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Neuromorphic Computers: What Will They Change?

By NAYEF AL-RODHAN February 18, 2016,  Global Policy Journal

Even the most intelligent modern robots appear ‘dumb’ in comparison to their human counterparts.”

“Scientists are working to create a brain-inspired computer, which would imitate the brain’s extraordinary ability to grasp the world.”

“The human brain has a series of unique characteristics that cannot yet be replicated by the most advanced computer.”

“In some ways, computers surpass humans and their weaknesses.”

“Unlike robots, humans have common sense and can think “out of the box”.”

“The human brain uses much less energy than a computer, yet it is infinitely more complex and intricate.”

“In contrast to computers, the brain is fully interconnected, with each neuron connected to thousands of others.”

“Although computers have benefited from miniaturization over the past decades, they have still not overcome critical limitations.”

“Brains are slower than computers but can deal with vague, unpredictable data and imprecise information.”

Neuromorphic technology aims to mimic the neural network architecture of the brain.”

“The neuroscientific study of the human brain is nowhere near finalized and neuroscience has yet to grasp all the intricacies of the human brain.”

“Neuromorphic computers would present 3 of the characteristics of the brain: lower power consumption, fault intolerance and no need to be programmed.”

“Brains lose neurons and are still able to function, whereas microprocessors can be affected by the loss of one transistor.”

“Unlike computers, brains are able to learn and respond spontaneously to signals from the environment.”

“Neuromorphic computers could fundamentally change our interaction with intelligent machines.”

“Neuromorphic technology could be the final step towards creating cognitive systems that are able to learn, remember, reason or help humans make better decisions.”

“Neuromorphic technology could impact anything from consumer electronics to warfare.”

“Neuromorphic computers could be used for “intelligent cameras,” equipped with real-time video analysis capability.”

“Neuromorphic computers could accentuate social problems as the very notion of human potential would become less relevant.”

“Neuromorphic chips could be embedded in robots sent into combat zones and left to act and decide their course of action independently.”

“The development of neuromorphic technology could lead to implications that are irreversibly destructive.”


Proposal of a Dignity Scale for Sustainable Governance

By NAYEF AL-RODHAN November 13, 2015, Journal of Public Policy

“Often invoked by scholars, theorists, and leaders, dignity and its critical role in good governance remain insufficiently understood or appreciated.”

More than the need for freedom, democracy and free elections, dignity is fundamental to human existence.” 

“Dignity cuts across North/South (hemispheric), social, ethnical or political divides.”

“Guaranteeing dignity for all, at all times and under all circumstances, is inclusive of all democratic principles in the first place, while simultaneously addressing inequality, something most liberal democracies tackle insufficiently.”

“Dignity is more meaningful and encompassing than the notions of liberty and democracy but the reverse is not true.”

“If we take dignity as a standard for good governance, it exposes the numerous shortcomings in liberal democracies.”

Philosophy has been preoccupied with the meaning of human dignity for decades, yet its specific role in good governance has received less attention, thus the need for  this scale.”

The neurochemical underpinnings of human nature provide invaluable understandings about the importance of dignity to humans, proving its critical role in governance.”

“Dignity is much more than just the opposite of humiliation and includes nine governance-based substrates. “

“Neuroscientific research has revealed that it is common for human beings to rationally “decide” something only after emotions have caused a person to make a certain decision.”

“Emotions are deeply involved in our decision-making.”

“We are vulnerable to manipulation by those who appeal to our emotions with the intent to pursue their own agendas.”

The capacity to discern clearly between our moral and immoral actions should not be taken for granted, especially when confronted with fear and deprivation.”

“The notion of an inborn morality is false.”

“Human beings are amoral at best and are susceptible to the conditions of the environments in which they find themselves.”

Human capacity for moral feeling as well as the willingness to be socially cooperative is significantly determined by the environment.”

It is unlikely that humans, most of the time, will be moral within the context of oppression and injustice.”

“The likelihood of brutishly immoral human behaviour in inclusive, accountable, transparent, and just regimes is significantly reduced.”

Although we lack innate morality, human nature does come with a minimal predisposition geared toward survival.”

Human nature is fundamentally egoistic: at our most foundational level, we are only geared towards survival.”

“Public institutions must be accountable in order to limit the power concentrated by single individuals or a group.”

Regimes that aim to indoctrinate and hold absolute monopolies on truth are unsustainable, and will ultimately lose their grip on power.”

“When basic security is scarce, the likelihood of a scenario reminiscent of Hobbes’ ‘war of all against all’ increases.”

A clearly articulated commitment to human rights is critical to dignity–and sustainable governance.”

“Man’s amoral nature must be balanced with accountability, transparency and justice.”

The judicial system must be transparent, accountable, and non-discriminatory.”

Impartial, well-functioning and transparent judicial systems constitute the backbone of good governance.”

“The egoistic nature of human beings must be balanced by opportunity, inclusiveness and innovation.”

“I have compiled an index that proposes quantifiable indicators for the constitutive elements of governance-based human dignity.”

Governments must craft public policies carefully so as to mediate between the emotionality, amorality and egoism of human nature and our nine dignity needs.”

“The existence of reason can be argued to reflect how important dogma is to a society.”

“The provision of the right to security must be conducted in an effective and accountable manner.”

State leaders must be accountable to the individuals they serve.”

The presence of a significant economic gap between rich and poor prevents economic development and fuel resentment, anger, and even violence.”

“It is hoped that with this proposed dignity scale, it will become clear how the overall situation of dignity presents itself across countries and which indicators need to be improved.”

“Numerous forms of marginalization or exclusion can exist in liberal democracies.”

The mere existence of political rights does not guarantee a dignified life which is a more fundamental human need.”

What is needed, globally, is not necessarily a transition to liberal democracy but rather a more careful consideration of the fundamental human quest for dignity.”

“It is critical for leaders and governments everywhere to give due attention to dignity as a central focus in policy-making.”

Hypersonic Missiles and Global Security

By NAYEF AL-RODHAN November 13, 2015,  The Diplomat

“Between 2014 and June 2015, China conducted four major tests of its hypersonic missiles.”

“To qualify as “hypersonic,” a missile would have to move at least five times the speed of sound (Mach 5), be able to evade counter-fire and strike with great precision.”

“The critical military value of hypersonic systems lies in this ability to strike with unprecedented speed and precision.”

“Historically, the U.S. has been the trendsetter in the development of hypersonic systems and China is now merely playing catch-up.”

“With hypersonic technology concurrently developed by several nations, we are on the brink of a new arms race, with significant geopolitical risks.”

“Supersonic and hypersonic missiles could overcome the constraints of time, distance, and advanced early warning systems.”

“The propulsion system plays a critical role, impacting the speed, range, and payload of a missile.”

“To reach hypersonic speeds, current systems will need to be replaced by what engineers call “air-breathing” systems, or  scramjets.”

“China’s claimed success with the first tests of hypersonic  technology has caused significant anxiety in the U.S.”

“The emergence of hypersonic systems raises familiar geopolitical tensions.”

“To prevent an escalation, a test ban for hypersonic missiles would provide a strong arms control mechanism.”

“A test ban on hypersonic systems could be perceived as discriminatory since some countries have already tested prototypes of the technology.”

“Hypersonic technology could create enough friction to renew strategic arms races and geopolitical rivalries.”

“Hypersonic missile development is likely to proceed at full speed.”

“Competitiveness and national pride will make the option of pursuing hypersonic missiles increasingly attractive.”


The Tripwire Pivotal Corridor Conflicts

By NAYEF AL-RODHAN Oct 29, 2015,  GCSP

"Within the Tripwire Pivotal Corridor (TPC) there are several politically unstable regions: Eastern Ukraine, the Middle East, the Great Lakes region of East Central Africa and Afghanistan/Pakistan." 

"The Tripwire Political Corridor framework builds upon ideas from Halford Mackinder’s “Heartland” theory."

"Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski used the term “geopolitical pivots” to describe the importance of states based on their geographic location and proximity to strategic positions." 

"The TPC runs between the Arctic Circle and Antarctica, between 30 and 75 degrees east." 

"Due to factors such as porous borders and weak, decentralised, unaccountable state apparatuses, regional conflicts in the TPC have the potential to provoke instability elsewhere." 

"Increased spending on defence budgets, particularly in Baltic states or Poland, will be deemed necessary in the face of perceived hostility by Russia."

"It remains to be seen whether Russia can sustain its strategy in Ukraine in the context of Western economic sanctions and  a precipitous drop in oil prices."

"Other than Russia’s ailing economy, there seem to be very few points of leverage Western countries can use against Russia."

"Several attempts at getting the warring parties in Ukraine to adhere to cease-fire proposals have ended in failure." 

"Political consensus and support for an aerial campaign against ISIS militants was relatively easy to achieve, as several countries, including the Gulf States, have joined the anti-ISIS coalition." 

"The threat of IS has created a regional consensus, regardless of ethnicity or religion, and has led to strengthening patterns of cooperation amongst erstwhile adversaries." 

"Developing a coherent strategy beyond the use of airstrikes will require considerable efforts at coordination amongst the coalition’s participants."

"To prevent the rise of any future ISIS-like organisations, geopolitical stakeholders must tackle the underlying issues that continue to fuel the Syrian conflict." 

"Thus far, the Security Council voting system has been hamstrung when violations are meted out by geopolitical allies of any of the five, as is the case with Syria." 

"Yemen has already been destabilised by its own experience with an Arab Spring revolution, and the new power vacuum in the capital, Sanaa, adds further turmoil in the Persian Gulf region." 

"The instability in Yemen  is now at levels where the splitting apart of the country itself is conceivable." 

"Despite the conflict’s overarching regional implications, sustainable peace in Yemen will need to come from a localised agreement by Yemeni actors themselves."

"The Arab-Israeli conflict remains one of the most persistent sources of instability in the Middle East." 

"After decades of failed peace initiatives, the situation in Palestine continues to fuel deep resentment among the countries of the region, and has global implications." 

"There are currently no realistic prospects of a peaceful resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict." 

"In 2014 alone, Israel approved almost 14,000 new settlements on occupied Palestinian land." 

"The rate of settlement approvals for East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank reached unprecedented levels in 2014." 

"The settlement freeze could have opened the way for new talks, but the opportunity was missed." 

"The re-election of Netanyahu in early 2015 is doing little to solve the pressing Arab-Israeli conflict." 

"In the larger TPC region, East Central Africa is a critical source of geopolitical instability." 

"Conflicts in the Great Lakes region have favoured the emergence of key geostrategic actors that are key in bringing regional stability." 

"Rwanda is aspiring to greater regional power status by pursuing a more active foreign policy."

"The strengthening of Uganda’s military has allowed the country to become more of a geopolitical presence." 

"Should the US distance itself from its regional allies in Central Africa, it could provide China with an opening as it attempts to become more politically involved in the region."

"China’s position in Central Africa could be  bolstered by their already considerable economic investment in the continent."

"As long as lawlessness prevails in the Afghan countryside, activities such as opium and heroin production will continue to thrive." 

"Better cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan is a key determinant to improving regional stability. "

"The TPC’s three major choke points, crucial shipping channels, and abundant national resources like oil, gas, and minerals, have left this space inclined to frequent contestation."

"Localised conflicts in the TPC often cease to remain local, and can have repercussions across the entire globe. "

"Despite the global implications of the TPC conflicts, solutions will need to come from localised agreements between conflicting parties."


The Privatization of Space: When Things Go Wrong

By NAYEF AL-RODHAN Aug 14, 2015,  ISN Blog, ETH Zurich

"Recent incidents are a reminder of the importance to assess the implications of private sector involvement in state-sponsored space programs."

"Over the past few years, private companies have been hailed as the new major players in space."

"From an operational point of view, private companies can implement decisions and fund projects much faster than most governments."

"Private companies can now complete missions that only governments had been able to previously."

"Outsourcing government space projects to private companies can lead to complications."

"The greatest benefit of the shift to private space exploration is cost."

"Private companies must bid for NASA contracts, lowering the taxpayer cost of these missions."  

"NASA is beholden to the government and the taxpayer, while private companies must deal with a more complex web of investors/shareholders."  

"Government space programs are no strangers to failed launches, or to human casualties."

"The only space program which has no known casualties to date is China’s."

"Governments are most likely not held accountable to the same degree as private companies are."

"A private company could make an easy scapegoat if ever a government’s legitimacy were to be threatened due to a mishap."

"Private space companies still have to answer to their investors, and to governments, but otherwise have quite a large amount of freedom."

"The bottom line for a private company is more intensely scrutinized than where a government is investing its tax dollars."

"The shift to using private companies is well underway, and both companies and governments have a lot to gain from such a partnership." 

The Moral Code: How to teach robots right and wrong

  By NAYEF AL-RODHAN Aug 12, 2015, Foreign Affairs

Over the years, robots have become smarter and more autonomous, but so far they still lack an essential feature: the capacity for moral reasoning.”

“In 2014, the U.S. Office of Naval Research offered a $7.5 million grant to an interdisciplinary research team to build robots endowed with moral competence.

More than seven decades ago, Isaac Asimov described the “three laws of robotics”—a moral compass for artificial intelligence.”

The fundamental premise behind Asimov’s laws was to minimize conflicts between humans and robots.”

Robots will be deployed in more complex situations that require spontaneous choices.”

“Artificial moral agents” is the term for intelligent systems endowed with moral reasoning and able to interact with humans as partners.”

Operational morality refers to responses that have been entirely anticipated and pre-coded by the designer of the robot system.”

Functional morality involves robot responses to scenarios unanticipated by the programmer.”

The most critical of these dilemmas is the question of whose morality robots will inherit.”

Moral values differ greatly from individual to individual, across national, religious, and ideological boundaries, and are highly dependent on context.”

Human morality is already tested in countless ways, and so too will be the morality of autonomous robots and artificial intelligence.”

Do we trust a robot to anticipate and weigh the numerous possible consequences of its actions?”

For the time being, most questions of relativism are being set aside as the U.S. military remains the chief patron of artificial intelligence.”

There are major technical challenges in coding something as abstract as morality into transistors.”

The top-down approach to robot morality requires encoding specific moral values into an algorithm and these are determined by the robot’s developers.”

“The bottom-up approach to robot morality is based on letting robots acquire moral competence through their own learning, growth, and evolution.

The ability to learn and experience offers no guarantee that a robot would consistently adhere to a “high” moral code.”

The dissimilarity between robots and humans is sometimes touted as their greatest advantage.”

Proponents of moral robots argue that a robot, unlike a human, could not be affected by the stress of combat or succumb emotionally under pressure.”

A more sophisticated robot capable of writing its own source code could start off by being amoral and develop its own moral compass.”

Amoral robots, like humans, might ultimately be driven by self-interest and an intrinsic desire to ensure their own survival.”

In the best-case scenario, robots will be successfully programmed with benign moral values and will constitute no threat.”

A more likely scenario is the development of autonomous robots that may be amoral or even immoral—a serious challenge to the future of humanity.”


Socio-Neuro-Biology and Prospects for Our Collective Global Future

  By NAYEF AL-RODHAN Jul 30, 2015, E-International Relations

“Criticism of genetic explanations of social behavior largely assume that such explanations are determinist and may reinforce discrimination.”  

“Technological advances have opened new possibilities in physical and cognitive enhancement.” 

“Deepening understanding of neuroscience has shown that we are rapidly becoming the authors of our own nature.”

“As we begin to recognize our growing capacity to tinker with the forces that shape our humanity, we need to formulate polices to regulate such manipulation.”

“Evolutionary inheritance provides us with powerful emotionality, but leaves much to be determined by contingent circumstances.”

“Cognitive research and comparative cultural studies have disproved the notion of an innate morality.”

“Because emotions are neurochemically-induced, they do not vary significantly across cultures.”

“We are significantly egoistic insofar as we are always driven to fulfill our own goal of survival.”

“Egoism does not rule out cooperative behaviour.”

“The same selection pressures responsible for individual survival instincts have also produced a measure of cooperative behaviour.” 

“Evidence shows that a rudimentary sense of sociality is part of the set of evolved instincts with which human beings are born.”

“Emotions like joy, fear, outrage, and disgust are all neurochemically mediated and have evolved over the last 200,000 years.”

“Both our positive and emotionally-rewarding behaviours have a neurochemical explanation.”

“We are most likely to be immoral in contexts of deprivation, fear and insecurity, where our first emotions and immediate goals will revert to our pre-programmed survival instincts.”

“Biotechnology could make it possible for our nature to be rewritten, or at least altered.”

“The neurochemical basis of our emotions suggests that they can be readily manipulated, which results in ethical, societal and political consequences.”

“Enhancement technologies, which promise to improve physical and cognitive capacities, are bound to figure prominently in the future.”

“People with limited resources would not afford the biotechnological enhancements afforded by the wealthy, leading to an opportunity and equality gap in society.”

“Adderall is used as treatment for attention disorders, but it is widespread on college campuses as a concentration enhancer.”

“Neuro-enhancement products can alter cognitive functions or physical processes beyond recovery, radically changing behaviour or emotions.”

“The move toward greater use of human enhancement can swiftly degenerate into more profound alterations, bringing us to the stage of transhumanism.” 

“At the stage of transhumanism, humans will have lost essential traits that define them, and which developed in the course of our evolution.”

“Our evolutionary inheritance leaves human nature significantly unfinished, in the sense that there is much scope for our moral compass to evolve.”


Strategic Culture and Pragmatic National Interest

 By NAYEF AL-RODHAN Jul 22, 2015, Global Policy Journal

“Culture was dismissed for a long time, or at best considered an “explanation of last resort” in international politics.”

“Strategic culture provides an analytical lens through which to better grasp the continuities underlying international crises and the motivations of states’ actions.”

“Strategic Culture can leave enduring legacies in a state’s strategic thinking for decades.”

“Strategic culture is an attempt to integrate cultural considerations and cumulative historical memory in the analysis of states’ security policies and international relations.”

“The origins of the connection between studies of culture and national security strategies date back to the “national character studies” of the 1940s and 1950s.”

“The paradigm of “strategic culture” was coined during the Cold War and was mainly applied to understand nuclear strategy.”

“Strategic culture refers to the ideals and emotional responses shared by the national strategic community.”

“The endurance of certain modes of thinking qualifies them as manifestations of a ‘culture’, rather than mere policy.”

“Culture and national narratives are engrained in us, forming a code of conduct that is strong enough to resist environmental changes.”

“The strategic culture of any given country has numerous sources.”

“Each state enters the international arena with a historical baggage of accumulated experiences, beliefs, cultural influences and geographic and material limitations.”

“Notions of endurance and “the century of humiliation” in the 19th and early 20th century are key to Chinese strategic culture.”

“’The Middle Kingdom’, the cult of defence, the teachings of Sun Tzu and Confucius continue to influence Chinese security doctrines.”

“There are few other countries where strategic culture has been as consistent as in the US.”

“After 1823, theMonroe Doctrine was established as the norm of US foreign policy, establishing the separation of the US from Europe’s complex geopolitical rivalries.”

“For almost a century, the application of the Monroe Doctrine contributed to the understanding of US foreign policy as isolationist.”

“The unique historical circumstances of the US equally gave rise to a sense of exceptionalism which became entrenched in US strategic culture.”

“America’s ‘exceptionalism’ translated into a desire to transform the international system in the service of liberal democratic aspirations as it perceived it.”

“The upholding of liberal democratic values, respect for human rights and liberties and casualty aversion have been the mainstays of US strategic culture.”

“Strategic culture encompasses both the emotionality of states (national pride and prestige) and the egoism of states (the pursuit of national interests).”

“Global anarchy and its implications can be mitigated if and when perceptions are managed successfully.”

“The policy relevance of strategic culture analysis is to help interstate interaction take place in a climate of eased tensions and diminished prejudice.”

“Strategic culture is a reflection of a country’s narration of its culture and history and often it is critical to its state-building narratives.”

“We need a more moderate interpretation of our cumulative experiences and ‘Others’.”

“Strategic cultures are dynamic and ever-evolving notions of a country’s history and place in the world, often negotiated and re-assessed across generations.”

“Countries maintain some persistent and recurrent visions of their security and geopolitical role, which transcend political parties and electoral cycles.”

“The importance of strategic culture cannot be overlooked despite the fact that pragmatic pursuits often appear to be dictated by immediate interests.”

“In a globalized and interconnected world, states must reconcile their historical narratives with the realities of our times.”

“Ideological differences, mistrust and historical divisions may remain among states but competition must be solved in a formula of symbiotic realism.”


Brain Gain: the emerging security and ethical challenges of cognitive enhancement

 By NAYEF AL-RODHAN Jul 2, 2015, Georgetown Journal of International Affairs

“The radically accelerating development of emerging strategic technologies poses important questions for the future of human societies.”

“Cognitive enhancement presents us with numerous ethical dilemmas, raising fundamental questions about how we understand ourselves.”

“The likelihood of having a roomful of superior beings with hyper-memory is fast becoming technologically possible.”

“Emerging biotechnologies complicate longstanding debates in both philosophy and cognitive science.”

“Cognitive enhancement questions our notions of self-understanding, and those aspects of our nature with which we tend to feel most familiar.”

“In many ways, the emerging reality of cognitive enhancement is one that has snuck up on us.”

“Ongoing neurochemical research has demonstrated that emotions have corresponding physical neurochemical reactions in the brain.”

“Neurochemistry is both a substantial determinant and a consequence of human behavior.”

“It is increasingly possible that, with the right tools, we might be able to manipulate our neurochemistry, emotions, and cognitive abilities.”

“Enhancement technologies will allow us alter and orchestrate our emotions, thus determining what we will become both as individuals and as a species.”

“It is not difficult to foresee the possibility that humans will seek to artificially enhance positive emotions and reduce negative ones.”

“Cognitive enhancement might radically complicate our understanding of human rights.”

“Cognitive enhancement, if applied unequally throughout the population, would categorize humans as either enhanced or unenhanced.”

“The introduction of cognitive enhancement complicates our understanding of personhood.”

“Cognitive enhancement will lead to a radical revision of our conceptions of society and self in meritocratic terms.”

“The prospect of altering brain chemistry will change many of our basic understandings of relationships and our expectations of one another.”

“Many of our ideas about what people deserve, how they are to be rewarded or punished presuppose a kind of agentive responsibility.”

“Are we to be identified with our performance if that performance is largely a consequence of cognitive enhancement?”

“The prospect of cognitive enhancement is likely to reinforce persistent inequalities on a global scale.”

“Nations with greater resources are more likely to take advantage of enhancement technologies, providing them with greater competitive edge.”

“Harnessing cognitive enhancement could help states engineer more productive, competent, focused, and skilled individuals in the workplace.”

“Cognitive enhancement may result in critical asymmetric capabilities in wars.”

“Cognitive enhancement could widen the capabilities gap between countries.”

“Cognitive enhancement could lead to further competition among states, or to a race to develop more sophisticated enhancement technologies.”

“Cognitive enhancement will inevitably lead to sharp contrasts between enhanced and non-enhanced soldiers in the army, even those fighting on the same side.”

“Cognitive enhancement in the army will invariably bring about problems of troop cohesion, as well as challenges to the application of international law.”

“Pills or brain stimulation to keep soldiers alert for days without sleep will raise numerous ethical questions and concerns about the long-term health implications for the soldiers themselves.”

“In order to manage the implications of cognitive enhancement, regulatory mechanisms will be critical.”

“If left entirely unregulated, cognitive enhancement is bound to exacerbate societal inequality and introduce new sources of tension into international relations.”


Future Wars: Reshaping the Ethics and Norms of War

 By NAYEF AL-RODHAN Jun 25, 2015, Wilson Quarterly

“Today more than ever, ceaseless research and refinement have made weapons more effective while reducing the need for human contact between adversaries.”

“Unmanned aerial drones are the most prominent weapons of the twenty-first century’s rapidly expanding repertoire.”

“Futuristic weapons do not necessarily change war, qua war; they are upgrades, more efficient versions of the old weapons.”

“Modern weapons technology forces us to reconsider centuries of military thought, craft, and norms.”

““Disruptive innovation” promises to change what we think of as a soldier.” 

“Artificially enhanced soldiers with psychical and cognitive powers well beyond normal human capacity may soon be reality.”

“The line between therapy and enhancement is often blurry.”

“Prosthetic limb technology has advanced to such a point that many injured troops who undergo limb amputations are able to redeploy into combat.”

“Soldier-enhancement encompasses an incredibly vast array of techniques, and a virtually limitless amount of opportunity and risk.”

“Evolving war technologies will rewrite the balance of power in military operations and raise urgent questions for lawyers and policymakers.”

“The coming era of enhanced weapons and super-soldiers will simply outmatch our existing ethical, customary, and legal norms of warfare as inscribed in international law or the Geneva Conventions.”

“Given our very limited knowledge of the potential harm caused by emerging weaponry, past standards of “excessive harm” might need to be reinterpreted.”

“Nanotech-infused weaponry and modifications, like flame retardant guns or electrically conductive clothing, rely on manipulation at the atomic and molecular levels.”

“If a soldier is augmented to withstand any amount of physical pain, would the notion of torture become obsolete?

In the imminent future, it is likely that the military will treat soldiers to withstand more than 72 hours of unbowed alertness, with limited stress and maximum resistance to pain.”

“The core questions — how to govern war, how to create the least-bad means of conducting it, how to minimize death and destruction of noncombatant targets, what we see as fundamental and inalienable rights afforded to every human — remain the same.”


Rationality, Pragmatism and Palestine

 By NAYEF AL-RODHAN Jun 25, 2015, Diplomatic Courier

“The long-term well-being and best interests of Israel, as a democratic and accountable state, must be supported rationally.”

“Israel must further its security and survival through increased support for justice, equality, dignity and respect for the national aspirations of the Palestinians.”

“Netanyahu’s condemnation of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, may ultimately be the best thing for both Israeli and United States security.”

“If Israel's government cannot even voice their desire to seek a peaceful solution, how can the U.S. government still defend Israel’s actions?”

If the U.S. wants to prioritize its own (as well as Israel’s national security), it must favor an approach that is rational and pragmatic, rather than emotional.”

“The Obama administration has an opportunity to help Israel and push for what is best for regional and global stability.”

“Acting rationally is key, even for the most hard-core Zionists: the Israeli government cannot continue to turn inward.”

If Israel doesn’t implement a two state solution, it will compromise its national security indefinitely.”

“The best way for a state to create persistent insecurity is to marginalize large groups of people.”

“People raised in oppression and humiliation are predisposed to radicalization.”

“One way to deflate extremism in the Middle East is for Israel to begin behaving rationally and as a legitimate power.”

“If governments do not respect the basic cultural identities of their constituents, governments will be unjust and ultimately unsustainable.”

 “In a globalized world, it is time to put emotional decision-making aside and think rationally of what is in the best interest of everyone.”

“ It is time for the U.S. to bravely push for the birth of a Palestinian state through the UN, as it did in the creation of Israel in 1948.”


The Emotional Amoral Egoism of States

By NAYEF AL-RODHAN Jun 18, 2015, Montréal Review

“Traditional theoretical accounts on international relations have attributed too little to the role of emotions.”

“The modern state is often described as a rational entity.”

“The thinkers of Enlightenment saw history as a progressive move towards a more rational world.”

“According to realism, the state could not afford to be misguided by emotionality.”

“According to Classical Realism, states are largely driven by the morality of state interests and survivability.”

“Realism took into account non-material aspects of state power such as prestige and “animus dominandi”, or the desire to dominate.”

“During the Cold War, the deterrence theory was based on the notion of rational choice, inspired from economics.

“The theory of ‘emotional amoral egoism’ argues that man is influenced by the environment.”

“We need to conceptualize the state beyond the notion of “rationality”.”

“The paradigm of ‘strategic culture’ analyzed the enduring influence of culture and national values on security and doctrines of military strategy.”  

“Habits and tradition play a critical role in inter-state relations, mitigating uncertainty and creating patterns of cooperation or enmity.”

“At state and international levels, habits are formed in various socializing milieus, such as state bureaucracies, security communities and strategic cultures.”

“Emotions have played critical roles in history.”

“Emotions are central in today’s globalizing world and in our relationship with the Other(s).” 

“Beyond the ‘real’ terrorist threat, the global ‘war on terror’ is also a deeply emotional reaction to the sense of vulnerability prevalent in the West after 9/11.”

“Humiliation is often critical to the tension between states, acting on nations as it does on individuals, reinforcing mutual animosity.”

“The history of Israel and the Palestinians cannot be understood without its underlying emotionality.”

“The role of emotions such as humiliation, shame, hubris, vengeance are central to the history of the Middle East.”

“Emotional schisms and antagonisms persist in relations between Russia and the West, the Arab-Persian divide, India-Pakistan, the two Koreas etc.”

“States, like humans, are both egoistic and survival-oriented, and influenced by their environments.”

“State behavior is greatly influenced by its surrounding circumstances and cannot be characterized as intrinsically ‘good’ or ‘bad’.”

“A solution to mitigate against excessive emotionality in international politics is to be guided by Symbiotic Realism.”

“Symbiotic Realism argues that in an anarchic, yet deeply interconnected world, a pragmatic win-win approach is the most desirable option for inter-state relations.”

“Symbiotic realism argues that state interests must now be accommodated within frameworks of cooperation that balance between power-maximization and the reality of a complex global system.”


Transhumanism and War

By NAYEF AL-RODHAN May 18, 2015, Global Policy Journal

“Human enhancement technologies are changing the nature of warfare, international relations and geopolitics.”

“Human enhancement refers to the suite of techniques which alter the human body beyond its normal healthy state.”

“Some of the possibilities available soon, such as “personality pills”, super-intelligent machines or gene therapy to block normal aging, come with extremely disruptive side effects.”

“Transhumanism challenges the very notion of the human condition as fixed, rooted and constant.” 

“The search for performance optimization via human enhancement is not new and stimulant drugs have been used in the army for decades.”

“We are increasingly witnessing the rise of technologies that can alter human biology irreversibly, especially by incorporating technology within the human body.”

“The projects for soldier enhancement resulted from the recognition that war remains dependent on soldiers who are subject to physical, cognitive, or psychological vulnerabilities.”

“Techno-integration has become critical to soldier enhancement and aims to create a symbiotic coupling between men and machines in order to enhance physical and cognitive fitness.” 

“Recent advances in neural integration bring about the possibility that the peripheral nervous system could be coupled with advanced technology with a simple plug.” 

“Neuro-stimulation  allows us to employ methods to boost our ability to learn, pay attention to the environment, better recall information, take risks or exercise self-control.”

“The amount of knowledge we have on the frontal cortex already permits us to understand how to influence cognitive processes.”

“With the help of enhancement technologies, soldier could become faster, more agile, alert, more receptive and fast learners, more disciplined or docile or, if needed, less empathetic.”

“Enhancement raises many ethical ’red flags’ such as how far the imperative of “military necessity” can go in justifying biotechnological enhancement.”

“It will be critical to explore whether enhancement is reversible or not and to what extent a transhumanist soldier can switch back to the ‘pre-enhanced’ state.”

“The military needs to consider the ethical aspects of enhancing soldiers, including the health implications and the inequalities created between enhanced and non-enhanced soldiers”

“Soldier enhancement will inevitably lead to questions of responsibility and accountability such as in cases when  the enhanced soldier might run out of control.”

“Pressure could soon mount for the US to have an ethical review of its enhancement programs.”

“Soldier enhancement could be disruptive  at a unit level as war-fighters might be enhanced differently, or selectively, creating a class of enhanced vs. “normal” soldiers.”

“Soldier enhancement will create an asymmetry of capabilities as some countries will possess an advantage over those who will continue relying on non-enhanced soldiers.”

“Soldier enhancement will likely further exacerbate the sense of illegitimacy in war and disproportionate material and human loss.”

“It is probable to anticipate a race of development and acquisition of human enhancement technologies.”

“Soldier enhancement might lead to higher levels of brutality in war, further complicating the implementation of international treaties and post-conflict reconciliation efforts.”


Symbiotic Realism and Just Power

By NAYEF AL-RODHAN April 28, 2015, OpenDemocracy

The role of rationality and egoism, long touted by the Realist school as critical to our understanding of human and state behaviour has become subject to significant criticism.”

Neuroscience has shown that emotionality plays a much more prominent role than previously believed, both for humans and states.”

The centrality of emotionality undermines classical Realism which analyzed states in terms of pure rational self interest.”

The theory of Symbiotic Realism offers the potential for a more collaborative conception of International Relations through the use of just power.”

Symbiotic Realism acknowledges the importance of symbiotic relationships in which both parties benefit from their willingness to interact cooperatively and compete in a non-conflictual way.”

Symbiotic Realism recognizes four interlocking elements which shape the global system: the neurobiological substrates of human nature, the continuing persistence of global anarchy, which today coexists with conditions of instant connectivity and interdependence.” 

Neuroscience and advanced brain-scanning technology has helped to demonstrate the immensely important role of emotions.”

There is growing consensus in both neurological and psychological research that human beings have long overestimated the role of reason in their thoughts.”  

“Just power” means the exercise of power that respects human dignity and international norms.” 

Self interest evolved according to selection pressures and was marked by a strong inclination towards self-preservation.” 

Egoism has been central to our evolution but it also indicates an irreducible interdependence of people.” 

Evidence for the emotionality of states is ubiquitous and genuine existential threats to states are far less common than challenges to a state’s self-conception.” 

Symbiotic Realism recognizes the inherent egoism of actors but it gives wider appreciation for cultural synergy and the possibility to move beyond a zero-sum scenario.” 

Symbiotic Realism is better attuned to the realities of an interdependent world and emphasizes that mutual benefits should be possible in collaborative circumstances.” 

Despite the persistent anarchic circumstances of contemporary interstate relations, increasing interdependence and inevitable intercultural exchanges will bring about problems of governance that cannot be resolved unilaterally.” 

Just power includes conceptions of “hard,” “soft,” and “smart” power, with additional parameters of respect for human dignity, and a basic guarantee of justice and compliance with international law.”  

In order to be sustainable in our interdependent world, uses of power must be demonstrably just, as the misuse of power quickly destabilizes interstate relations.” 

The new climate of international relations imposes new mechanisms of deploying power.”


Predisposed Tabula Rasa

 By NAYEF AL-RODHAN April 9, 2015, Journal of Public Policy

“Public policies must evolve in strong connection with an understanding of human psychology, emotions and the sources of happiness and satisfaction.”

“Contemporary neuroscientific research informs us of fundamental elements that must accompany good governance.”

“The question of the original endowments of human beings has intrigued philosophers since at least Plato’s day.”

“Lack of familiarity with neurosciences prevented classical philosophers from grasping aspects of human nature that are inherited and grounded in our shared neurochemistry.”

“Moral notions, which have been demonstrated to vary significantly from one culture to another, stand as evidence against the innateness of ideas.”

“Modern neurological studies have proven the plasticity of the brain and its susceptibility to influence.”

“The same neurochemistry that makes human beings malleable to their environment also predisposes them in basic ways.”

“Our neurochemistry is our lowest common denominator and because emotions are neurochemically mediated, they are present across cultures as part of our genetic inheritance.”

“More recent evidence of “genetic memory” also demonstrates the presence of readily inherited intuitions that we possess upon birth.”

“While distinct notions of right or wrong are largely absent from our genetic endowment, evidence in neurosciences shows that some minimal inborn attributes do exist, such as the goal of survival.”

“At the very minimum, human beings are equipped with a set of basic instincts coded by our genetics, which inevitably guide us toward actions that will ensure our survival.”

“The theory of a predisposed tabula rasa argues that our nature is highly malleable and “written upon” by experience, but it is also predisposed toward self-preservation.”

“Emotions need to be recognized as significant guides to our behavior, and this is also valid for those minimal emotions associated with survival.”

“The role conventionally given to rationality has frequently been overestimated both in terms of its ubiquity and power.”

“Emotions have been our constant companions and rational reasoning is less common than usually assumed.”

“The theory of predisposed tabula rasa provides grounds to understand morality as a higher reflective achievement, not inherent to our nature.”

“The theory of predisposed tabula rasa  proves morality develops in correlation to the specific circumstances in which the individual lives.”

“Our common emotional background is best understood as amoral and capable of being developed for positive ends or manipulated for negative ones.”

“The understanding of human nature as a predisposed tabula rasa informs us that survival is the most fundamental human instinct coded in our genetics and that, when imperilled, it is likely to trump everything else.” 

The malleability of our neurochemistry is a reminder that public policies must work towards preventing injustice, humiliation and insecurity, and any conditions that are likely to exacerbate our egoistic and survival-oriented behavior.”


The Security Implications and Existential Crossroads of Artificial Intelligence

 By NAYEF AL-RODHAN April 2, 2015, Georgetown Journal of International Affairs

“The age of artificial Intelligence (AI) has shown itself to be Janus-like in its potential to alter our lives both positively and negatively.”

“AI has demonstrated its usefulness in predictive speech and typing software, robotics, and unmanned aircraft technology.”

“Many AI-enabled platforms raise profound concerns about oversight.”

“AI is unique among emergent technologies because it can learn and evolve without human input.”

“AI poses challenges for security and policymaking not merely of magnitude but of precedent.”

