PIR-25: New technologies and international security

The area of nonproliferation has been a priority for the PIR Center from the very first days of its existence. But a few years ago, rapid technological changes began to take place on the field: autonomous robots, artificial intelligence, hypersonic devices became widespread in the world. We can confidently say that the PIR Center was one of the first to notice them. This is how the New Technologies and International Security program was born.

Already in 2016, the PIR Center drew attention to emerging risks by organizing the international conference Agenda 21 – New Technologies and Global Security Challenges.

Since then, we have published several studies describing the main groups of threats associated with the emergence of lethal autonomous systems and the use of artificial intelligence products in military communications and command and control systems, intelligence and analysis of collected data, missile early warning systems, and nuclear weapons control.

These systems are constantly being improved, new technologies are regularly emerging that add new capabilities to existing weapons. At some stage, a qualitative leap occurs, and a new strike system appears, a kind of “superweapon”.

The analyst is required to keep abreast, follow the technological innovations, and try to foresee where the next “breakthrough” technology will lead military science. A good help in this is the exchange of knowledge and opinions with foreign colleagues. Conferences at various venues from MGIMO to the UN, as well as membership in the International Panel on the Regulation of Autonomous Weapons Systems (IPRAW), where I am the only representative from Russia, help a lot in this.

Today, the opinion of the PIR Center staff on the issues of new technologies and challenges to global security is wanted to be heard not only at many international forums. The PIR Center prepared a course of lectures on the main “disturbing” technologies, and actually participates in the formation of an expert community on this topic in Russia and abroad.

I see the problem in that mentally humanity is still living in the 20th century, not realizing what consequences new technologies bring to us. The forgotten terms “strategic stability” and “balance of power” have returned to the circulation of political scientists. Experts started talking about “cold war – 2”. New frightening concepts were also born: Prompt Global Strike, Third offset strategy and Defense Innovation Initiative. Today, humanity has come close to deploying strike weapons in space.

The world continues to live by the rules of the 20th century, which are still set and dictated by Washington, which retains its leadership positions and seeks to maintain them in the future.

The rules have been preserved, but the world has changed significantly.

The armed forces are being transformed. These changes can be seen in the examples of the emergence of new types of weapons:

  • Ballistic missile defense
  • Cyber Troops and Cyber Command
  • Space Forces
  • Intelligence based on artificial intelligence
  • Means of information warfare
  • New means of electronic warfare
  • Electronic countermeasures
  • Laser weapons
  • Unmanned vehicles
  • Robotic complexes
  • UAV
  • Means of combating UAVs
  • Hypersonic devices.

New technologies appear regularly that speed up the processes of collecting and analyzing information, automate the adoption and execution of decisions:

  • Intelligent self-learning supply chains
  • Internet of things
  • Cloud logistics
  • Robotics and Automation
  • Unmanned transportation
  • UAV
  • Digital ID
  • Predictive supply and maintenance.

A novelty has appeared in the formula of human hostel that is changing the situation in the field of international security:

1.Thanks to new technologies, colossal military potentials are emerging in the world, making full-fledged military conflicts almost impossible. The risk of irreparable damage becomes global.

2. Integration processes on the planet lead to a deep interdependence of states in the economic, financial, informational, infrastructural and other areas.

3. The world is becoming transparent thanks to tracking satellites for various purposes, social networks, Internet resources that record the movement of ships and aircraft, programs for remote control and management of various equipment, and software update systems. Today, there are about two thousand satellites in orbit, of which several hundred are owned by commercial companies.

4. The critical infrastructure of almost any country today is vulnerable. At the same time, the scale of vulnerability is difficult to assess or predict. Modern technologies make it possible to use the Internet space for both peaceful and destructive purposes. It can be “mined”, and so far no entity with access to the global network can be sure that it is insured against “cyber mines”. The cyberattack on the Venezuelan power grid in March 2019 illustrates the vulnerability of the country’s infrastructure.

That is, we most likely already live in a world where a major conflict is impossible, although local ones are still possible. This unites us to some extent.

New technologies need to be handled with care, as we know from history that in the old days they could dictate the behavior of leaders and provoke conflicts. Some researchers believe that this is exactly what happened at the beginning of the 20th century, when new technologies – the telegraph, railways, conscription and the mobilization plan – pushed the European powers into the abyss of the First World War.

Today we are witnessing similar processes in the military sphere, when the use of artificial intelligence to collect and analyze information, the use of programs for communication, control, automation of scenario development and decision-making processes, which I call outsourcing of the C3IRS sphere, can cause a large-scale military conflict.

Mankind has not forgotten the experience of “peaceful coexistence” in the conditions of the “cold war”. We remember that it is possible to maintain peace even in an alarming state of outrageous armament. For such a model of human coexistence in the 20th century, civilization developed detente mechanisms that are still applicable today:

  • Arms control
  • Confidence and transparency measures
  • Hotlines
  • Meetings of experts, military, diplomats
  • Cultural, student exchanges, etc.

