The overarching question imparting urgency to this exploration is: Can U.S.-Russian contention in cyberspace cause the two nuclear superpowers to stumble into war? In considering this question we were constantly reminded of recent comments by a prominent U.S. arms control expert: At least as dangerous as the risk of an actual cyberattack, he observed, is cyber operations’ “blurring of the line between peace and war.” Or, as Nye wrote, “in the cyber realm, the difference between a weapon and a non-weapon may come down to a single line of code, or simply the intent of a computer program’s user.”
Speaker: Michael Falcone, Ernest May Fellow in History & Policy, International Security Program
Just as the struggle for scientific superiority in geopolitics rages today, so great powers have historically sought to best their rivals technologically: so goes AI today, so went atoms in the twentieth century and steamships in the nineteenth. But what if the headlong race for world technological dominance, and of great powers pursuing comprehensive R&D complexes, is actually a newer phenomenon than scholars and policymakers have thought? This presentation will examine how today's model of superpowers as science-powers stemmed from highly contingent historical processes — a whole paradigm of global competition that emerged from a specific set of transatlantic personal networks and rivalries in the 1940s. It will also explore how the United States built its high-tech identity by siphoning other countries' intellectual property and state-science models, much as it charges China with doing today. Finally, it will deconstruct what scholars and policymakers alike really refer to when use the fuzzy concepts of nations being "ahead" or "behind" their technological rivals.
Everyone is welcome to join us online via Zoom! Please register in advance for this seminar: