Research Group Emerging Disruptive Technologies

The Research Group “Emerging Disruptive Technologies,” established in 2023, addresses three key questions:

  1. How dangerous can new technological developments become from a security, ethical and legal perspective when they find their way into military use?
  2. How must verification measures be tailored to enable effective arms control of modern military technologies?
  3. How can new technologies help develop more reliable arms control and verification measures?

In order to obtain robust answers, the group is pursuing an inter­disciplinary research approach, combining political science with the natural sciences. Only the combi­nation of different perspec­tives can answer what can be achieved politi­cally (and with which actors), where techno­logical pitfalls lie, and how they can be over­come – possibly even through techno­logy itself. Therefore, the inter­disciplinary approach promi­ses effective approa­ches to strength­ening arms control, which is currently in a severe crisis.

The group focusses on the future and primarily looks at techno­logies that are considered as emer­ging disruptive techno­logies – that is, techno­logies which are capable of over­turning previous power struc­tures and might allow weaker challen­gers to overtake the milita­ries of previous­ly stronger players using inno­vations. These techno­logies include hyper­sonic missiles, mili­tary robotics, remotely piloted as well as autono­mous and semi-autono­mous weapon systems, nano­techno­logy, various forms of human enhance­ment, cyber opera­tions, militarily used Artificial Intel­ligence (AI) and Machine Learning, or even the military use of quantum computers.

Some of these technologies, such as hyper­sonic missiles, have already been deployed by at least some militaries. Other techno­logies, such as quantum compu­ters, are still years or even decades away from being ready for deploy­ment. For all of these techno­logies, traditio­nal quanti­tative arms control efforts such as ceilings and limits are difficult or virtually impos­sible to implement.

The group is led by Prof. Dr Dr Christian Reuter (Professor in the Department of Computer Science at TU Darmstadt and head of PEASEC) and Dr Niklas Schörnig (political scientist and economist, PRIF). The group also includes Liska Suckau (mechanical engineer and political scientist, PRIF) and Dr Thomas Reinhold (computer scientist, PRIF). Anna-Katharina Ferl and Jana Baldus (both PRIF) are associated.

The research group is part of the Cluster for Natural and Technical Science Arms Control Research (CNTR).