“AI forces us to consider our relationship with technology in ways that were never previously relevant—including the possibility of entering into competition with, and even being superseded by, our own creations.”

“Scientists are now exploring ways to create robots with a moral compasses and in-built senses of right or wrong that have the ability to pick the ethical course of action on the battlefield.”

“Wars that do not involve risk of bodily harm to soldiers continue to be much easier sells to both the public and to government bodies.”

“Assurances that AI technology results in minimal human casualties are problematic and work against even the most circumspect evaluation of a war’s justness.”

“Assurances about AI technology in war encourage a point of view that underestimates the destabilizing effect of all military engagements, regardless of battlefield casualties.”

“One area of concern about the role of AI in warfare is  the role of judgment regarding entry into and conduct during interstate conflict (jus ad bellum and jus in bello).”

“A robotic soldier or a sophisticated AI drone could easily pass a version of the Turing test and yet utterly fail to uphold jus in bello’s fundamental commitment to non-combatant immunity, or jus ad bellum’s supposed principal of non-aggression.”

“If AI is to play a role in military engagement, this potential must be closely monitored and constrained by international norms.”

“A heavy reliance on AI machines would create further inequalities in war because of the unequal availability of such technologies to certain countries.”

“How can we expect robots to understand, relate to, and execute the basic norms of social cooperation and political order?”

“Beyond its potential military applications, the nature and use of AI should also be monitored and regulated in non-combat settings.”

“With the capacity to learn and improve at near-limitless rates, full AIs could quickly become superior to human beings, constrained as we are by long and slow evolutionary processes.”

“While the dystopian vision of runaway or out-of-control AI still appears like science fiction, today’s rate of technological innovation serves as a reminder that we may be headed in that direction.”

“Some AI features are minimal compared to the more advanced capabilities to which AI might lead, such as make strategic decisions about which weapons systems to activate.”

“Artificial intelligence represents a critical challenge that requires interstate collaboration and the shoring up of international law to preserve the safety and dignity of human beings.”


Free-Wheeling Web Commentary Challenges Media's Traditional Power

 By NAYEF AL-RODHAN March 31, 2015, YaleGlobal

“The internet and global interconnectivity, while often taken for granted, has changed the face of social reality.”

“Blogs have tremendous potential to be used either for good or ill, and they could be dubbed  a new avatar of a power group supplementing the old.”

“When the term “fourth estate” was coined, it had become clear that the press had come to occasionally wield an equal or greater power to influence policy than the original three state powers (executive, legislative and judicial).”

“The internet multiplied the power of the media, providing the possibility for previously unheard voices to gain an audience or scrutinize the power of the other estates.”

“In 2007, I designated blogs as the fifth estate, as they represent a tremendous capacity for the masses to disseminate information without any barriers.”

“Blogs can encourage public participation and interest in politics, disseminate opinions, which in many countries can be openly expressed without censorship, or editorial boards.”

“The advent of blogs has reinvigorated possibilities of journalistic independence, giving not only journalists but anyone with access to the internet the capacity to express views and disseminate information.”

“Some adverse effects of blogs have been recorded as so-called netizens and bloggers covering political events or revolutions in real time later became targets of backlash.”

“Blogs often suffer from the concern that their authors lack journalistic experience or other relevant credentials.”

“Absence of oversight, lack of editorial review and insufficient fact-checking mechanisms continue to raise questions of credibility about blogs.”

Without oversight and checks, blogs can serve morally dubious intentions, they can be a source of polarized views, and exacerbate antagonisms.”

Blogs can disrupt society, business and government activities, such as by disclosures of secret information, a concern that would be ruled out in more traditional media sources by journalistic integrity and institutional checks.”

Education and critical engagement can turn readers more demanding and circumspect, which will improve the quality of blogs.”

The question of oversight-free authorship remains the prevailing concern about blogs.”

The question of absolute anonymity on blogs has a downside from the viewpoint of global security: it can protect activists, but also help hide rogues or criminals.”

“Governments must combat bloggers engaging in deliberately radicalizing rhetoric, employing hate speech, or engaging in criminal activity.”

“Just as there are reasonable limits to free speech in public life, the same logic and amount of regulation should be applied in the digital domain.”

“ The blogosphere must function as an extension of the public space, where people can be held accountable and liable for their actions as well as potentially investigated for threats of violence.”

The plurality of legal systems and many interpretations of freedom of speech or hate speech remains a persistent challenge in the blogosphere.”

The idea of a bloggers’ code of ethics, proposed a few years ago, deserves renewed consideration.”


What are the Ethical Implications of Emerging Tech?

By NAYEF AL-RODHAN March 4, 2015, World Economic Forum

“In the past four decades, technology has fundamentally altered our lives: from the way we work, to how we communicate, to how we fight wars.”

 “Technologies have not been without controversy, and many have sparked intense debates, often polarized or embroiled in scientific ambiguities or dishonest demagoguery.”

 “The debate on stem cells and embryo research, for example, has become a hot-button political issue, involving scientists, policy-makers, politicians and religious groups.”

 “The developments in genome-editing technologies are just one example that bio research and its impact on market goods are strongly dependent on social acceptance and cannot escape public debates of regulation and ethics.”

 “WEF’s 2015 list of emerging technologies include those that aim to resolve some of the ethical debates posed by an earlier generation of technologies, as well as others that will bring about new ethical and regulatory challenges.”

 “Precise genetic engineering techniques, one of the technologies highlighted by WEF’s 2015list, will likely solve some of the main controversial elements in the GMO debate, for example the fact that genetic engineering was neither precise nor predictable.”

 “More intuitive, emergent AI could change speech and conversational software with unprecedented precision, helping millions of people and also redefining the way we command and interact with computers.”

 “New-generation robotics will increasingly have more autonomy and capacity to react without pre-programming, which complicates all current debates on robotics.”

 “In the future, the trust and reliance invested in a robot will have to be greater, bringing us closer to the point of being on a par with robots.”

 “Neuromorphic chip technology is among the most revolutionary developments in AI, mimicking the intricacies of the human brain, and potentially be able to learn or develop memory.”

 “Neuromorphic chips would create machines as intelligent as humans and would be devastating for our species.”

“The moment of the print button for biology is nearing.”

“Having our emotions controlled in detail by smart machines will pave the way for dangerous forms of dependences and new understandings of our humanity and the emotions that define us.”

“Genome-based treatment will allow transitioning from broad-spectrum chemotherapies to more individualized diagnosis and targeting of specific malfunctioning genes."

“Pervasive global inequalities will still prevent millions of people from enjoying the benefits of genome-based treatments, even in a context of decreasing costs.”

“A range of security and privacy risks associated with data storage of genome data will invariably arise and require protective mechanisms, especially as such databases are often shared for security reasons.”

“Inevitably, the emerging technologies of the future will redefine our understanding of biology, the material world and manufacturing.”

“In the long term, fuel cell vehicles will accentuate the vulnerability of oil-dependent economies and recalibrate geopolitical relations.”

“A suite of other technologies, such as 3D printing, informatics and robotics are enabling a paradigm shift to a dematerialized future with endless possibilities for customization.”

“We must welcome innovation and the benefits it brings us but we must also remain committed to sustainable development, taking into account issues of inequality, human dignity and inclusiveness.”

“Often, a technology is actually available, but it takes a massive exercise of political will to bring about change.”

“Ultimately, how we approach the regulation of emerging technologies will inevitably have wide implications – not only for security and ethics, but for our definition of human dignity and equality of individuals.”


The Meta-Geopolitics of Geneva 1815-2015

By NAYEF AL-RODHAN February 26, 2015, ISN Blog, ETH Zurich

With a population of less than 200,000 inhabitants, Geneva is a global and multicultural city, a hub for humanitarian diplomacy, an epicentre for banking and trading."

Alongside New York, Geneva has also become one of the most active locations for multilateral diplomacy."

Geneva’s critical mass of mandates makes the city uniquely relevant in world politics."            

Today, Geneva is often described as “the diplomatic capital of the world” and is an important node in the global economy."

Geneva attained greater significance in the post-War period when many high-level negotiations and diplomatic summits began to take place in the city."

Geneva has become an important geopolitical city for a variety of reasons: it was able to offer “business as usual” to international trading firms during the First World War, benefited from an image of neutrality and of “safe haven”. "

During the Cold War, Geneva was already well known throughout the world as a ‘neutral’ trading location, where East-West economic and political coordination could be orchestrated."

One of the reasons why Geneva is so international is because the European headquarters of the UN and its agencies are located in the city."

Nowhere else does the UN benefit from such facilities and support as in Switzerland."

Over decades, Geneva has established a well-defined identity as a city of peace and an ideal meeting place for diplomats – whether in the field of humanitarian action, disarmament, climate change or other concerns."

" In recent years, activities in other sectors, such as the crude oil trade, have increased Geneva’s international renown." 

" While Geneva faces competition as a global economic and diplomatic center from cities in Asia, Africa and Latin America – some of which are becoming prominent regional centers of dialogue and diplomacy – it is unlikely that the city’s stature will diminish anytime soon."


 Quantum Computing

By NAYEF AL-RODHAN February 20, 2015, The Global Policy Journal

 “Moving away from conventional computing, quantum computing is part of a new revolutionary generation of computer research which aims to surpass not only limitations in speed but also in the technical limits of the chip-making material.”

 “Whatever speed can be imagined with computers, it is nowhere near what quantum computing is expected to achieve.”

 “Quantum computers could surpass conventional computers in speed and could help solve or race through problems that would normally take other systems eons to solve.”

 “Quantum computers, once fully functional, will mark the ultimate frontier in computing, being able to make calculations billions of times faster.”

 “ Quantum computers could help scientists find cures for cancer, advance research of Alzheimer’s disease, or find distant planets; they could be used to simulate or test certain political and military scenarios and inform policymakers about possible outcomes.”

 “Quantum computers could potentially be capable of breaking public key encryption, which is responsible for protecting almost all private communication online.”

 “Today, long encryption keys (particularly for sensitive information) are very difficult to break, taking up to several years but quantum computer could accelerate the process, making it millions of times faster.”

 “The construction of a functional quantum computer means much more than simply winning the innovation race and it has clear national security relevance.”

 “If spying and mass surveillance are already impressively effective with the more limited means we now have in place, quantum computing will simply enable unprecedented breaches of privacy and access to confidential data in businesses, hospitals, banks or governments worldwide.”

 “Quantum communication will redefine how we communicate, making data transfer faster and more able since quantum computers can process enormous amounts of information with high encoding and decoding speeds.”

 “Quantum computers has unique potential to give unmerited temporary advantage to some individuals, retailers or groups over others and they could dramatically improve stock market predictions thus benefiting wealthy financial institutions.”

 “From better logistic optimizations to DNA sequencing, better predictions in global warming and weather forecasting, quantum computing means new potential to tackle global challenges, improve healthcare and find cures for diseases, solve optimization, labour or economic problems.”

 “The application of quantum computers could be especially useful in the defence sector or space, where it can significantly impact the speed and accuracy of operations by calculating ideal paths for travel either on land or air and improving code verification dramatically.”

 “NASA is exploring the implications of quantum computing in space and in the search for habitable Earth-sized planets.”

 “Current  computational limitations, which use heuristic algorithms to identify transit signals from smaller planets, only help find approximate solutions whereas a quantum computer could perform data-intensive searches among the over 150,000 stars in the field of view of the spacecraft.” 


Sustainable Neurochemical Gratification and the Meaning of Existence

By NAYEF AL-RODHAN February 20, 2015, BBVA Open Mind

 “While no definite answer could clarify the fundamental question of what gives meaning to life, a look into the neurochemistry underlying our feelings, thoughts and behaviour charts new grounds in this exploration.”

 “Contemporary neuroscience can offer further insights about what gives authenticity to life, as a shared neurochemistry implies similar needs for achieving gratification.”

 “ The human brain is “hard-wired” to seek pleasure and avoid pain, as well as to repeat acts that achieve gratification and avoid actions that cause discomfort.”

 “At a fundamental level, human beings are all seeking similar things and these are expressed through neurochemically-mediated gratification. However, at an individual level, such gratification might find expression in destructive actions, such as sustaining an addiction or criminal activity.”

 “ Our gratification is experienced neurochemically, irrespective of what prompts it.”

 “ We generally seek to feed our neurotransmitters and boost the “feel good” chemical dopamine, the neurotransmitter involved in reward processes in the brain which informs us which actions are more conducive to gratification and which are not.”

 “Our gratification is experienced on a personal neurochemical level but it is also attuned to our respective family and socio-political environments.”

