Better Monitoring and Better Spying: The Implications of Emerging Technology for Arms Control (Fall 2021)




Vaynman, Jane

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Texas National Security Review



How will emerging technology affect prospects for arms control? Technologies such as small satellites and artificial intelligence (AI) have applications in arms control monitoring and can affect the amount of information collected or the ease of information processing. While intuition suggests that technologies that improve monitoring should make arms control easier to achieve, this is not always the case. In considering agreements, states face a trade-off between beneficial and adverse aspects of information. States need transparency to observe behavior and assure compliance, but the same information used to monitor an agreement can also be used to gain a military advantage. Monitoring that allows for more effective espionage will mean that transparency comes at the expense of high threats to security. Three key factors are important in assessing the potential impact of any technology: how it affects unilateral monitoring capabilities; the degree to which it allows demonstrable control over information; and the effect that it has on concealment. These factors provide a framework to analyze the likely effects of emerging technologies, four of which are addressed here: small satellites, drones, AI, and digital additive manufacturing.

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