Jun 3, 2020 - Technology

The destabilizing effects of emerging technology

Image of a lock within a nucleus

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

A new report seen first by Axios details the global security risks posed by emerging technologies like AI and gene editing.

Why it matters: Rising populism, as well as the disruptive effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, has already eaten away at the postwar global order. Now powerful new technologies threaten to widen the gap between what we can do and what we can control.

What they're saying: "AI, bioscience, cyber threats and autonomous weapons are on the cusp of transforming every aspect of life," says Robert Manning, resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security and the author the report. "Yet the governance deficit is dangerously wide."

Details: Among the advances Manning identifies are:

  • 5G: Next-generation mobile broadband will enable everything from automated vehicles to precision farming, but the U.S. and China are already butting heads over who will seize the lead.
  • Hypersonic missiles: The development of missiles that can fly far faster than current ICBMs threatens to undercut the Cold War logic of deterrence.
  • Quantum computing: Next-generation computers will help tech sidestep the limits of Moore's Law, but their code-breaking ability poses an existential threat to cybersecurity.

What's next: The early years of the Cold War were marked by destabilizing technological leaps on nuclear weapons that were only later restrained by arms control treaties.

  • But today, Manning notes, emerging technologies "all pose new risks to crisis stability at a time when the framework of restraint, of arms control, is unraveling."

The bottom line: The sooner major powers recognize their shared vulnerability to the disruptions of emerging technology, the safer we'll all be.

Go deeper: The U.S. rift with China has tech on edge

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