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Future Challenges for Global Security

Interview with Nayef Al-Rodhan

Q: Professor Nayef Al-Rodhan, you began your career as a neurosurgeon and neuroscientist. Later on, approximately in 2002 you changed the focus of your career to the relation between neuroscience and international relations. What feature of the international relations field caught your attention?

A: The idea that neither man nor state are rational... that justice (minimally defined as fairness) is pivotal to sustainable security, that it is possible to compete internationally in a non-conflictual way, and that dignity preservation for all was as important as political freedom for accountable government and sustainable prosperity.

Q: Among your research interests we can find topics like geopolitics, global and national security, war and peace. In 2012, you published a book entitled: "Meta-Geopolitics of Outer Space: An Analysis of Space Power, Security and Governance". Could you please give us a general overview of this book and also help us more adequately understand the term: "Meta-Geopolitics"?

A: Meta-Geopolitics is my proposed framework for a more holistic geopolitics in a globalized world that encompasses seven state capacities. The Space book was an attempt to apply that to the politics of outer space and propose ways to keep it security as a global commons for humanity. Two problems are adressed which are: space debris, and potential weaponization of space. Two of my previously published paradigms are offered as possible solutions which are; symbiotic realism theory and multi-sum security principle.

Q: Back in October of 2013, at the talk "The Art of Strategy" for the Institute of Art and Ideas (IAI), you said among other things: "(...) how the world has changed because of what we call instant connectivity and interdependence of humanity"... In your opinion, how have those two factors alongside with globalization modified the world?

A: These were the results of globalization and primarily the result of the information and communication technology revolution. These two consequences have accentuated the positive and negative aspects of a globalised world. They brought cultures together yet they increased misunderstanding. They enabled political and humanitarian discourse to be instantly seen everywhere without offering solutions thus accentuating the cynicism in the ability of the current international system to deal with mass atrocities, injustices and human rights violations...etc.

Q: In the same talk "The Art of Strategy", you also mentioned the "Global Security Paradigm" and the "emotionality of states". Can you please tell us what the Global Security Paradigm is?

A: I published a book called the Five dimensions of Global Security. In this I suggested that global security has five dimensions: human security, national security, transnational security, environmental security and transcultural security. I also advocated what I called the Multi-sum security principle, which states that in a globalised world, every state and every culture has to be secure if everybody else wants to be secure and that justice was a pre-requisite to sustainable security.

Q: What do you refer to when you talk about the emotionality of states?

A: I have written on this quite a bit, basically IR theory assumes that states are rational actors in the pursuit of the national interest. I have shown numerous examples (past and present) that states do behave rationally most of the time, but often behave irrationally/emotionally thus sabotaging their values and their national interest.

Q: In terms of Global Security, what would you say is a top security issue, not for one nation but to all?

A: The compromise of human dignity, primarily through domestic poor governance and external geopolitical manipulation. This is manifested as: inequality, injustices, marginalization, humiliation.

Q: Some regions of the world face different challenges concerning the management of water. For example, according to statistics shown by FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) "783 million people do not have access to clean and safe water. 37% of those people live in Sub-Saharan Africa". Would you say that water management is a security issue? Why?

A: Absolutely. This is because it is central to people's lives and livelihood. It is also intimately tied to food security which is pivotal to prosperous societies. Therefore it has huge national and global security consequences.

Q: In April of 2015, you published the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs an article entitled: "The security implications and existential crossroads of artificial intelligence" where you talk widely about Artificial Intelligence and the implications of emerging technologies for security, ethics and even human existence. Do you think the development of AI has benefited humanity or has it negatively affected humanity?

A: AI is of great benefit to humanity now and in the future... but it has the potential to be what we call a "Run-away technology", where we may lose control of it, thus potentially compromising our freedom, dignity or even survival. Therefore we need to encourage its development and innovation but we need strict oversight mechanisms to mitigate against its potential problems in the future.

Q: What is your evaluation of AI applied to warfare? Do you think it will represent a threat in a future?

A: Yes... because it will make war more brutal and less accountable.

Q: Are there any existing regulations for Artificial Intelligence?

A: Very little, thus the urgent need to draft pragmatic and enforceable guidelines at the global level.

Q: We have watched it in movies, read it in books, played it in videogames. May the idea seem to be taken out of science fiction; the truth is that there is actually a debate about "human enhancement". What is your opinion of human enhancement in general, do you think it can be more helpful than dangerous?

A: As I have written before, human enhancement is inevitable. It is good for us for the most part, but it has the potential to be detrimental to our freedoms, dignity and equality. It can divide societies between the enhanced and the non-enhanced. There are also many ethical challenges of who gets enhanced and on what terms. So urgent bio ethical guidelines are needed at the global level... The most consequential enhancement is cognitive enhancement, because it will change what it means to be human.

Q: Are there any existing regulations for this?

A: Very little...

Q: If the technological potential existed, what would your opinion be of "biologically enhanced soldiers"?

A: This is a terrible idea... because some of these enhancements are irreversible thus negatively affecting the lives of soldiers.
It will also increase the lethality and brutality of war, thus complicating post-conflict peace efforts and possible reconciliation.

Q: If biologically enhanced soldiers existed, how would they modify the ethics and regulations of warfare?

A: This would be very difficult... but we need to re-draw/re-phrase/enact new ways of seeing war, war code of conduct, liabilities, war crimes, Geneva conventions, etc...


This interview originally appeared in Global Affairs Mexico (page 25).