Innovation and Catastrophic Risk

Integrating novel technical expertise to increase global stability and assess emerging risks

The prospect of nuclear war continues to threaten the existence of humanity and the long-term viability of our societies. Today’s evolving security landscape begs novel approaches to both new and long-standing challenges. 

Rapid adaptation of immensely powerful technology-driven techniques and platforms by governments and militaries reveals not only the need for novel discussion to be engendered around nuclear risk reduction and emerging technologies, but also the need to cultivate an entirely new global technical and policy community to devise the necessary frameworks to reduce catastrophic risks and prevent the outbreak of nuclear war. 

Our initiatives focus on creating venues and work streams where current nuclear experts and decision-makers can step out of their existing domains and place themselves side-by-side with deep technical experts in otherwise disparate practice areas. Our initiatives focus on creating novel approaches to nuclear crisis control, rethinking nuclear deterrence, and assessing the impacts of emerging and disruptive technologies on nuclear strategy and policy.

Recent Content

Effects of Electromagnetic Pulses on Communication Infrastructure: An IST Primer | January 2024
This primer details the effects of a nuclear detonation on communication devices, infrastructure, and networks to highlight the capabilities needed in an additive technical solution for international crisis communications. As a result, this primer focuses on the electromagnetic interference, specifically electromagnetic pulses (EMPs) and associated radiation, generated by a nuclear detonation. 

AI-NC3 Integration in an Adversarial Context: Strategic Stability Risks and Confidence Building Measures | February 2023
Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance, this report addresses the strategic stability risks posed by integrating AI technologies into nuclear command, control and communications systems across the globe.

Nuclear Crisis Communications: Mapping Risk Reduction Implementation Pathways | January 2023
Sylvia Mishra underlines the importance of nuclear risk reduction and the growing need for modern crisis communications. She identifies two scalable pathways to a crisis communications, either through a P5 focus on effective crisis communications in their ongoing P5 Process and Strategic Risk Reduction Working Group, or through the initiation of a working group on crisis communication led by the P5 states and Stockholm Initiative members.

Forecasting the AI and Nuclear Landscape | September 2022
Joint IST-Metaculus report quantifying the risks of escalation between the U.S. and China using input from subject-matter experts and collective intelligence from Metaculus Pro Forecasters.

The Role of Crisis Communications in the Russo-Ukrainian War | May 18, 2022
As the United States and NATO continue efforts to avoid direct kinetic engagement in the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war, Leah Walker analyzes the critical role of crisis communication systems.

Nuclear Proliferation in the 2020s | Spring 2022 event series

  • Iran, the JCPOA, and Holding Back a Breakout: Leah Walker, International Crisis Group’s Ali Vaez, and the European Leadership Network’s Sahil Shah examine the current state of the Iranian nuclear program and discuss how negotiations have been progressing, reflecting on both the successes and failures of transatlantic policy towards Iran to date—and what’s to come in the decade ahead.
  • Hedges, Technology, & the Future of Proliferation: Leah Walker leads a conversation with Dr. Vipin Narang on his new book, Seeking the Bomb, and holds an open conversation about the prospects for nuclear proliferators and the nonproliferation regime in the years to come.
  • North Korea, Testing, and the Failures of Containment: North Korea is undeniably a nuclear weapons power, having repeatedly demonstrated both its explosive technology and delivery systems—so what is Pyongyang trying to achieve with ongoing tests and provocations? Leah Walker moderates a conversation about the world’s most inflammatory nuclear state with Philip Yun, President and CEO of the World Affairs Council of Northern California, and Ankit Panda, Stanton Senior Fellow in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment.

Zoom Won’t Stop a Nuclear War. The World Needs Hotlines | April 19, 2021
In a Foreign Policy op-ed, Sahil Shah and Leah Walker make the case for multilateral hotlines. “Astonishingly, in an age when any nuclear crisis or conflict could not be contained with certainty to two states, there are currently no multilateral communication lines that can be trusted,” they write.

IST Initiatives (current)

Preventing the onset or escalation of conflict by building a resilient global communications system.

6 layer neural network

Artificial Intelligence and Advanced Computing

Harnessing opportunity and mitigating risk in security applications.

IST Initiatives (past)

Machine Learning and US Nuclear Command Control and Communications
Ramifications of novel AI technique integration into United States Nuclear Command, Control and Communications systems.

Additive Nuclear Crisis Control
Leveraging opportunities created by new technologies while also being proactive in minimizing the inherent risks induced by the same technologies.

How Nations Respond to Accidents in Complex Systems
Complex system accidents and the implications for nuclear weapons infrastructure.

NC3 Systems and Strategic Stability
Outlining the global effects of nuclear modernization and advanced technologies.

Last Chance: Communicating at the Nuclear Brink
Nuclear war threatens the existence of humanity.

Nuclear Early Warning Systems and Social Media Storms
What are the risks of social media interacting with the early warning systems of nuclear-armed states?