When is More Actually Less? Situational Awareness and Nuclear Risks

As increasingly capable and provocative situational awareness tools come into play, the very act of improving situational awareness may intensify escalation cycles in unanticipated ways, particularly among nuclear-armed states.

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For most of the nuclear age, enhanced strategic situational awareness — the ability to characterize the operating environment, detect nuclear and conventional strategic attacks, and discern real attacks from false alarms — has been viewed as beneficial to crisis stability. By improving the accuracy and timeliness of warning, increasing visibility and clarity regarding adversary actions, and extending decision time in crisis, enhanced situational awareness reduces the risk of miscalculation at the nuclear level and alleviates use-or-lose pressures that could incentivize a nuclear first strike. Moreover, the systems that traditionally provided this strategic warning operated at long range, from outside of adversary territories, and generally in ways that were not particularly concerning to an adversary. Today, existing and emerging technology offers the prospect of insight into adversary actions and activities with unprecedented speed and precision. The combination of new sensor technologies, platforms for their deployment, high-bandwidth networks, and artificial intelligence (AI) tools is transforming the potential field of view at the conventional and strategic levels of conflict.

But can there be too much of a good thing?

Read the full article here.

Photo by Glenn Beltz, United Launch Alliance is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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