SEST-562 Emerging Technologies and Security
Fall for 2013-2014
This course surveys nascent technologies that have the potential to transform global security and conflict behavior during the first half of the 21st century. The course begins with an overview of recent scientific progress in a spectrum of emerging technologies, and then shifts to a weekly exposition of specific new technologies. Key topics include genetic engineering, nanotechnology, superconductivity, machine intelligence, micromechanical systems, high-energy lasers, virtual reality, and nonlethal weapons. In assessing the significance of these technologies, the course examines not only their direct military consequences, but broader cultural and economic implications that may indirectly have security ramifications. The potential for various technologies to transform security relationships is explored.
The following syllabi may help you learn more about this course (login required):
Spring '14: VanAtta R (file download)
Fall '13: VanAtta R (file download)
Additional syllabi may be available in prior academic years.
SEST-562-01 Emerging Technologies and Security
Spring for 2013-2014
Emerging Technologies and Security
SEST 562—Spring 2014
Dr. Richard Van Atta
Security Studies Program
Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service
In this course, we will consider how various “emerging” technologies hold potential for having significant impact on issues of international security. The context for technological progress is increasingly global. Exploration and exploitation of emerging technologies is being conducted by an ever widening array of participants interacting in increasingly complex networks across social boundaries. Yet emerging technologies will not be available equally to all. In general, they will be the focus of intense competition among governments (regional, national, and internal) and industrial firms.
As an introduction, the course will address what it means to seek competitive advantage through emerging technologies. Some of the overarching policy aspects include:
• Technologies don't “emerge" on their own; they are made to emerge through human endeavor
• The process of moving technologies from the laboratory to the customer means crossing many conceptual and organizational boundaries—what does it take to overcome these barriers?
• Technologies are only useful in the context of systems that exploit them to implement new and often organizationally disruptive concepts
• Investing in technologies entails uncertainty and requires judgment and choices amongst alternatives and strategies
• The changing security and economic environments challenge the premises from which US technology policy has drawn for decades
This course will present an array of emerging technologies, including: micro devices; nanotechnologies; robotics; unmanned systems; distributed sensor networks; embedded, ubiquitous information systems; intelligent systems; bio-genetic sensing and processing. For each of these, we will summarize what the technology is, try to understand its potential and its portent, and then analyze what its implications might be for security. From that, we will discuss the most salient policy issues that the technology presents.
From the security perspective, as we investigate these technology areas we will ask:
1. How does or could this technology affect security? Is its primary impact on the military arena? In what other ways could it impact on security concerns?
2. Would this technology have revolutionary impact on security? In what way?
3. Would development of this technology offer strategic advantage to a state and its security?
4. What are the policy issues entailed in these technology areas and their development?
Other academic years
There is information about this course number in other academic years: