Nukes of Hazard: Mapping the Risks Emerging Technologies Pose to Nuclear Weapons Modernization

Despite President Trump’s claims that his first order was “to renovate and modernize” the US nuclear arsenal, efforts at nuclear modernization began in 2014 under former President Barack Obama. The plan is expected to cost upwards of $1 trillion dollars over the life cycle of the new systems, with $400 billion of that spent through 2024. The modernization efforts are required if the US nuclear triad—ground based missiles, bombers and submarines—are to be a credible deterrent. However, there is more to upgrading from 8-inch floppy disks and 9-track tape. The information communications structures, which run from the Pentagon to each launch platform at home and abroad, require modernizing. Yet the risks of overhauling the entire nuclear arsenal is not merely about new warheads or missiles but reaches into the very structure of command and control. This talk will focus on two types of emerging technologies that pose significant risks to ageing nuclear weapons arsenals and command, control and communications (C3) architectures: those related to automation and artificial intelligence (AI) and their application to surveillance and warning and decision aides.

About the Speaker

Dr Heather M. Roff is a Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford, a Research Scientist at the Global Security Initiative at the Arizona State University, a Fellow at the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence at the University of Cambridge, and lastly a Fellow at the New America, Washington DC, Cybersecurity Initiative, Future of War Project.

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This lecture was part of the Blavatnik Public Lecture Series at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk.

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