Research Areas

Our research spans a wide range of fields with new technology at the crux. We examine issues from cyber repression and data privacy to geoengineering, global health security, and weaponized 3D printing. Our members are committed, optimistic, and innovative researchers who aim to produce quality work that will have a profound influence on policy now and in the future.

Areas of focus

Researchers examine the challenges, both unprecedented and familiar, in the realm of cyberspace. This area includes research questions such as: What is the nature of cyberspace? Should it be considered primarily through a military lens? Where do civilian applications and military strategies intersect and conflict? What is the relationship between offense and defense in cyberspace? Do the same strategic concepts apply to cyber challenges as applied during the twentieth century? What are the implications of offensive cyber attacks for civilian infrastructure and strategic stability? And many others.

Our research in this area relates to semi-autonomous and autonomous systems that perform functions without direct human input. Advances in this area are the result of dramatic technological strides in remote sensing, computer processing power, enormous sets of data (“big data”) and machine learning. The ethical, strategic, and legal implications must be carefully considered. Here we address popular topics such as “swarming” and lethal autonomous weapons systems. We tackle the question of fully autonomous systems, meaning those that are operated by artificial intelligence without any meaningful human control. The implications of “full AI” encompass the ongoing military competition between US and Chinese AI capabilities; but also go well beyond them. Artificial intelligence will fundamentally affect the future of humanity. Our research puts all of these challenges into historical perspective, to consider how to reduce the serious risks while grasping the opportunities.

New technologies (and some long-established technologies) are now posing serious ethical challenges for the future. This research area considers the ethical implications of advances in data science, engineering, and biological science, such as DNA editing (CRISPR technology), synthetic biology, genome-based treatment, and human enhancement. It also specifically addresses ethical aspects of artificial intelligence, including super intelligent machines and the displacement of human beings, as well as the broader implications of data collection and surveillance. Our changing technologies yield fundamental questions such as: What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be alive? With shifting global technological capabilities and power, how can we protect human individuality, dignity, and fairness?

This area of research addresses the impact of changing technologies on the evolving role of human labor from global micro- and macro-economic perspectives. What are the implications of increasingly advanced robotics, enhanced human beings, machine learning, and other technological developments for the future of the labor force and the organization of production? Which sectors are being most affected? How best can we educate and train tomorrow’s workers to thrive in a period of fundamental change?

This research areas focuses on the military uses of unmanned aerial vehicles (‘drones’, unmanned aerial vehicles, remotely piloted vehicles, etc.) and other militarily relevant robotics. What insights can we gain from the long history of unmanned vehicles used in warfare? Why have they become prominent in the 21st century? How are UAVs (drones) changing strategic thinking and practice? Are they stabilizing or destabilizing in crises? Do they undermine or fortify the laws of war? Are they ethically and strategically wise? What are their patterns of proliferation? Is the spread of UAVs a good thing, a bad thing or just inevitable? How are other kinds of robotics being used on the battlefield, on the ground, and at sea? Have our tactical and strategic frameworks adapted to this new aspect of war?

Are nuclear weapons obsolete? How should new technologies be used to complement or displace the role of nuclear weapons? Should we be modernizing our nuclear arsenal? What is happening to the logic and coherency of strategic concepts developed during the nuclear age – ideas such as deterrence, mutually assured destruction, massive retaliation, coercion, and compellence – in an age of artificial intelligence, robotics, and big data? Can they be adapted to a shifting technological reality?

This area of often overlaps with other research areas, but it is vital to the entire project and distinguishes our research from much of what is available elsewhere. We believe very deeply in placing future technological advances into their historical context. Many techno-optimists fail to distinguish what is new from what is actually pretty old. Most new technologies reflect a historical trajectory that began in the 1960s (or earlier). How have states and nonstate actors adapted to emerging technologies in the past? What is different today, and what echoes historical precedent? Can the lessons of historical experiences guide us today?