We are currently witnessing an unprecedented proliferation of emerging and disruptive technologies (EDTs) in the cyber-physical domains. This is coupled by the increased weaponization of civil commercial technologies and the prioritization of high-tech solutions to mitigate international security and defence challenges. Game-changing technological advancements in fields ranging from artificial intelligence (AI) systems to big data, additive manufacturing to autonomous robotics, remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) or drones to lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS), quantum-enabled technologies to biotechnologies, all have important dual-use applications for civil and military purposes. Some are already shaping or expected to radically transform power relations, the ontology of warfare, human security, and human-machine relations in the battlefield. Great powers such as the United States and China, international organisation like the European Union and NATO, as well as commercial tech giants, are currently engaged in an evolving technological ‘race’ to harness their strategic and economic potential.

The Course contributes to the understanding of the technology-security research nexus, special consideration being given to the impact of high-tech and mediated security and defence practices. This Course will highlight diverse interconnections between technology, power, human agency, and security, as triggered by new and emerging technologies. The Course will focus on historical and theoretical insights at the intersection of International Relations (IR), Strategic Studies, (Critical) Security Studies (CSS), and Science and Technology Studies (STS) academic literatures. It will also leverage concrete empirical examples and case studies, the Course thus providing a critical overview of various security and defence technologies in past, contemporary, and future warfare. The Course will also engage with broader conceptual, ethical, (geo)political, normative, and governance concerns related to the use of such technologies in the conflict management cycle. In this respect, students will learn about this growing research field in IR and CSS, as an evolving and conceptually heterogenous space of interdisciplinarity and theoretical contestation.

Specific themes covered in the Course range from scholarly and conceptual engagements with the notion of the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA), technological solutionism and disruption, socio-technical imaginaries of security and defence, technologies of risks, human enhancement, algorithmic embodiment of war, quantum-enabled and AI-powered security and defence, biased AI, surveillance and network-centric warfare, remote warfare and lethal autonomous ways of war. By the end of the Course, students will have acquired familiarity with past and current theoretically informed and practice-oriented perspectives examining the nexus between technology and security. Students will be able to engage with academic discussions, both critically and analytically, and explore how new and emerging technologies are changing contemporary security and defence processes and policies, as well as the new ways in which EDTs shape and affect how conflicts are fought, framed, governed, and perceived in the 21st century.