 “Like human nature itself, our neurochemical make-up is modifiable, meaning that there is significant room for the environment to influence both the motivators of our neurochemical gratification and our behaviour.”

 “Our gratification is highly individualistic and experienced subjectively, but it can be ‘instructed’ to a certain extent by the environment, repeated experiences, and exposures.”

 “ The upside of the alterability of neurochemical gratification is that its foundations can be influenced and turned into constructive forms of behaviour that meet societal expectations. In these situations, good governance plays a tremendous role.”

 “ What we can hope and strive for, collectively, is to create environments in which sustainable neurochemical gratification comes from activities and beliefs that create a balance between our personal wishes and acceptable values, both domestically and globally.”

 “ Anything from social norms to media outlets, educational systems or entertainment industries contribute to the way neurochemical gratification is defined.”

 “In order to ensure functional social orders, it is crucial that gratification is linked to constructive behaviour, such as social responsibility, work ethic, lawfulness, empathy, tolerance and mutual respect.”

Neurochemical Man And Emotional Amoral Egoism

By NAYEF AL-RODHAN January, 2015, The Montréal Review

 “Acquiring an accurate portrayal of human nature is a prerequisite for creating conditions that respect human dignity and morality.”

   “The discussions on human nature have also often oscillated between polar contrasts, presenting human nature as either fundamentally good or bad.”

 “The optimistic (Rousseau) vs. Pessimistic (Hobbes) perspectives on nature have informed political philosophy and theories of government for centuries.”

 “Contemporary research, and neuroscientific insights in particular, adequately demonstrates the neurochemical underpinnings of human nature have been underestimated.”

 “Rather than choosing between dichotomous notions of moral vs. immoral, I argue that humans are essentially amoral.”

 “Humans are born with what I have called a predisposed tabula rasa, free of any innate ideas but possessing certain predilections for survival coded by genetics.”

 “We come into the world with a set of basic survival instincts which do not operate as conscious motivators but more like inbuilt biological microchips tuning us for survival.”

 “To a large extent, our moral compass, guiding us to be good or bad, is shaped by our perceived self-interest at a given time.”

 “It is very often the emotions, rather than rationality which determine human behavior.”

 “Emotional experience is deeply implicated in most of our thought-processes and inferences, rather than being an encumbrance to them.”

 “When those areas of the brain—particularly the prefrontal-cortex (pfc)—are underdeveloped or damaged, the emotions associated with sociality are either severely truncated or absent altogether.”

 “The clear connections between the capacity to experience particular emotions and brain function, on the one hand, and between brain function and morality on the other, cement the inextricable nature of our neurochemistry
and our moral/ socio-emotional capacities.”

 “Neurochemistry is our lowest common denominator: the minimal endowment human beings have at birth both determines them to be initially geared purely for survival, but also leaves them highly susceptible to the influence of their respective environments.”


Minimum Criteria for Sustainable Global Governance

 By NAYEF AL-RODHAN December 4, 2014, ISN Blog (ETH Zurich)

Strong statist positions and a fixation on state sovereignty once inhibited progress toward more just and effective models of global governance.” 

Even as states gradually share more responsibilities with corporations, sub-national entities and international organizations, their structural significance still remains indisputable – particularly when it comes to finding near-term solutions for better modes of global governance.”

The Security Council veto system in its current form is a major impediment to more effective forms of global governance and is ill-suited for the economic and political realities of our times.” 

International failure to reform the veto system in the Security Council is solidifying global governance around a paradigm that better reflects the power balances of the mid-20thcentury rather than the present day.”

The process of reform of the Security Council veto system remains to date “painfully slow” and a decisive structural change has yet to materialize. Consequently, it might be more realistic to push for changes within the existing system, such as by restricting it when it regards mass atrocities.”

Poverty, marginalization, and huge gaps in socio-economic development all raise barriers to good global governance.”

Quite often even NGOs, while not under the direct control of states, do an inadequate job of representing the most vulnerable members of society and instead take directives from its most favorably positioned members.”

The current international governance system needs to be amended by creating a universal citizens’ charter that guarantees human dignity regardless of ethnic, religious or national affiliations and by improving states’ internal representational structures.”

“Improved internal governance within states will result in less economic disparity, and will be a sine qua non for improved global governance and the upholding of human rights.”

“Economic policies that systematically reinforce global disparities and actions that threaten global economic stability (like those leading up to the financial crisis of 2008) have always compromised human dignity and should be constrained by a universal citizens’ charter.”

“At its minimum, good global governance, as implemented by multilateral institutions, must work by a set of criteria that are general enough to allow for distinct cultural interpretations to coexist.” 

“Credible and sustainable global governance requires that institutions cease to work predominantly to the advantage of groups or nations already in positions of power and create the conditions for those in less fortunate positions to have stable and meaningful social lives.” 


Education and Global Security

 By NAYEF AL-RODHAN November 28, 2014, Global Policy

“There are all kinds of moral truths that see the world from different perspectives, and none of them have to necessarily be more right than the others.”

 “Alongside family structure and cultural context, education has the capacity to influence every aspect of how we think about the world.”

 “The notion of a global education that considers globalization, its impacts, its promises and its challenges as its main subject matter—remains seriously underdeveloped.”

“We must take issue with the naïve conception of personhood, which fails to appreciate the all-encompassing influence of environment, including education, in the development of a human being.”

 “My account of a predisposed tabula rasa harmonizes with contemporary neuroscientific research, and suggests that what motivates a human being is greatly dependent upon his or her experience and exposure.” 

 “Education plays a central role both in determining our social dispositions as well as in global affairs: it teaches us to uncover the many biases in our respective forms of knowledge, appreciate our own limitations and respect the ‘truths’ of others.”

“The premise that we learn the most about ourselves by learning about others might sound like a platitude but the significance of the idea continues to be underappreciated.”

 “Multicultural study simultaneously creates the premises for more tolerant and self-critical attitude, while instilling a greater understanding of the ways that cultures have evolved.”

“A diverse cultural education must also emphasize intra-cultural variety, and the malleability of individual human beings when their cultural and social contexts shift.” 

 “Transcultural education reveals that human history is a cumulative effort, where no culture can claim monopoly over another but instead is indebted to others for their contributions.” 

 “We need to move towards an educational paradigm that promotes an ‘ocean model of civilisation’: a metaphor for human civilization conceived as a whole, like an ocean into which different rivers flow and add depth.”

 “Education has too often been the venue for indoctrination in which half-truths or outright falsehoods are perpetuated.”

 “As the rate of globalization accelerates, the de-emphasis of nationalist agendas and parochialism alongside the emphasis of mutual understanding and appreciation of cultural diversity will be crucial.”

“Sustainable security for humanity can only be achieved if education is made a priority by states and their societal institutions.”

“Education is the single most powerful tool for pushing back against an always-looming state of nature, and for promoting a more just, secure, equitable, prosperous and sustainable global order.”


Will Biology Change What it Means to Be Human?

 By NAYEF AL-RODHAN November 10, 2014, World Economic Forum

“The latest scientific advances will soon enable us to take charge of evolution itself.”

“Genetic design, protein manufacture and natural product synthesis  could have a revolutionary impact on our lives, particularly with regards to the production of energy and medicine.”

“Synthetic Biology brings with it both gigantic opportunities and equally important risks.”

“As an alternative to existing, limited energy sources, we could engineer the mass production of cellulosic ethanol – a renewable plant-based biofuel that produces very low carbon emissions.”

“These innovations have tremendous possibilities for good, but they could be devastating without proper regulation. Certain DNA products have huge capacity for virulence or pathogenicity.”

“These new DNA products wouldn’t require much for a rogue state or scientist to duplicate the technologies involved.”

“Tiny engineered particles could integrate into normal DNA sequences when they come into contact with them, producing unforeseen mutations.”

“In addition to these security threats, the rise of synthetic biology poses a series of ethical considerations.”

“Man’s emotional, amoral egoist motivations, combined with biological innovations are now leading us towards personal enhancements, both physical and cognitive.”

“Within a decade or so we will have the ability to enhance our mental dexterity, not only in terms of mental ability, but also our emotionality (or lack thereof).”

“Will cognitive enhancements create a dangerous societal divide between the enhanced and the non-enhanced?”

“Do parents have the ethical and legal right to design their babies the way they want to, or should there be bio-ethical oversight approval mechanisms?”

“We must aim at creating oversight mechanisms that mitigate risks without stifling innovation. “

“Because of the diverse national and commercial interests involved iin synthetic biology, oversight can only be provided by a powerful multistakeholder organization.”

“The idea that we have innate morality competes with the brutality, inequality, and everything else that fills the history of our species.”

“We must never be complacent about the virtues of human nature – thus the need for very stringent governance paradigms for these extremely powerful new tools.”


The Geopolitics of Europe 1815-2015

By NAYEF AL-RODHAN November 5, 2014, ISN Blog (ETH Zurich)

“ The concept of geopolitics emerged as a product of imperialist rivalry during the late nineteenth century, and it still retains a connotation reminiscent of this Zeitgeist: one of power and resource politics.

“ We need a new approach to geopolitics that is better suited to contemporary challenges: meta-geopolitics.”

“It was only during the 1970s that the term “geopolitics” was re-introduced into the lexicon of international relations, outgrowing its association with Nazi Germany during the Second World War.”

“After the 1970s, “geopolitics” became shorthand for denoting great power rivalries and the inter-state competition over strategic resources.”

“ Geopolitics experienced a severe setback with the collapse of the USSR and the subsequent end of the Cold War in 1991. Many analysts announced the irrelevance of geopolitics, both as a concept and in practice.”

“After the cold war, the system of “balance of power” in Europe was considered dead and analysts widely concurred that,  with the possible exception of Russia, European nations had reached the point of geopolitical obsolescence.”

“The signing of the Treaty of Maastricht buried the geopolitical rivalries that had plagued the European continent from 1815 onwards”

“The Cold War subsequently imposed on Europe a bi-polar balance of power from the outside. The end of the Cold War, however, was different: it introduced a global power constellation in which the European continent was no longer central or pivotal.”

“ A brief survey of the defining moments in the geopolitics of Europe indicates that over the past 200 years there have consistently been attempts, from within and beyond the European continent, to establish a European balance of power and prevent the descent into Hobbesian anarchy.”

“Currently, both in Europe and beyond, there is mounting pressure to revise the status quo through the kinds of territorial and statist claims that were deemed “obsolete” not long ago. This suggests that Europe (like other parts of the world) has not fully managed to settle its core geopolitical questions.”

“Boundary disputes, military arms-racing, competition for spheres of influence and questions of self-determination endure in Europe, even if they exist in a new era of unprecedented connectivity and supranational regulation.”

“ While some recurring patterns are evident in the geopolitics of Europe, the idea that little has changed since the beginning of the 19th century is disputed by the evidence of the last few decades.”

“The current era of transnational exchange, market integration and political cooperation represent profound institutional and normative change in Europe which cannot be dismissed or brushed aside.

“History teaches that each period of calm and stability is eventually undermined from within or without.”

“ There are good reasons not to be complacent about the current context of European integration, just as we cannot realistically expect a full return of 19th century geopolitics. Rather, we appear to be at a new juncture, where the concept of Meta-geopolitics offers more explanatory power.”

“ More attuned to “the diffuse and shifting nature of today’s security threats”, meta-geopolitics differs from traditional concepts of geopolitics, because it proposes a multidimensional view of power. “

“Establishing a balance of power may well be a recurrent imperative for Europe. However, the resources that define power now lie with capabilities that are more complex than those recognized by classical versions of geopolitics.”

Eight Substrates for a Possible Universal Axiology

By NAYEF AL-RODHAN October 21, 2014, E-International Relations

“ In our era of accelerating globalisation, there are few greater threats to harmony and inter-cultural understanding than essentialism.”

“A universal axiology will become possible only if there is sufficient willingness by individuals of diverse cultural traditions to accept that their respective traditions do not confine them to a narrow set of beliefs associated with their practice.”

“An educational agenda that reinforces both shared content and demonstrates the history of cultural cross-pollination is key to framing today’s era of continued globalisation in positive, and collaborative terms.”

“The idea of transcultural synergy—that the overall effect of cultural sharing often becomes greater than the effect of the individual cultures—demonstrates the benefits of globalisation and should be a crucial facet of cultural education.”

“One characterisation of the general subject of human rights is to codify values so fundamental that consensus regarding their content is regarded as readily attainable. In practice, of course, the main challenge has been providing an account of human  rights that is sufficiently objective, and not irretrievably trapped within a Western worldview.”

