Think Tank (1/2024)
Asst Prof Michael Raska with panellists
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Beyond Nuclear: Disruptive Technologies and Strategic Stability in the 21st Century
21 Nov 2023

As the boundaries of science and innovation continue to expand, the realm of military capabilities is being reshaped at a breathtaking pace and we are entering an era where disruptive technologies hold the power to redefine the character of warfare and the dynamics of international security. “Beyond Nuclear: Disruptive Technologies and Strategic Stability in the 21st Century” was the theme of the annual Track 1.5 conference organised by the Military Transformations Programme.

The event featured five panels and a futures workshop over two days from 21 to 22 November 2023. Approximately 70 participants attended, including 16 speakers from across government, academia, and industry. The conference is a platform for exploring cutting-edge topics related to its research focus on how disruptive technologies are affecting military capabilities and warfighting concepts, and the impact of such innovations on regional balances and long-term military-strategic competition. Previous iterations focused on military applications of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and their implications for international security, while the 2022 conference explored lessons learned from Ukraine for future warfare.

The 20th century’s strategic paradigms that were characterised by nuclear deterrence and the balance of power are now giving way to a landscape where the rise of autonomous weapons systems and hypersonic missiles, the vulnerability of critical infrastructure to cyberattacks, and the ethical implications of AI-enabled warfare all add complexity to strategic equations and calculations on arms races, conflict escalation, and proliferation dynamics.

In this context, the conference considered the implications of strategic competition for disruptive technologies on international relations, arms control, crisis management, and the very essence of warfare in the 21st century. It explored why and how disruptive technologies are influencing; and indeed redefining; traditional conceptions of strategic stability, arms control, and deterrence.

The five panels covered topics ranging from the past and present of strategic stability as a concept to the impact of AI and Big Tech companies, as well as developments in the outer space domain. The workshop encouraged participants to envision possible futures of arms control, threading together issues raised from the panel discussions to not only think about challenges, but potential opportunities as well.

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