After Man? From Singularity to Specificity

When we discuss artificial intelligence, the digital technology that makes it happen, and singularity – the idea that both of them will exponentially take over the progression of society – we refer to them in singular. This is not a coincidence.

Both, science and fiction have portrayed AI as a particular form of reason, digital technology as an autonomous driver of change, and singularity as a unidirectional technological revolution. However, none of them are necessarily as “singular” as they appear.

Singluarity represented by HAL, the rogue computer from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. PHOTO: Flickr.com/Rosenfeld Media

Rather, the different contexts in which digital technologies come to matter create a broad variety of knowledge and social effects. For example, digital technologies are currently used for predictions of any kind: from the spreading of pandemics to political elections and crime mapping. Not only does each of these predictions produce their specific societal effects: they influence whether or not we get vaccinated, for whom to vote or where to park our car. They also produce more complicated effects, some of which actually make us question their predictive power. Filter bubbles and fake news are just some of them. But what exactly makes these social effects complicated?

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Replication in International Relations

The integrity of science is threatened in many ways – by direct censorship; by commercial, political, or military secrecy; by various forms of publication bias; by exorbitant journal subscription fees that effectively deny access to the general public; by cheating and falsification of results; and by sloppiness in the research process or the editorial process prior to publication.

There isn’t a single antidote to all these problems, but transparency goes a long way in relation to many of them.

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One important way to promote transparency and quality control in published research is to require that systematic data be made available for replication studies.

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This Week in South Sudan – Week 7

Wednesday 15 February The Government of South Sudan (GOSS) seeks to cooperate with the private sector and other stakeholders to reverse the deteriorating economy. Clashes between government forces and the SPLA (IO) in Yuai, Jonglei State, as well as the Tigitigi and Ambasa areas, Central Equatoria State. Al Jazeera, In Pictures: “Atrocities prompt mass exodus… Read more »

The Munich Security Conference Focuses on Russia – and Reflects on Putin’s Speech 10 Years Ago

The annual Munich Security Conference will take place later this week (February 17–19) with many prominent speakers, including Dan Smith, former PRIO director and presently SIPRI Director.

It was ten years ago at this forum that President Vladimir Putin delivered a famous speech detailing Russia’s deep dissatisfaction with the world order.

Vladimir Putin in Munich 2007. Photo: Antje Wildgrube, Wikimedia Commons

A decade hence, Russian official media is today full of commentary on the spectacular success the country has purportedly achieved by following the course set by that speech (TASS, RIA Novosti, February 10).

Although he did not, in fact, say much in his 2007 Munich address that had not been said by Russian officials before, Western participants fixated on the assertive way that Putin delivered Moscow’s complaints about the enlargement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and objections to the United States’ global “hegemony.”Read More

This Week in South Sudan – Week 6

Monday 6 February President Salva Kiir dismissed the chief administrator of Abyei, Chol Deng Alak, and replaced him with Kuol Alor Kuol Arop, better known as Kuol Alor Jok. A delegation of Sudanese lawmakers visited Juba for talks with their South Sudanese counterparts on bilateral cooperation. According to an official state report, at least 46… Read more »

Climate, Peace and Security

Despite rapid scientific progress, firm knowledge about the societal consequences of global warming remains limited.

  • What are the implications of climate change for peace and security?
  • Should we expect more wars and more political instability as the world heats up?

The real concerns linked to climate change are not about shrinking glaciers, eroding coastlines, or changes in precipitation patterns. Nor, strictly speaking, are they about coral bleaching, phenological changes, or species migration.

The primary grounds for concern relate to the consequences these physical changes will have for societal development and prosperity, including human well-being and physical security.

It is somewhat discomforting, then, that there is considerably deeper scientific understanding of the impacts humans have on the climate system than of the effects of climate change on human activity.

The Arab Spring showed that higher bread prices made it easier to mobilize mass resistance to governing regimes. Picture from Tahrir square in Egypt. Photo: Aschevogel / Creative Commons / Flickr

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This Week in South Sudan – Week 5

Monday 30 January The Government of South Sudan says establishing the proposed hybrid courts would undermine the peace process.  Tuesday 31 January Clashes reported between government forces and the SPLA (IO) around Malakal, Upper Nile State. Wednesday 1February Clashes between government and rebel forces in the town of Wau Shilluk, Upper Nile State have forced… Read more »

Sleepless in the Age of Trump

What we know about how great power wars start should make us terrified of President Trump.

I don’t sleep at night, because of Donald Trump. This is unusual. I wasn’t kept awake at night by George W. Bush or Bill Clinton. Nor do I lose sleep over hot-blooded authoritarians such as Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un or Turkey’s Erdogan.

Donald Trump. Pete Linforth / CC 0 Public Domain / Pixabay

Why? The reason I’m being kept awake – for the first time in my life – by, and am terrified of, a democratically elected politician is simple: given that wars between superpowers are often caused by unpredictability and miscalculation, the danger of nuclear war will most likely increase significantly under President Trump.

At this point many, perhaps particularly on the left, will object that Hillary Clinton would have posed a greater threat to world peace than Trump. She would have taken a hard line with Russia; probably boosted NATO forces in Europe; imposed a no-fly zone over Syria; and been hawkish in the Middle East. As Trump’s election campaign, Russian propagandists, and far left-wing critics of Clinton were prone to claim, Clinton’s foreign policy would have started World War III. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t have lost much sleep over a President Hillary Clinton, but Trump’s presidency scares me to death.

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Dialogue for Freedom, Security and Peace

Security Dialogue is a scholarly journal devoted to thinking clearly, systematically, and critically about world politics and the conditions that facilitate security and peace. Freedom and truth are core values of both the academic project and of democracy: we believe that constant, reflexive dialogue is the only viable path towards peace, equality, and justice within… Read more »

Welcome to the Security Dialogue Blog

Welcome to the new blog for Security Dialogue. Security Dialogue aims to combine cutting-edge advances in theory with new empirical findings across a range of fields relevant to the study of security. The journal is edited at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO). To stay up to date on new posts, you can follow us on… Read more »