“Pre-eminently, radical disparities of wealth and power in the international theatre are impediments to transparent, meaningful dialogue. In order to establish a climate of respect for human dignity, conditions must be fostered wherein diverse groups can dialogue meaningfully.”

“Breaking down essentialist understandings of cultures and raising awareness of their respective contributions to one another both diminishes cultural arrogance and provides the basis for trust and respect.”

“There are eight elements that enable transcultural synergy and carve help to forge a universal value system: 1. Dialogue; 2. Agreed upon Rules and Ethics of Dialogue; 3. Mutual Understanding; 4. Tolerance and Respect; 5. Mutual Learning; 6. Identification of a Moral Minimum; 7. Reduction of the Technological Gap; 8. Fair Representation.”

“Throughout intercultural discourse, it will be crucial to have mechanisms in place for people from all strata of society to play an active role in defining the cultures in question, so that the dialogue aimed at transcultural understanding is genuinely driven by the people and not by a small group of politicians or well-placed bureaucrats.”

Emerging Technologies: Security and Regulatory Concerns

By NAYEF AL-RODHAN October 10, 2014, ISN Blog (ETH Zurich)

“Scientific research is no stranger to the battlefield. Technological breakthroughs have often started off in military research labs or prompted by military funding.”

Emerging technologies are prompted by growing convergence among sciences so that technologies and fields previously studied separately are now studied and developed together.”

Nanotechnology is explored both by private companies including chemical or pharmaceutical industries as well as the military.”

Developments with artificial intelligence are now bringing outstanding results for the military. Unmanned vehicles or autonomous weapons, which employ sophisticated pattern-recognition software, are critical to US military operations.”

New opportunities are also currently explored with the science of stealth and invisibility, which is already financed by several governments in coordination with research centres and private companies.”

The poorly regulated and fairly liberal environment in which emerging technologies are developing permits both governments and non-state actors to engage with and benefit from them.”

Among the range of emerging technologies that are likely to grow in scope and relevance in the near future, I consider predictive analytics, now mostly used in financial services, to expand its area of focus and become especially important.”

“Brain-computer interfaces can have deleterious repercussions in the field of cyber security as hackers could use to access sensitive or critical data, hijack systems and manipulate devices.”

“As the desire to innovate has led to galloping developments, it is crucial to understand that the absence of clear regulations, laws and ethical guidelines in the relevant industries can cause catastrophic outcomes.”

“Emerging technologies offer states more instruments and means for control and surveillance, which at the same time, lead to severe infringements of civil liberties. Striking the right balance between the need to collect information and the respect for privacy remains an ongoing and pressing challenge.”

“A powerful reminder needs to guide innovation: the concern for human dignity, security and sustainability.”


Design Within Reach: Preparing for the 4-D Printing Revolution  

By NAYEF AL-RODHAN September 29, 2014, Foreign Affairs

“Yet just as the world is beginning to grasp the implications of the 3-D revolution, researchers are proposing an upgrade. Their work suggests that the true promise of digital fabrication lies with a fourth dimension -- in printing objects programmed to change over time.”

“Whereas 3-D objects are static and require human control, 4-D objects can react to their environment autonomously, assembling, repairing, or transforming themselves.”

“Four-D printing technology could allow the military to chart new territory, building vehicles with coatings that adapt to varied terrains or uniforms that can detect the presence of poisonous gas.”

“4-D printing won’t be without dangers or downsides. Many of the same concerns that already surround 3-D printing will carry over. The possibility of criminal exploitation will remain.”

“Questions of liability will grow only more complicated, as printers and suppliers fight over who should bear responsibility for a product if something goes wrong.”

“Tracing the origins of continuously transforming products will be particularly difficult, for example. Issues of irreproducibility and patenting promise to be problematic as well.”

“As with many other emerging technologies, 4-D printing is a clear example of convergence, bringing together diverse technologies, approaches, and disciplines.” 

“The most alarming risks of 4D printing will most likely arise in the field of biology, where the potential for progress and danger go hand in hand.”

“Dual use remains a real concern about 4D printing. A range of actors could use such techniques to create new biological weapons, aided by easy access to the necessary tools.”

“The potential dangers could take on unexpected forms that governments are unprepared to deal with. Cancer-fighting nanorobots, for example, could be reprogrammed to regulate neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine, or oxytocin -- all of which can alter human behavior.”

“It's already clear that programming matter -- living and nonliving -- will have far-reaching effects that are impossible to predict. That makes regulation and oversight crucial.”

“All disruptive technologies inevitably require new governance structures and institutions, but advances in 4-D printing could easily spiral out of control if governments don’t act in time.”


Programmable Matter: 4D Printing's Promises and Risks

By NAYEF AL-RODHAN September 29, 2014, Georgetown Journal of International Affairs

“Three-dimensional printing, which has barely arrived on the scene, is already in danger of being eclipsed by another innovation that provides an upgrade to its functionality: Four-dimensional printing.”

Researchers at the MIT, where the 4D printing technology was pioneered, have worked to incorporate an additional dimension into the 3D printing process: time. This not only allows objects to be custom-tailored but also makes them programmable for changes after fabrication.”

4D printing’s greatest innovation lies in the extraordinary potential of “smart” materials to incorporate the necessary information for self-assembly. Prior programming enables them to “learn” the thresholds of energy to which they then respond dynamically.”

Adaptive and biomimetic composites and responsive materials that react to external stimuli could revolutionize manufacturing by making it easier to build in extreme environments. “

The possibilities ushered in by 4D printing run much further afield, however. Ultimately, its frontiers are expected to shift from the inorganic world to the realm of organic life.”

The benefits of programmable matter—especially in terms of cost-savings, adaptability, and customization—are offset by many technical and legal challenges that need to be addressed. Particular areas of concern include design, standardization and certifications, affordability, and recycling.”

 Like any emerging technology, 4D printing also brings to the fore numerous other risks, including possible dual-use or misuse for criminal or otherwise harmful purposes.”

“The question of responsibility, which often arises in debates regarding artificial intelligence and robotics, also looms large over 4D printing: which party is to blame, for instance, if an item or any one of its functions fails? Is it the manufacturer, the programmer, or the developer of the smart material employed?”

The Social Contract 2.0: Big Data and the Need to Guarantee Privacy and Civil Liberties

By NAYEF AL-RODHAN September 16, 2014, Harvard International Review

“We must consider how specific technologies might either preserve or threaten human dignity, and thus what sorts of empowerment or regulation will be most appropriate.”

“ A common thread in the social contract theory is the assumption that the state and political order exist for the general interest of the people, where life, liberty and property can be protected. Now seems to be an appropriate time to reassess some of our long-held credos about our liberties, the functions of the sovereign and the limits of control.”

“ One example of the ways in which technology might alter the conditions of a social contract is the capacity for individual enhancement through technological means, which suggests that the very basic sorts of equality early contract theorists were able to presuppose are no longer assured.”

“A radical increase in the mental and physical prowess of certain individuals via bio-technology and synthetic biology would nullify the presupposition of shared vulnerability, and with it a fundamental ground for the possibility of a social contract.”

“The collection of information about individuals, which now occurs on a scale different from anything that was possible and imaginable before, is a major challenge to a traditional social contract.”

“Social contracts presuppose something like a rough equality of stakes. A private entity controlling vast reserves of personal data possesses predictive powers enabling it to have an unequal stake in the shared system. “

“ In order to uphold the social contract, such laws must achieve two main things: they must restrain those entities which control a disproportionate amount of data, and they must ensure the enforceability of such laws.”

“Big data not only generates but also enhances inequalities in knowledge. At a certain threshold such inequalities leave a public quite at the mercy of the entities possessing this data, and fortify the possessor against any form of reprisal.”

“With the advent of big data, it is not content which is required to predict behavior, but mostly ‘metadata.’”

“Laws must be enacted to balance the countries ‘need to know’ to keep societies safe on the one hand, and accountable and transparent guarantee of civil liberties for all, at all times and under all circumstances, on the other hand.”

“Recognizing the need for a tenable social contract going forward should influence policymakers to require accountability and transparency and to guard against violations of privacy. The use of big data should be monitored and regulated at both national and international levels.”

“Constitutional amendments in all countries must be enacted without delay to protect citizens’ privacy and liberties, in order to foster a more ethical, transparent, accountable, and dignified social order and consequently, global order.”

“Security measures are important, but no amount of surveillance, no matter how sophisticated, can ultimately eradicate the sources of insecurity unless individual and collective inequalities, injustices and dignity deficits are addressed in a serious and impartial way, both domestically and globally.”

The Islamic World and the West: Recovering Common History

By NAYEF AL-RODHAN July 15, 2014, Yale Global

"The tendency across Europe to label immigrants in religious terms has led to a 'culturalizing' of social problems and subsequent reference to a 'Muslim problem.''

"Islam in Europe tends to be viewed as not only a recent, but also a foreign and threatening presence. This popular misperception results from a thousand years of willful forgetting."

"Europe and the Arab-Islamic world have brushed shoulders for centuries, and their histories are inextricably linked. Knowledge, techniques and institutions made their way from East to West."

"Uncovering the shared heritage and the role that the East played in the rise of the West may help build the foundations of a collective memory that combats the discourse on the danger of Islam to Europe and the West."

"History demonstrates how groundbreaking achievements are invariably built on the contributions of others. Just as the Arab-Islamic world built on the foundations of earlier advancements and borrowed from other geo-cultural domains, so too did Europe."

"The contribution of the Arab-Islamic world to the rise of the West also extends to material and institutional elements, including in the realm of the industrial revolution, the rise of capitalism and of the modern state."

"The rise of Europe should be seen as part of a global history. Instead of thinking in terms of separate civilizations, it is more fruitful to think about one human civilization to which different geo-cultural domains contribute, much like an ocean into which many rivers flow."

"Unearthing the many positive exchanges that occurred between Europe and the Arab-Islamic world has immediate implications for contemporary transcultural relations. The East no longer seems so reassuringly inferior, antagonistic or alien to the West."

"A more holistic look at history is also instructive in identifying our commonalities, which is critical to promoting modern transcultural security."

"Education is key in promoting awareness and building a collective memory in Europe that Arabs and Muslims are present, not only in relation to confrontation but also in connection to high points in Europe’s history."

"Pushing immigrant communities to shed cultural frameworks only encourages these communities towards counterproductive defensive postures. America assimilated immigrant communities successfully because it gave them the necessary time to do so, and Europe needs to do the same."

"We, therefore, not only need to revisit history, but also look at the course of history with new lenses in order to ensure peaceful and mutually respectful relations between the West and the Arab-Islamic world."

The Geopolitics of Culture: Five Substrates

 By NAYEF AL-RODHAN on June 24, 2014, Harvard International Review

“Culture has a salient geopolitical relevance in a world that is defined by much more than diplomatic exchanges and inter-state relations.”

“If the social contextprecludes a stable and positive group identity– for instance, because of being negatively defined by others – people are more likely to generate a resistance identity, with boundaries that appear impermeable and safe.”

“Cultural and ethnic diversity benefit humanity’s future, survival, strength and excellence, promoting what I call cultural vigour, similar to the way in which molecular and genetic diversity promote “hybrid vigor” in nature and thus strength, resilience and a higher potential for a problem-free future.”

“Large collective identities, especially in the era of globalization, become securitized when their holders feel threatened as a consequence of conflict, stereotyping, disrespect, demonization, or alienation.”

“At the heart of many grievances expressed through the establishment of resistance identities is a lack of justice, often connected to identifiable political,social, and economic problems that are viewed through the lens of justice.”

“Transnational exchanges require much more than just coexistence.  Transcultural synergy will become critical.”

“We must seek inclusive governance frameworks that leave no cultures behind no matter how distant, different or apparently dysfunctional.”

“No sustainable prosperity or security can be attained at the expense or marginalization of others. Indeed, in today’s world, humanity will either triumph or fail as a whole.”


Reforming Democracy and the Future of History

By NAYEF AL-RODHAN on June 14, 2014, The Globalist

“Successive waves of democratization have touched every region of the world over the past 40 years. However, democracy has in fact been in retreat for years, as many repressive governments became even more repressive, civil liberties were dropped and the military was empowered in many countries.”

“In the early 1990′s, the end of the Cold War had brought the revalidation of democracy with great vigour as the most representative form of government. Yet this exuberance has been counterbalanced with criticism of its failings and shortcomings.”

“Globally, democracies have also acted in ways that suggest an outright renunciation of their principles at home.”

“Western democracies— traditionally considered “advanced democracies” — experience acute inequalities, and even cases of abject poverty. Growing inequality  leads to shrinking opportunity, fueling disillusionment and low political participation.”

