Technology and International Security: From Interstate Influence Operations to Technological Revolutions and the Rise and Fall of Great Powers


Date and Time

June 2, 2021 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM


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Virtual Seminar

* Please note all CISAC events are scheduled using the Pacific Time Zone.


Seminar Recording:


About the Event: 

This presentation explores two topics at the nexus of technology and international security: interstate influence operations and technological revolutions.

After Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, influence operations have become a central focus among American policymakers, foreign policy pundits, and publics alike. Yet, Goldstein argues that they remain under-explored and under-theorized in international security studies, with disagreement over how to define the phenomenon implicit in the existing literature. Goldstein will introduce a conceptual framework for foreign influence operations and argue that security studies scholars should pay greater attention to the subject for two reasons. First, they are policy-relevant and likely to remain so; they are cost effective, propagandists are prone to inflate their impact, and they are difficult to deter. Second, studying influence operations can contribute to the academic discipline of security studies by helping to expand restrictive notions of state power and challenge dominant models of foreign policy decision-making.

How do emerging technologies affect the rise and fall of great powers? Scholars have long observed that rounds of technological revolution disrupt the economic balance of power, bringing about a power transition in the international system. However, there has been limited investigation of how this process occurs. The standard explanation emphasizes a country’s ability to dominate innovation in leading sectors, seizing monopoly profits in new, fast-growing industries centered around major technological breakthroughs. Investigating historical cases of industrial revolutions followed by economic power transitions, Ding will present an alternative mechanism based on the diffusion of general-purpose technologies. The findings have direct implications for how recent breakthroughs in artificial intelligence could affect the U.S.-China power balance.


About the Speakers: 

Jeffrey Ding is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford. Jeffrey’s current research is centered on how technological change affects the rise and fall of great powers. Through investigating historical cases of industrial revolutions, Jeffrey traces causal mechanisms that connect significant technical breakthroughs and economic power transitions — with an eye toward the implications of advances in AI for a possible U.S.-China power transition. Jeffrey’s previous research covered related topics, including China's development of AI, identifying strategic goods and technologies, and technical standards as a vehicle of AI governance.


Josh A. Goldstein is a PhD Candidate and Clarendon Scholar in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford. For the 2020-2021 year, he is a pre-doctoral fellow with the Stanford Internet Observatory and part of the inaugural class of non-resident Hans J. Morgenthau Fellows at the Notre Dame International Security Center. Josh’s 3-paper doctoral dissertation takes a multi-method approach to studying the challenges that democracies face from influence operations. His broader research interests lie in international security, political psychology, and foreign policy-decision making.


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