. If there is a global skirmish, it will be mostly by conventional warfare also now utilising robotic AI controlled military hardware.
Foremost, it does not matter if you are a dictator or a president/prime minister, what is the point in complete nuclear devastation where there are no spoils of war or land grabs? What is the use of any land which has been irradiated beyond repair, and your own nation is also wiped off the face of the earth? In a full scale nuclear war, there are no winners. Therefore, it makes sense that the conventional method of warfare will still be the de facto method.
Autonomous AI killing machines are also a terrifying prospect, but preferable to complete disintegration via a nuclear war. As much as Hitler kept the beautiful Parisian buildings intact during WW2, someone like Putin would do the same. The prize is far greater to take over a treasure intact, than completely destroyed. This will be true during WW3 as much as WW2.
Other forms of warfare are also a threat, nanotechnology where only a certain genetic trait is targeted, as well as other chemical or viral warfare. The recent Wuhan Lab Chinese virus devastated and destabilised many nations who were the target of the CCP, and if it was a deliberate operation it was a great success. The beauty about such an operation is that it can be attributed to nature and the perpetrators can get off Scott free.
Military technology is generally 100 years ahead of civilian, so it is very unlikely the public will know what is going on behind the doors of the Industrial Military Complex. Autonomous AI weapons and hardware do not get PTSD; they do not need to sleep, they do not need to go on leave, and they do not have emotions or morals.
Cyber warfare will also be in use when the time comes, in fact it already is in use. The daily cyberattacks from China, Russia, N.Korea daily plague Western governments. Taking out infrastructure, satellites, nuclear, and power grids would be the beginning phase of any attack.
Of course, there may be a few tactical nukes let off in strategic zones, or even suitcase dirty bombs set off to stir things up, but nothing warranting total nuclear apocalypse will happen.
It therefore makes complete sense that robotics and other tech advances alongside cyber warfare will be used first during WW3, and nuclear annihilation will not be required. Why shit on your on doorstep, and why shit on your neighbour’s doorstep if you want to take over their place?