“Corporate financing of political campaigns hijacks the democratic process. It further alienates voters who feel they are excluded from a process that is beyond their control.”

“The role of money in politics is worth singling out as a major problem with democratic governance. Its effects are truly worrisome, especially when there is little transparency and regulatory mechanisms to limit the distorting role of money in politics.”

“The sense of disillusionment with democracy in its current form has been reinforced with disclosures of large-scale government surveillance, violations of privacy and civil liberties.”

“The claim of sweeping authority over the right to collect personal data is harmful to core liberties. Overseeing the overseers and keeping states’ need to know in balance with the safeguard of privacy and civil liberties remains a challenge.”

“Democracy guarantees political freedom and rights. Yet it is not incompatible with marginalization, exclusion, poverty, disempowerment or disrespect.”

“A greater emphasis on human dignity and a governance model that places dignity at the center can halt the current disenchantment with democracy.”

“As history is nowhere near its end, the sustainability of democracy depends on a substantial reform of its current form. Sustainable History is a more feasible paradigm as it focuses on dignity rather than just freedom.”

Meta-Geopolitics: The Relevance of Geopolitics in the Digital Age

By NAYEF AL-RODHAN on May 25, 2014, E-International Relations

“Geopolitics – the study of the interaction between geography, international politics, and international relations – has seemingly passed its heyday and critiques are now coming from several fronts”.

“ In the ‘digital age‘, the relevance of geography and territory appears falsely outdated. Not only are economic interdependence, multilateral institutions, technological change, or the rise of non-state actors considered to weigh decisively in global affairs, but the simple reference to geopolitics among liberals is often taken to mean something reactionary (even revisionist), outmoded, or sinister.”

“ The discipline of geopolitics has attracted opprobrium much before the ‘digital age’. Geopolitics has long been considered an avatar of imperialism due to its traditional association with social Darwinism and its preoccupation with the survival capacity of states and societies.”

“ In the 21st century, the position of geopolitics as a discipline is further attacked, as geopolitics is essentially a ‘territorial’ paradigm in a world that is increasingly depicted as affected by non-state and de-territorialized threats.”

“ Delocalized threats and cyber attacks on key infrastructure can have devastating effects on the economy and security. Moreover, issues such as climate change, which transcend the classical interstate dynamics and rivalries, alter the scope of the traditional geopolitical. Old-fashioned geopolitical scripts would therefore appear increasingly outdated when seen from this prism. However, this may not be necessarily true.”

“ Geopolitics will always be relevant because of geographic structures that are not mobile and which cannot be overlooked, ranging from resources to emotionally relevant historical sites, locations, and regional/neighboring relations. In this regard, the fast-paced 21st century has not fully managed to surpass some of the limitations and determinations of previous times.”

“ The 21st century is indeed an era marked by unprecedented global communication, transnational agents, and non-state threats. Yet, despite these shifts, traditional understandings of geopolitics (as a study of the interplay between territory, economy, demography, and state politics) need to be rightly placed in explanations of our contemporary world.”

“ Like in the past, a set of material and geographical factors will continue to have a say in international politics. Natural resources, cultural fault lines, strategic chokepoints, or weather patterns will continue to constrain or give extra leverage to states on the global scene.”

“ The choice for a paradigm is therefore not between classical geopolitics and a narrative of post-territoriality. Rather, the paradigm of what I call Meta-geopolitics is more appropriate now, accounting for both traditional notions of geostrategy and the volatile and shifting nature of today’s security context.”

“Accepting that our contemporary world is a highly complex environment means precisely acknowledging that both old and new security issues coexist, rather than being mutually-exclusive.”

Geopolitics of Dignity

By NAYEF AL-RODHAN on MAY 20, 2014, Global Policy

The yearning for dignity, demonstrated for example by the Arab Spring, is a more fundamental and more inclusive human need than just the desire for freedom, and it is possible to live in freedom but not in dignity even in mature democracies.”

Understanding how human beings are emotionally based may provide us with insight into many of the problems with which we are faced, such as inequality, cultural arrogance, ethnocentrism and conflict.”

While humans have a predilection for some moral sentiments under particular circumstances, they do not, in my view, possess innate morality. It is therefore important to create the conditions under which the expansion of our moral communities becomes more likely.”

My view of human nature differs from the views of Hobbes and Rousseau and lays the foundation for a more pragmatic approach, in which I advocate that the moral compass of man can be influenced positively by incentive-based constructive behavioral frameworks of societies and their governance mechanisms.”

“Collective Civilizational triumph is not a zero-sum enterprise that favours one geo-cultural domain over another. Given the instantly connected and interdependent nature of today’s world, all geo-cultural domains must succeed if humanity as a whole is to triumph.”

“The enduring assumption that human behaviour is governed by innate morality and reason is at odds with the persistence of human deprivation, inequality, injustice and conflict.”

“Humans have the potential to be either moral or immoral, depending on their self-interest, and this requires governance mechanisms that minimize excesses, because human beings and states cannot be left to their own devices to do the “right thing”, as well as stringent normative frameworks that best fulfil the potential of human beings to exist and evolve in peace and security.”

“Placing human dignity at the heart of foreign and security policy may seem foolish and hopelessly idealistic. Yet, the alternative is far more short-sighted. Short-term stability can be deceiving and sometimes a longer time frame is needed to judge this correctly.”


Synthetic Biology - What to Expect and Fear?

By NAYEF AL-RODHAN on APRIL 23, 2014, Global Policy

Interactions between life sciences and engineering are now providing solid ground for many futurologists to see their postulation of a ‘life 2.0’ reality become materialized within decades.”

“Life sciences have undergone outstanding transformations in the past five decades and the rapid advances in synthetic biology are pushing new frontiers in the chemistry of life and the manipulation of genetics.”

“Synthetic biology is an emerging field that promises to reveal the extraordinary potential of the genetic code and reinvent biological processes.”

“The goals of synthetic biology are certainly ambitious and virtually limitless. The interest in synthetic biology, now pursued in more and more research centres around the world (such as the US, UK or Japan), has initiated a great deal of investment and a growing focus on practical achievements.”

“The vast information that is continuously obtained about life processes will enable synthetic biology to be used in varied ways in medicine, agriculture, industries, bioremediation (which uses microorganisms to eliminate toxic waste from the soil or water) or energy.”

“The prospect of creating life and living organisms from scratch proves that biology can now be a tool for engineers to manipulate for whatever ends. In this scenario, biology is set to become a routine process at the service of many industries.”

“While some see synthetic biology as a ray of hope for many of the world`s challenges in health, energy or environment, to some its scope is overshadowed by the numerous pathogenic risks and hazardous spillovers that it can cause.”

“The dangers associated with synthetic biology are in many ways no different than those prompted by biotechnology in general or genetic engineering but synthetic biology is quantitatively different in that it offers far more possibilities to manipulate biology.”

“ If the pace of development in other fields is any indicator, we know that in just a decade from now synthetic biology will have already grown tremendously and become more sophisticated. Creating new life forms is now a prospect in sight and this bids for new philosophical paradigms to view life, as well as consistent, pro-active steps to mitigate risks.”

Cloaks of Invisibility: The Latest Frontier in Military Technology  

By NAYEF AL-RODHAN on MARCH 6, 2014, Georgetown Journal of International Affairs

"The next frontier in defense technology is so-called “stealth” technologies, in which the U.S. military has already invested huge funds. New research is opening up the prospect of achieving something close to invisibility on the battlefield, a breakthrough likened to Harry Potter`s famous invisibility cloak."

"the range of technologies of deception providing something close to invisibility also includes so-called “active” or “adaptive camouflage.” Research in the field of active virtual camouflage has already been tested or applied in military aviation, the maritime domain, or on the ground, such as to cloak tanks."

"In the “stealth era,” battlefield strength might just be dictated by the level of stealth or invisibility technology at the disposal of combatants. This is likely to trigger a scientific and technological race, as well as provide new platforms for countries to enhance their prestige domestically and internationally."

"The era ushered in by stealth technologies could revolutionize war-making, surveillance, and military-technological relations, creating new interstate competitions and potential security dilemmas. Increasingly, these technologies are treated not as possibility, but as reality."

"Just as the technology it aims to create, the achievement of invisibility (or something close to it) will result in more elusive and obscure threats and challenges to states by further reducing military transparency."

The Neurochemistry of Power: Implications for Political Change 

By NAYEF AL-RODHAN on FEBRUARY 27, 2014, Politics in Spires

"Power, especially absolute and unchecked power, is intoxicating. Its effects occur at the cellular and neurochemical level. They are manifested behaviourally in a variety of ways, ranging from heightened cognitive functions to lack of inhibition, poor judgment, extreme narcissism, perverted behaviour, and gruesome cruelty."

"The primary neurochemical involved in the reward of power that is known today is dopamine, the same chemical transmitter responsible for producing a sense of pleasure."

"Power activates the very same reward circuitry in the brain and creates an addictive ‘high’ in much the same way as drug addiction. Like addicts, most people in positions of power will seek to maintain the high they get from power, sometimes at all costs."

"In accountable societies, checks and balances exist to avoid the inevitable consequences of power. Yet, in cases where leaders possess absolute and unchecked power, changes in leadership and transitions to more consensus-based rule are unlikely to be smooth."

"The brain is neurochemically pre-programmed to seek pleasure, regardless of its social acceptability or how it is derived. We are therefore, all addicts, of one sort or another, to the extent that we are all engaged in pursuits that ensure dopamine and other neurochemicals flow."

"Much like addictive drugs, power uses these ready-made reward circuitries, producing extreme pleasure."

"The neurochemistry of power has implications for politics and for political change. Since sudden withdrawal of power, like the abrupt withdrawal from drugs, produces uncontrollable cravings, those who possess power, especially absolute power, are highly unlikely to give it up willingly, smoothly and without human and material loss."

On Artificial Intelligence and Meta-Geopolitics 

By NAYEF AL-RODHAN  on FEBRUARY 14, 2014, The Fletcher Forum

"We have grown increasingly accustomed to the presence and benefits of AI-related technologies, but it is essential to realize that their extensive use has very real and concrete implications for national power and geopolitical competition."

" Even beyond the military and intelligence sectors, AI and AI devices change the nature of power through their direct and profound impact on critical state capacities as they are used in key social and economic sectors: in finance, economy, agriculture, health, education, and the environment."

 "Intelligent machines have acquired a pivotal dimension in today’s world pushing us to rethink geopolitics and state power. Material and normative aspects have traditionally defined power in international politics, and the uses of AI impact both."

"The contributions of AI span numerous fields, and impact sectors (military and civilian) that are central to the definition of national power."

"The real-life applicability of Artificial Intelligence reshapes our understanding of the foundations of national power, with both the “soft” and “hard” capacities that define it."

"In the era of artificial intelligence, we must expand our views of the means and ways through which state power is defined and the range of resources that contribute to it."

What is the Future for the ‘China Governance Model’?  

By NAYEF AL-RODHAN  on FEBRUARY 12, 2014, Politics in Spires

"The uprisings in the Arab world have prompted many to ask whether China will be the next to be swept along in a wave of popular unrest that has toppled rulers in several countries. Indeed, the Chinese leadership, both in power and previously in power, has been watching the situation carefully."

"The `Chinese model` is built around a long tradition of meritocratic recruitment, civil service examinations, high emphasis on education and deference to technocratic authority. Some of these factors may be a source of dynamism that may give the Chinese state the capacity to adapt to changing circumstances. Yet, weaknesses abound."

"China`s rapid growth may buy social peace for the time being; but in the long run, public outrage may be more difficult to contain."

"Addressing dignity is not a question of political concessions or liberal bias, but of meeting fundamental human needs. If these are ignored it will backfire."

"‘Dignity deficits’ could be China’s Achilles heel. If China is different, it is because it is able to deliver on economic development for the time being, even if wealth is unevenly distributed. But the winds of change are bound to blow eastward."

"Social unrest still remains a possibility in China. This should encourage the leadership to proceed to consequential reforms and changes in a way that may not necessarily lead to the culmination of a Western-type liberal democracy. The alternative may rest in a tactful yet significant and dignity-driven evolution of the present system, according to the Sustainable History model."

Sustainable Power is Just Power 

By NAYEF AL-RODHAN on DECEMBER 6, 2013,  e-International Relations

"The myriad of debates and speculations about an intervention in Syria brought along an opportune momentum to evaluate power in international relations and, more importantly, to raise critical questions of what defines sustainable, effective and credible power today."

"In order for state power and leadership to be credible and sustainable in the 21st century, it needs to be smart as well as just; it must take into account international norms, international law, respect and the attainment of dignity of individuals, collective identities, and states."

