Technology and terrorism: the risks and opportunities of technological innovation

By Nigel Inkster
In March 2019, 51 people were shot dead in Christchurch, New Zealand, in a live-streamed terrorist attack perpetrated by a white supremacist. Seven months later, a neo-Nazi murdered two people outside a synagogue in Halle, Germany with 3-D printed guns in his arsenal; he, too, live-streamed his attack.

New technologies bring with them both risks and opportunities for the modern world. New and emerging tech and innovation, including AI, the Internet of Things and robotics, have serious potential to raise standards of living and drive economic growth around the globe. However, they carry with them vulnerabilities liable to exploitation by more nefarious forces.

In her new book, Power to the People (OUP, 2020), Professor Cronin makes the case that the diffusion of modern technologies – be they 3-D printing, cyber capabilities, drone technologies or robotics – means that, more than any other time in the past, ordinary individuals and small groups have access to weapons of mass violence previously monopolised by the state. This open technological revolution, she argues, is arming the terrorists of tomorrow.

At this event, Professor Cronin will address policy solutions to today’s open technology revolution, consider why certain lethal technologies spread and explore how the latest off-the-shelf technologies might be adapted for malevolent ends. Her remarks will be followed by a Q&A session with the audience.

Professor Audrey Kurth Cronin is Professor of International Security at American University’s School of International Service and Director of the Center for Security, Innovation and New Technology. She holds a DPhil in International Relations from the University of Oxford and an AB (summa cum laude) from Princeton University. Her career has spanned a number of academic and governmental posts, including as Academic Director of Studies for the Oxford/Leverhulme Programme on the Changing Character of War and at the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy. Her award-winning research looks at terrorism, future conflict, innovation and technology.