Innovation Acceleration, Digitization, and the Arms Control Imperative

26 Pages Posted: 30 May 2019

See all articles by Amy J. Nelson

Amy J. Nelson

DGAP-Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Auswaerige Politik/German Council on Foreign Relations; National Defense University, Center for the Study of WMD; CISSM, University of Maryland College Park, School of Public Policy

Date Written: March 26, 2019

Abstract

The integrity of arms control regimes as a tool for lowering the risks associated with the stockpiling, use and spread of dangerous weapons and technologies is in jeopardy today. Simultaneously, several factors concerning the way military technologies are developed and acquired are converging to further augment the risk of their spread, enabling a next-generation proliferation problem that is far from manageable. This paper first argues that arms control regimes are designed to manage specific security risks, and new technologies are exacerbating these risks by perforating controls and eluding regulation. It then explains why this is poised to worsen: new drivers of this risk are converging to create unmanageable conditions. These drivers include: 1) the increased rate of production of novel technologies; 2) the digitization of existing weapons technologies, platforms and systems, as well as the digital format of newer technologies; and 3) the diffusion and latency they facilitate. Finally, it speaks to next steps, describing how previous and ongoing efforts to “modernize” arms control have borne little fruit in terms of managing newer threats from emerging and evolving technologies due a failure to update control lists — the list of items and technologies regulated by any regime — at a pace consistent with the rate of innovation, as well as political setbacks, and tension with the private sector. Based on data analysis of technology-driven treat behaviors, the paper recommends that we should, nevertheless, endeavor to preserve the arms control regimes we do have in place in order to avoid proliferation rollback (establish measures and timelines for moving potential threats back to a latent state), while simultaneously pursuing additional measures to broaden regimes.

Keywords: Innovation, Digitization, Arms Control, Dual-Use, Technology, Global Governance, Regulation

Suggested Citation

Nelson, Amy J. and Nelson, Amy J., Innovation Acceleration, Digitization, and the Arms Control Imperative (March 26, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3382956 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3382956

Amy J. Nelson (Contact Author)

DGAP-Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Auswaerige Politik/German Council on Foreign Relations ( email )

Berlin
Germany

National Defense University, Center for the Study of WMD ( email )

Washington, DC
United States

CISSM, University of Maryland College Park, School of Public Policy ( email )

2101 Van Munching Hall
College Park, MD 20742
United States

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