"Dignity, recognition, identity and belonging are fundamental human needs and critical to politics, governance and security. In our connected and interdependent world, disrespect and dignity deficits – individual, collective or nation-wide – fuel contempt, turbulence, insidious and long-term instability, and asymmetric threats to national and global security."

"In an instantly connected, interdependent and globalizing world, acting as a just power is critical in order to attract support, advance one`s agenda, encourage compliance, and enjoy perceived legitimacy in a sustainable way."

"Just Power is the only sustainable paradigm to ensure the national interest and security of a state, and policymakers must not lose sight of this or be distracted by domestic politics (such as election cycles) or short-term geopolitical gains."

Printing the Future?

By NAYEF AL-RODHAN on NOVEMBER 19, 2013, ISN Blog (ETH Zurich)

"While the invisibility cloak is still under development, Three Dimensional (3D) Printing, long regarded with skepticism, is already at the beginning of a triumphant rise which promises to bring about revolutionary changes in manufacturing."

"The rapid advance of 3D printing technologies can be seen as an example of 21st century scientific progress where innovation continuously eclipses innovation."

"In addition to its many benefits, science and technology have always also been used to the detriment of peace and security, and 3D printing could be no exception if left unregulated."

"The next big global challenge might just be to balance the human pursuit of innovation and scientific progress with the need for sustainability and security."

"As with other emerging technologies, maintaining the balance between security and innovation is critical in order to ensure a safe and equitable world."

Moving Away from the End of History to a Sustainable History 

By NAYEF AL-RODHAN on NOVEMBER 12, 2013,  Politics in Spires

"Western-type liberal democracy in its current form remains the most tested and successful accountable governance model in history. However, as a slogan for global political change in the 21st century, it needs to be re-examined both in terms of its applicability to all forms of societies and for making current democratic societies more inclusive."

"The range of events now in the spotlight of international relations – such as the Arab Spring – has further emphasized that the bid for leadership change, be it highly authoritarian, might in fact be premised on a quest for something more wholesome than just political freedom."

"The existence of marginalized communities in Western democratic societies, which stand as the pinnacle of the liberal democracy model, as well as some contested international policies of some democracies in recent history, have questioned the mythology of the liberal order in its current form as an aspiration of all peoples and the natural course of history."

"The end of history thesis needs to be revised, not simply because liberal democratic institutions may not have the propellers to enable societies to adjust to a number of current trends but also because sustainable political orders also need to ensure good and accountable governance in culturally appropriate ways."

"Rather than insisting that the current form of Western-type liberal democracy is the ultimate form of governance for all societies, we need to envisage other governance models that go one step beyond freedom and incorporate and uphold human dignity needs."

The Pivot Expanded 

By NAYEF AL-RODHAN on OCTOBER, 2013, Small Wars Journal

"Headlines which announce a US `defeat` in Asia employ a definition of the pivot that appears increasingly outdated. They see US geopolitical interests as a matter of a drastic either/or dichotomy: either pursuing the Asian pivot or focalizing on the Middle East. Rather, I consider these recent events to prove the need for an expanded geopolitical vision in which the “pivot” is imagined beyond its established boundaries."

"It is unrealistic to imagine a US geostrategic vision which sees its pivotal interests linked exclusively to the Pacific region. More appropriately, we need to consider the wider Middle East, Central Asia and North-East Africa to be bound together in a geopolitical unit of pivotal importance."

"Stability and effective governance within the TPC is critical to global security and economy and this fact is often obfuscated by the prevailing consensus of a US “Pacific Century” which implies that all major geopolitical stakes are located in the eastern part of Asia."

"Thinking of the Pivot beyond the current meaning (confined to Asia-Pacific) seems more appropriate now."

"It is not lack of factual knowledge that has prevented a change of discourse but politics: recognizing other pivotal areas can be interpreted as a scaling down of the engagement in Asia-Pacific. However, in practice, no pragmatic leadership can ignore that pivotal geopolitical interests exist outside of Asia-Pacific and that devoting attention to them is no less imperative."

Freedom vs. Dignity: A Sustainable History Thesis for the Arab Spring 

By NAYEF AL-RODHAN on NOVEMBER 7, 2013, Georgetown Journal

"The radical transformations of the Arab Spring  were considered a confirmation of an ineluctable momentum towards a Western-type liberal democracy—the End of History."

"Arab societies in transition need to find their own way in order for durable forms of good governance to evolve. This implies reaching domestic consensus over the preferred type of government and international assistance that is limited and tailored to requests from within. Furthermore, there need to be regional variations even within the MENA region reflecting the fragmented and varied power mechanisms, traditions, and socio-economic realities of each country."

"Rather than thinking in terms of the end of history, we ought to be thinking about how to ensure a “sustainable history”—sustainable in the sense of ensuring endogenous good governance paradigms in culturally-appropriate, acceptable, and affordable ways."

"Western-style liberal democracy, in its current form, may answer the need for political equality, but it also has the potential of producing socio-economic and cultural inequalities, as has happened, for example, in the case of disenfranchised Muslim communities in France or other communities in various mature democracies."

"A historical perspective focused on sustainability offers more adaptability than the End of History alternative. Underlying this sustainable history model is the belief that what drives history is not primarily the search for freedom, but rather the profound human quest for dignity."

"The numerous failings in governance of incumbent regimes thus culminated in collective dignity deficits that made a critical turning point for the region inevitable. The question was not if, but when. Therefore, both the Arab Spring and its aftermath need to be dissociated from the overly-repeated dictum of liberal democracy, as it was not rooted in freedom but rather in a search for dignity."

Inevitable Transhumanism? How Emerging Strategic Technologies will affect the Future of Humanity 

By NAYEF AL-RODHAN on OCTOBER 29, 2013,  ISN Blog (ETH Zurich)

"It is ironic and indeed counterintuitive that our own human nature has a huge potential to drive us towards physical and cognitive enhancements that may completely alter the characteristics of our species."

"Humans are genetically and neuro-chemically programmed to `feel good` and are driven by a number of factors, which I call the “Neuro P5″: “power, profit, pleasure, pride and permanency”. Consequently, if a technology appears which enhances any of these strong motivators, our neurochemically-mediated calculations, emotions and survival instincts will intuitively push us in that direction."

"This radical human metamorphosis and enhancement (physical and cognitive), through the convergence of various emerging strategic technologies, is not a question of ‘if’ but of ‘when’, ‘how’, and “at what cost”.

"Technological convergence has the potential to fill basic human needs and improve the human quality of life, but it also raises serious concerns in the field of human, national, environmental, transnational and transcultural security."

"As futuristic as some experiments might have appeared a while ago, the rapid pace of medical interventions and genetic modifications to alter human life show that `the future is already here."

"The use of technologies to modify our emotions, our bodies and our neurochemical balances, is bound to undermine and alter the instincts that have developed over millions of years in the process of human evolution and was pivotal to our survival thus far."

"strategic technologies and human enhancement have significant ramifications for human dignity and our conception of human rights, and they will also affect geopolitical issues and global security in very real and complex ways."

"While dangers to human nature, dignity and destiny are real, I am not suggesting that technological innovations and the potential for enhancement should be halted or stifled. I am instead calling for urgent global action at the UN level to define international moral and bioethical guidelines on what potential enhancements are acceptable to our global societies and on what terms."

"In my opinion, the only way to ensure our survival as a species, is to prioritize the preservation and advancement of human dignity above all else."

"Any enhancement that violates any of the nine dimensions of human dignity cannot be considered an improvement and will have serious societal and destiny implications in the long run. Taking this into account is the only way to ensure a sustainable history for us all."

China and the United States: A Symbiosis 

By NAYEF AL-RODHAN on SEPTEMBER 27, 2013, The National Interest

"The relations between the United States and China can be best described in the long run in the framework of symbiotic realism, which provides an analytical framework for international relations in an anarchic world of instant connectivity and interdependence."

"Competition, the pursuit of interests and power have been perennial features of international politics and it would be hopelessly utopian to assume the opposite, even in a context of economic and financial interdependence. Yet, interdependence and connectivity do play a crucial role in shaping actors' behavior, compelling them to assess their foreign affairs with pragmatism."

"Pragmatism is and will remain the dominant undercurrent in U.S.-Chinese relations, mirroring symbiotic relations."

"The nature of U.S.-Chinese relations subscribes to the description of symbiosis if only one considers the predominant dimensions of these relations: one country predominantly borrows while the other lends, one produces, the other consumes. (this was slightly paraphrased; initially: “The nature of U.S.-Chinese relations subscribes to this description….”)

"Mistrust, ideological incompatibly and competition endure in many areas of the relations between the United States and China but it is highly unlikely that any of these factors could escalate to fracture their relations. Their level of interdependence compels them to focus on the big picture rather than get trapped in small dissensions and endless security dilemmas. (paraphrased)

"Competition, antagonism and egoistic interests are bound to persist between the United States and China but in the particular context of their interdependence, these will be restrained for as long as the two giant powers remain locked in a symbiotic relationship."

Dignity Deficit Fuels Uprisings in the Middle East 

By NAYEF AL-RODHAN on SEPTEMBER 10, 2013, Yale Global

"One of the most striking facets of the calls for political change that swept across the Middle East and North Africa is the fervent demand for “karama” – Arabic for dignity."

"The lack of collective dignity felt by so many in the Arab world is the result of a combination of internal autocratic and corrupt regimes, with predictable ineffective and unaccountable governance, supported by external actors with short-term geopolitical interests."

"(…) collective dignity deficits have created mounting frustration due to limited institutionalized channels through which citizens could effect meaningful political change."

"The yearning for dignity is a driving force in history and is central to the sustainability of any political order and for human civilization as a whole. It brought the Arab world to a crucial juncture and the ensuing transition periods cannot be but marked by the inclusion of dignity in governance paradigms. "

"While it may be tempting for outside powers to try to influence the region’s direction of change, it is imperative that the people are the authors of their own futures and develop economic, political and cultural frameworks that are authentic to them"

"A moderate and reformed neo-Pan-Islamism is likely to gain more terrain as a response to emerging neo-Orientalist approaches and the constant disillusionment with world powers’ approach towards the region, the negative portrayal of Arabs and Muslims, and the predominant feelings of bias and opportunism in the international community regarding the plight of Palestinians. "

"The West needs to demonstrate that it’s willing to support the development of endogenous good governance, without meddling, by sharing best practices, assisting in building efficient and accountable civil society institutions and technological innovations."

Knowledge and Global Order 


"Much of what we often consider knowledge is actually a point of view held without sufficient grounds: in a word, dogma. "

 "My theory of knowledge, Neuro-rational Physicalism (NRP), explains that, contrary to many philosophies of the origins of knowledge, knowledge is neither purely based on empiricism nor entirely based on rationalism. Rather, knowledge comes from a combination of employing both sense experience and reason, both of which are subject to interpretation. How we interpret our sense experience and how we frame the questions that generate our accepted knowledge depend on many things, including prior assumptions as well as cultural, spatial and temporal settings."

"Thoughts, memories, perceptions and emotions are physical in the sense that they are mediated through neurochemistry. They are rooted in chemical reactions and processes in the brain, all of which are physical." 

"Neuro-rational Physicalism is premised on the neuro-biological foundation of human nature, which implies that thoughts, perceptions or emotions correspond to a physical reaction in the brain."

"Because of factors such as different life experiences, cultural backgrounds and societal norms, as well as the unique neurochemical processes that underlie the thought processes of each individual, knowledge and what we think we know are, in many ways, personal and not at all universal."

"Knowledge therefore is often both temporally, spatially, and culturally constrained as well as indeterminate."

"In order for today’s network society to be a tool for the advancement of human dignity and not an additional factor of conflicts, it is crucial to nurture some sort of global literacy and, for that matter, a strategy for demystified knowledge acquisition at the global level."

"The lack of certainty about what we know also has a positive side. If we accept that we can be absolutely certain of very little, we can be dogmatic about very little. Recognition of the limits to our knowledge ought therefore to facilitate respect and dialogue. This is all the more important if we recognize that humanity is closely interdependent and indivisible, and realize that many threats make no distinction between cultures and nations."

"Populist political speeches that are meant to unite and excite must also avoid irresponsible and culturally-insensitive sound bites that may trigger alienation and insecurity." 

"In `knowing how we know what we know` rests the premise for a less vicious and confrontational world and, conversely, for a more patient and accommodative one. This is an invitation to introspection and humility: not humility of one culture in relations to another, but in relation to our own human constraints in knowing and grasping the world."