USIP's Science, Technology & Peacebuilding Roundup

United States Institute of Peace


Center of Innovation: Science, Technology and Peacebuilding

Weekly News Roundup, November 8 - 14, 2012

Table of Contents

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Obama Signs Secret Directive to Help Thwart Cyberattacks
President Obama has signed a secret directive that effectively enables the military to act more aggressively to thwart cyberattacks on the nation's web of government and private computer networks. Presidential Policy Directive 20 establishes a broad and strict set of standards to guide the operations of federal agencies in confronting threats in cyberspace, according to several U.S. officials who have seen the classified document and are not authorized to speak on the record.
See the full article (Washington Post, Ellen Nakashima, 11/14/12)
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Guest Post: Entrepreneurs Innovating for Peace in Afghanistan
The development of private enterprise is an important stabilizing force, particularly in post-conflict countries plagued by political instability and civil unrest. Afghanistan is no exception. Despite the bleak news often reported from the country - from insurgency to rampant corruption - a number of Afghans are choosing to fight for peace and stabilization by creating jobs and generating growth. This unlikely band of tech entrepreneurs is dreaming of Google from its perch in the Kabul Valley.
See the full article (Council on Foreign Relations, 11/13/12)
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The Paradox of Nonlethal Weapons
Under international law, killing an enemy is more permissible than blinding him. Not all weapons are designed to kill; some are just meant to cause injury. Yet under the rules of war - a somewhat haphazard collection of ethical and legal directives - we are sometimes allowed to use lethal weapons even when certain nonlethal weapons are disallowed. In short, the lethal weapons are more permissible on the battlefield.
See the full article (Slate, Fritz Allhoff, 11/13/12)
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The Places Where America's Drones Are Striking, Now on Instagram (Atlantic, 11/12/12)
So far this year the American military has launched more than 330 drone strikes in Afghanistan alone. In Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia the numbers are smaller -- 80 altogether -- but the lesser frequency doesn't make the strikes any more comprehensible. A new project, Dronestagram, is doing the searching for you, marrying the images of Google Maps satellite view to the episodic, image-sharing capacities of Tumblr and Instagram. The rural pockets of Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan have never felt so close and so far away.
See the full article (Atlantic, Rebecca J. Rosen, 11/12/12)
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Is World Peace Possible?
At the recent Singularity Summit in San Francisco, psychologist and cognitive scientist Steven Pinkertold BBC Future about how we are predisposed to be violent but how we are also predisposed to be peaceful. There are some parts to the brain that impel us to carry out violence, such as the thirst for revenge, feelings of tribalism, or the quest for dominance. But packed into the same skull there are motives that inhibit us from violence that allow us to see violence as a problem to be solved instead of a contest to be won.
See the full article (BBC, 11/12/12)
Click to read about USIP's upcoming event "The Missing Peace Symposium" on February 14, 2013 at 8:30am.
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Disruption at the Intersection of Technology and Human Rights
Standing in the Holocaust Memorial Museum and in one of his first public statements on the subject, US President Barack Obama acknowledged the role technology has played in enabling human rights abuses. On April 23, 2012, [directed] the Treasury Department to introduce sanctions against Iranians and Syrians who tortured and killed their own citizens. The announcement was a formal and public recognition of the transformative and disruptive role of technology - albeit, in this case for harm.
See the full article (Forbes, 11/12/12)
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Why We Need New "Rules of War"
Some people worry about the use of drones - unmanned aerial vehicles - in warfare. Others are concerned about potential deployment of lethal autonomous robots that are programmed to identify, track, and destroy targets and people without a human decision-maker in the loop. But the hyperventilation about specific technologies such as UAVs or lethal autonomous robots obscures two more subtle but fundamental challenges.
See the full article (Slate, Brad Allenby and Carolyn Mattick, 11/12/12)
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