Science & Technology

564 Items

A lighthouse, battered by waves, sits at the center of this dark and stormy seascape.

AP Photo/Matt Dunham

Report - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

Democracy and the Liberal World Order Amid the Rise of Authoritarianism

| Aug. 14, 2023

The entanglement and feedback loops among the domestic and the geopolitical cycles of distrust have resulted in a cohesive threat to democracy: a downward political spiral that is pulling societies towards enmity. This spiral feeds on and generates destructive human emotions at massive scale, such as outrage and hatred, that lead to violence, war, and autocracy, so it can be better understood as a dangerous global maelstrom of distrust, which could sink democracy worldwide. As showcased by historical evidence, domestic and international forces do not act in isolation from each other. Democratic backsliding, the rise of authoritarianism and totalitarianism, and the politics of aggression generated feedback loops in the 1930s, that resulted in WWII. Similar forces are again working in the 2020s. If massive distrust can wreck democracy worldwide, it follows that the regeneration of trust is the path to democratic revitalization.

drawing of math problems

N. Hanacek/NIST

Report - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Technology Primer: Post-Quantum Cryptography

  • Boaz Barak
  • Lily Chen
  • Jack Hidary
  • Vinod Vaikuntanathan
| June 23, 2023

Quantum computers pose a threat to conventional cryptography, putting our information and communication systems at risk. In an effort to sustain the privacy and integrity of our data ecosystems, researchers are turning to post-quantum cryptography (PQC). This publication describes how PQC works, and the governance, application, and public purpose considerations for implementing PQC. 

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Blog Post

DAO Harvard Conference Recap

| June 20, 2023

On April 2-4, 2023, the DAO Harvard conference brought together practitioners, policymakers, and academics to engage in conversation regarding the research, legal, and policy considerations of Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs). The conference, hosted by the Belfer Center’s Technology & Public Purpose Project and the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Ethics, convened global participants across five continents here at Harvard University. This post will recap some of the major themes and takeaways from each of the individual summits– the Research Summit, Law Summit, and Summit on Equitable Ownership and Governance in the Online Economy.

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Blog Post - perspectives-on-public-purpose

Fostering a Digital Commons: Internet-Native Experiments For Sustainable Open-Source Software

| June 20, 2023

The internet, and by extension much of the global economy, is built on “digital public goods,” often in the form of open-source software. This open-source software is a critical infrastructure for the devices and applications that are part of our everyday lives, yet remains consistently under-funded and under-resourced. Below we explore the importance of and obstacles to sustainability that open-source software faces today, and highlight various experiments that aim to improve the quantity and quality of such infrastructure.

An orange and blue background with an isometric illustration of digital buildings and people

Helena Rong


From Community Currency to Crypto City Tokens: Potentials, Shortfalls, and Future Outlooks of New Old Ideas

| June 15, 2023

Tailored to specific geographic areas, local community currencies are alternative monetary systems designed to empower local businesses and foster engagement while promoting a greater sense of unity of a place. Although these community currencies have never become mainstream practice throughout history, they have repeatedly risen in popularity during times of economic crisis or instability. In the wake of the pandemic, a resurgent interest in community currencies—now powered by blockchain and Web3 technologies—is reshaping the way cities approach local financing and engagement of their constituents. Over the last two years, mayors from major U.S. cities such as New York City, Jackson, Tampa Bay, Miami, and Austin made headlines by openly endorsing cryptocurrencies and embracing the idea of city-branded tokens in hopes of unlocking alternative ways of fundraising and boosting local economic growth during the crypto market’s heyday. With a rich history rooted in times of economic turmoil, community currencies offer both inspiring success stories and cautionary tales of the challenges that lie ahead as cities navigate the evolving financial landscape. As we consider the possibilities of community currencies powered by crypto, we ask: Are they just a temporary fad that poses potential risks and little value, or do they hold the potential to truly offer a synergistic solution to the problems facing cities today? Could they digitally revolutionize the age-old practice of local community currency and elevate public purpose value and social impact?