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Oxford University Press (2019-11-01)
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Politics & government


by Cronin, Audrey Kurth

In this fascinating, timely and vital book, Audrey Kurth Cronin, one of the world's leading experts on security and terrorism, looks at how modern technology is rapidly changing access to weapons of mass violence with potentially catastrophic results.

Never have so many possessed the means to be so lethal. The diffusion of modern technology (robotics, cyber weapons, 3-D printing, autonomous systems, and artificial intelligence) to ordinary people has given them access to weapons of mass violence previously monopolized by the state. In recent years, states have attempted to stem the flow of such weapons to individuals and non-state groups, but their efforts are failing.

As Audrey Kurth Cronin explains, what we are seeing now is an exacerbation of an age-old trend. Over the centuries, the most surprising developments in warfare have occurred because of advances in technologies combined with changes in who can use them. Indeed, accessible innovations in destructive force have long driven new patterns of political violence. When Nobel invented dynamite and Kalashnikov designed the AK-47, each inadvertently spurred terrorist and insurgent movements that killed millions and upended the international system.

That history illuminates our own situation, in which emerging technologies are altering society and redistributing power. The twenty-first century "sharing economy" has already disrupted every institution, including the armed forces. New "open" technologies are transforming access to the means of violence. Just as importantly, higher-order functions that previously had been exclusively under state military control - mass mobilization, force projection, and systems integration are being harnessed by non-state actors. Cronin closes by focusing on how to respond so that we both preserve the benefits of emerging technologies yet reduce the risks. Power, in the form of lethal technology, is flowing to the people, but the same technologies that empower can imperil global security - unless we act strategically.

Audrey Kurth Cronin, one of the world's leading experts on security and terrorism, is currently Professor of International Security and the Founding Director of the Center for Security, Innovation, and New Technology at American University. Previously, she worked as a Specialist in Terrorism at the Congressional Research Service, advising Members of Congress in the aftermath of 9/11. She also held a number of positions in the executive branch, including in the office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy and the Office of the Secretary of the Navy. She is the author of several books, including How Terrorism Ends

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From dynamite to drones, Audrey Kurth Cronin provides a much-needed reassessment of how non-state actors adopt technology for violence. Weaving together technology, history, sociology, and organizational theory, Power to the People is a must-read for those looking to understand the democratization of destruction and how to respond.

Quote: Paul Scharre, Director of Technology and National Security Program

Power to the People is an extraordinary achievement due to impeccable research and the author's exceptional wisdom. It must be read widely to help generate common understanding of the dangers we face and the actions we must take to maximize the promise of emerging technologies while protecting our citizens and safeguarding our societies.

Quote: H.R. McMaster, former United States National Security Advisor and author

Power to the People is a must-read for those seeking to understand how new technologies and innovation can change society, the nature of conflict, and our world. With compelling historical research and incisive analysis, Audrey Kurth Cronin gives us invaluable insights into how new technologies are transforming the security landscape and pragmatic recommendations on what we need to do in response.

Quote: Michèle Flournoy, CEO, WestExec Advisors, former US Under Secretary Defense

In this meticulously researched book, Cronin shows how groups such as the Islamic State (or ISIS) exploit new technologies such as the Internet, smartphones, autonomous vehicles, and artificial intelligence. Cronin hardly wants innovation to stop just because of potentially malign applications. Instead, she argues that governments must develop countermeasures to preempt militants from co-opting innovations to catastrophic effect.

Review: Foreign Affairs

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