But in the 21st century, humanity faces challenges that require common efforts and concerted action. Today, there is a demand for a new policy and new leaders who could unite humanity to solve common problems based on common values and common goals.

Sometimes they joke that a common threat, for example, the invasion of the Martians, could unite East and West. However, we already have common threats that promise to destroy humanity without an invasion from outer space.

The first is a serious threat of ecological catastrophe.

Humanity lives in the misguided expectation that technology will be the key to solving problems in this area as well, and renewable energy will save future generations from looking for complex solutions that require lifestyle changes.

Meanwhile, the report of the Club of Rome “Come On! Capitalism”[1] points to a systemic error – incorrect guidelines and criteria for success chosen by mankind. An example is such an indicator as the gross domestic product, which the authors call the product of “empty world” thinking. It reflects spending, the speed at which money moves in the economy, not well-being or subjective happiness, and does not see goods that exist outside the market. This indicator has become a factor that has a constant impact on political decisions, but in its structure lies the desire for unlimited growth.

Strong scientific evidence confirms that five interconnected negative trends, five global crises, have emerged in the past few decades:

1. Climate change;

2. Beginning of mass extinction and reduction of biodiversity;

3. Destruction of ecosystems, which in turn destroys human life support systems;

4. Pollution of soil, water and air with harmful emissions that negatively affect basic biological processes, cause severe diseases and undermine the ability of people to cope with other problems;

5. The rapid growth of the human population, accompanied by old patterns of production and consumption.

Environmental problems will be exacerbated by social challenges associated with the prospect of total robotization of production, the release of a mass of low-skilled workers and the emergence of “new low-skilled”.

The second threat is that we are entering an era when the role of a person can be reduced to a minimum, and the concept of human dignity can be marginalized both due to the depreciation of human labor and due to the fact that “artificial intelligence”, or rather, “artificial intelligence” , will surpass the human, displace it not only from the sphere of production, but also from the sphere of service, and even creativity, perhaps – politics.

Today, no government is prepared for the consequences of mass automation of production.

Much is known about these threats and much has been written, however, they have not yet become a reason for changing approaches to the rules of human society.

Probably, the problem is related to the weakening of the institution of moral leadership on the planet, the lack of recognized political, religious, philosophical authorities.

We see the spreading instability, the dissatisfaction of the population of developed countries with the state of the world, personal troubles, we observe disunity, an ideological vacuum regarding the further development of human society. Mankind needs a new holistic humanistic worldview aimed at the future and sustainable development. The collective wisdom of civilization aims to find a balance:

  • In the relationship between man and nature;
  • Between the short term and the long term;
  • Between speed and stability – change and progress should not be perceived as a value in itself.

In October 1987, Mikhail Gorbacheva, in his book Perestroika and New Thinking for Our Country and the World, outlined the concept of “new thinking”, which included[2]:

  • The priority of universal human values over class values, the rejection of the class struggle and the de-idolization of foreign policy;
  • The solution of conflicts not by military means, but by political means, that is, building international relations on the basis of a balance of interests and mutual benefit, and not a balance of power;
  • Recognition of the world as one, rejection of the concept of division into socialists and capitalists;
  • Strict observance of the principle of equality in relations and non-interference in internal affairs;
  • Recognition of the right of every people to choose their own destiny;
  • A statement of the fact that security can only be mutual.

The ideas of Mikhail Gorbachev did not become a global moral guide: in the West they were interpreted as a manifestation of weakness and readiness for concessions. In the memory of Russians, Gorbachev’s concept of “new thinking” also has a deeply negative connotation.

The world missed the chance to harmonize the rules of human society in the 20th century, and for this it is punished by today’s crises and future risks.

The 21st century is waiting for new concepts of sustainable development. Probably, the world will witness the competition of management and education models in the era of climate change and the robotization of production and public life on the planet. Perhaps they will proceed from the fact that:

  • Humanity needs global rules that are binding on all countries. Individual states have no right to start projects, the consequences of which may affect the entire planet;
  • Concern for future generations and the preservation of the diversity of nature and its wealth should become the dominant principle in the development of subsoil and the deployment of industries;
  • Society should set the rules for the markets, and not vice versa;
  • The laws of capitalism – competition and the market – are not universal, and often destructive;
  • States are obliged to ensure social justice, a balance between equality and fair remuneration;
  • Mass-produced products should be as reusable as possible, optimized for repair and reuse.

For 25 years, a dynamic community of caring people has been formed at the PIR Center and around it, where young experts have the opportunity to learn from experienced “experts”, and “experts” – to feed on new ideas and energy from young people. Therefore, the PIR Center has two binoculars: through one we look into the past, and through the other – into the future. In this I see a small model of a creative environment in which it is possible to find solutions to problems and a global level.

Vadim Kozyulin,
PIR Center Project Director for Asian Security;
PIR Center Project Director for New Technologies and International Security