Believing Technology Hype: Cyber versus the Revolution in Military Affairs | Frank Smith

Tuesday, February 20, 2024
1:00 PM - 2:00 PM

William J. Perry Conference Room

  • Frank Smith

About the Event: The future of technology is unknown. In some cases, however, the military accepts exceptional expectations about future technology. What technology hype is accepted? And why does the military accept some exceptional expectations but dismiss similar hype about other kinds of emerging technology? Paradoxically, despite discourse about “revolution” and “disruption,” I argue that the hype audiences accept depends on their established identities and interests. They choose to embrace technology hype so long as the imagined change is familiar. Unfamiliar change is rejected. To test my argument, I posit that the U.S. military’s established identities and interests favor offense over defense, and kinetic over non-kinetic capabilities. I then compare the military’s response to discourse about the Cyber Revolution versus the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA). The latter was familiar; the former was not. I find that the armed services were more willing to act on hype about the RMA. The military’s conservative bias is well documented in scholarship about bureaucratic politics and technological innovation. What makes the contrast between the RMA and Cyber Revolution so remarkable is how persistent that bias can be—even when the military thinks about revolutionary change and the future of war.

About the Speaker: Frank L. Smith III is a Professor and Director of the Cyber & Innovation Policy Institute at the U.S. Naval War College. His interdisciplinary research and teaching examine how ideas about technology—especially bad ideas—influence national security and international relations. His current research examines international cooperation on military science, cyber wargames, and the impact of technology hype. Previous scholarship includes his book, American Biodefense, as well as articles published in Security StudiesSocial Studies of ScienceSecurity DialogueHealth SecurityAsian Security, and The Lancet. His policy work includes helping draft the 2023 National Defense Science and Technology Strategy. He has a PhD in political science and a BS in biological chemistry, both from the University of Chicago. 

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