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Emerging Technologies And Nuclear Risks

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Emerging technologies could significantly increase the risk of nuclear weapons use. New developments in offensive cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence and autonomous technologies will significantly impact on military behaviour, and experts agree that they could add another layer of risk to an already unacceptable level of risk of nuclear weapons use.

Any use of nuclear weapons, either by intent, accident or miscalculation, will cause catastrophic humanitarian consequences, so it is critical that policymakers and the public understand the pre-existing dangers of nuclear weapons as well as added risks posed by emerging technologies. Adopting measures that only seek to reduce or mitigate the additional risk that emerging technologies pose to nuclear weapon use is not an adequate response to the nuclear status quo. Eliminating nuclear weapons is the only way to eliminate these risks altogether.

What are the risks?

Check out our briefing paper >

The specific risks posed by advancements in cyber operations and artificial intelligence are still being discovered, but some risks include:

  • Cyber attacks could manipulate the information decision-makers get to launch nuclear weapons, and interfere with the operation of nuclear weapons themselves;
  • The increased application of advanced machine learning in defense systems can speed up warfare – giving decision-makers even less time to consider whether or not to launch nuclear weapons;
  • Countries may be eager to apply new artificial intelligence technologies before they understand the full implications of these technologies;
  • It is impossible to eliminate the risk of core nuclear weapons systems being hacked or compromised without eliminating nuclear weapons.

What is ICAN doing about it?

ICAN is calling attention to this urgent problem and calling on policy makers to take action. ICAN hosted a one-day expert meeting in 2019 on this subject. Our meeting brought together about a dozen academics, policy makers and activists to discuss the increasing threat posed by applying emerging technologies to nuclear weapons, the solutions to reduce this threat and how to communicate about it to the public.

Throughout the meeting, we debated how to effectively communicate these threats to the public to better engage them on the subject and encourage action. This expert workshop informed our briefing memo, which activists and policy makers, can use to get up to speed on the risks and determine how we can work together to address the problem.

What you can do:

  • Download this briefing paper to get the facts on the risks and what needs to be done.
  • Tell your representatives that you are concerned about the rising risk of nuclear weapons use and that its time for policy makers to get rid of nuclear weapons before it is too late.
  • Tell your country to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and take nuclear weapons off the table for good.
  • Encourage your city to join ICAN’s Cities Appeal to show your support for a world free of nuclear weapons.
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