The CSS Blog Network

Modeling Peace and Security: The Future of Computer-Supported Policy

Courtesy of Anders Sandberg/Flickr. (CC BY-NC 2.0)

This article was originally published by IPI Global Observatory on 13 June 2017.

Central Europe received a major increase in refugees fleeing Syria in 2015. With the region’s politicians initially overwhelmed and claiming the situation was unforeseeable, civil society had to step into the breach on humanitarian assistance. Eventually, politicians did propose a broad range of solutions to cope with the phenomenon, typically informed by their political persuasions. Naturally, these were widely debated, and none were able to be categorically proven as effective.

But what if there was a way to evaluate the proposed solutions? What if the means existed to analyze the challenges faced and provide support for decision-makers? Existing computer simulation models are, in fact, quite capable of doing just that in a range of fields. Though their capabilities are not taken full advantage of at present, the situation appears to be changing.

One field—and a big one at that—starting to adopt large-scale computer modeling is healthcare. With many national health insurance programs facing the challenges of demographic shifts (an aging population and fewer contributors to the pool of available funds), the quest for cost efficiency has opened the door to healthcare technology assessment (HTA).

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Reasons for Rejecting Globalisation: Beyond Inequality and Xenophobia

 

Courtesy of SliceofNYC/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

This article was originally published by the Elcano Royal Institute on 14 March 2017.

Theme

The authors analyse reasons accounting for the growing discontent with globalisation and the liberal establishment in advanced democracies.

Summary

This paper presents five hypotheses to account for support for anti-establishment and anti-globalisation movements. In addition to the predominant perception that the economic decline of the middle classes and the growing xenophobia evident in the West account for Donald Trump’s victory in the US, Brexit and the rise of the National Front in France, among others, the authors set out another three reasons: the difficulties that significant layers of the population are having in adapting to technological change, the crisis of the welfare state and the growing disenchantment with representative democracy.

Analysis

A consensus has existed for decades among the main political forces of the US and Europe revolving around the idea that economic openness is positive. The flows of trade and investment and, to a lesser extent, workers have thus been gradually liberalised over time. Thanks to this liberal order, Western societies have become more prosperous, more open and more cosmopolitan. Although some lost out from this economic openness, the majority of voters were prepared to accept a greater level of globalisation. As consumers they could acquire products more cheaply from countries such as China, and they also understood that the welfare state would protect them appropriately if they temporarily fell into the category of the losers (in political economy this is known as the ‘compensation hypothesis’,1 according to which more open countries tend to have larger state sectors and redistribute more). For their part, developing countries have also benefitted from economic globalisation, exporting products to the wealthy transatlantic market (which is more and more open) and sending remittances from the West to their countries of origin. The invention seemed to work.

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Smart CCTVs: Third Eye of Secure Cities

CCTV

Courtesy Steve Rotman/Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This article was originally published by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) in December 2016.

Synopsis

Many cities around the world are exploring the use of Smart CCTVs as advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) offer operational value for homeland security. However, cybersecurity and overreliance could impede the technology’s potential.

Commentary

Following recent terrorist incidents, Germany’s Interior Minister announced in August 2016 that CCTV cameras at airports and train stations will be enhanced with facial recognition technology. Likewise, the New York Police Department has developed the Domain Awareness System that uses similar technology to track and monitor potential suspects.

Globalisation increases the exposure of cities to myriad transnational threats even as growing urbanisation is putting the strain on law enforcement by increasing the densities of population, property and critical infrastructure to be safeguarded in each precinct. These inherent challenges in protecting cities – population and economic centres that make attractive soft targets – necessitate the early warning and identification of threats. Smart CCTVs support this function as the third eye of cities by complementing the vigilance of police officers and the community.

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The Fourth Industrial Revolution: Coping With Disruptive Change

La Constancia

Courtesy latitudes-flickr/Flickr

This article was originally published by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) on 21 October 2016.

Synopsis

The fourth industrial revolution will benefit mankind tremendously. We can also expect disruptions. Upholding state centrality will ensure continuity and stability amidst this seismic shift.

Commentary

The first, second and third industrial revolutions gave mankind steam power, electricity and electronics respectively. We are now entering the era of the fourth industrial revolution – a seismic shift that will give us a set of radically new technologies. When these technologies materialise – namely artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet-of-Things (IoT), 3D printing, bio printing, gene editing, autonomous vehicles (AVs) and so on – the world as we know it today will be dramatically transformed.

We can look forward to enhanced longevity. Given persistent shortage in human organs for transplant, bio-printing – a process which draws on 3D printers to create human organs – will let hospitals ‘print out’ human organs on-demand. Cutting down on their development cost, new drugs can be experimented on 3D-printed human organs to quickly establish their efficacy and safety. Gene editing can mean that babies in future will be born free of many genetic disorders.

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Orbiting Around a Public-Private Strategy for Space

Earth and International Space Station (ISS), courtesy NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center/Flickr

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 6 May 2016.

In the latest sign of how new entrants are upending the space launch industry, the Air Force announced last week that an $83 million contract awarded to SpaceX to put a GPS satellite into orbit would cost the government 40 percent less than the competing bid from United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin. As impressive as that is, SpaceX’s competitiveness is set to increase further after the firm achieved a milestone in the history of space exploration. After numerous failed attempts, SpaceX successfully landed the first stage of one of its rockets on a “drone ship” floating in the Atlantic Ocean. The rocket’s payload, a cargo delivery to the International Space Station (ISS), was successfully lifted into orbit.

The achievement is a first step towards the reuse of SpaceX rockets (or more precisely the first of the rocket’s two stages), which previously would be lost after a single use. The next step will be to attempt to refurbish and reuse a rocket — potentially many times over — at acceptable cost and risk. The Space Shuttle’s solid rocket boosters parachuted to sea and were recovered by ship, but they did not themselves lift payloads into orbit and were very expensive to refurbish. Another rocketry firm, Blue Origin, has also managed to safely land its rockets after launch, but those are sub-orbital vehicles not meant to reach the ISS or place satellites aloft. ULA has studied reusability but has not implemented it.

The major implication of rocket reusability – and the reason it has been so feverishly pursued — is to reduce the price of placing a payload into orbit. SpaceX’s per-launch price is reportedly $60 million, well below the $200 million charged by ULA or the $137 million charged by Europe’s Arianespace launch consortium. Rocket reuse stands to reduce SpaceX’s price even further, to perhaps just $40 million. To put that in perspective, it is about the same as it costs to stage the Oscars.

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