Think Tank (May to June 2019)
Mr Frank Kendall speaking at the lecture
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The Implications of Emerging Technology for Peace and Security in the Region and Globally
26 Jun 2019

Mr Frank Kendall, former US Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, spoke at a RSIS Distinguished Public Lecture on 26 June 2019 on the implications of emerging technology for regional and global peace and security. He singled out three major challenges that the world is currently facing, namely, global warming, the rise of autocratic governments, and the automation of warfare.

Mr Kendall listed global warming as the most certain threat of our time, highlighting unique challenges such as the rise in sea levels and the increase of mass migration. He posited that further research into the possibilities of clean energy, such as the use of nuclear fission for power generation, would limit the impact of pollution globally. He encouraged the development of research, especially moonshot approaches in technology, to tackle the threat of global warming.

Moving on to the challenge arising from autocratic governments, Mr Kendall noted that the use of Artificial Intelligence and surveillance technology has been a boon for such governments. These technologies ensure that the power of autocratic governments remains uncontested. Mr Kendall raised the notion of “surveillance capitalism”, popularised by Harvard academic Shoshana Zuboff. Surveillance capitalism describes the use of data by technology giants and corporations to influence behaviours and undermine autonomy and democracy. He added that initiatives such as social credit schemes could be exploited for their surveillance capabilities and utilised for state control and suppression of dissent.

On the use of technology in warfare, Mr Kendall noted that there had been profound changes in recent years He foresaw that the use of technology for lethal autonomy (e.g., through land and sea mines and armed unmanned aircraft) was set to increase in ground combat battles of the future. He noted that the impact of increasing competition between the United States and China would also play out in the adaptation of emerging technology in warfare. Mr Kendall stressed the importance of effective regulation for lethal autonomy technologies.

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