FLI June, 2019 Newsletter

The Future of Nuclear Weapons Testing & More

Nuclear weapons testing is mostly a thing of the past: The last nuclear weapon test explosion on US soil was conducted over 25 years ago. But how much longer can nuclear weapons testing remain a taboo that almost no country will violate?

In an official statement from the end of May, the Director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) expressed the belief that both Russia and China were preparing for explosive tests of low-yield nuclear weapons, if not already testing. Such accusations could potentially be used by the U.S. to justify a breach of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT).

The CTBT prohibits all signatories from testing nuclear weapons of any size (North Korea, India, and Pakistan are not signatories). But the CTBT never actually entered into force, in large part because the U.S. has still not ratified it, though Russia did.

The existence of the treaty, even without ratification, has been sufficient to establish the norms and taboos necessary to ensure an international moratorium on nuclear weapons tests for a couple decades. But will that last? Or will the U.S., Russia, or China start testing nuclear weapons again?

This month, Ariel was joined by Jeffrey Lewis, Director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies and founder of armscontrolwonk.com, and Alex Bell, Senior Policy Director at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. Lewis and Bell discuss the DIA’s allegations, the history of the CTBT, why it’s in the U.S. interest to ratify the treaty, and more.

Topics discussed in this episode:

  • The validity of the U.S. allegations –Is Russia really testing weapons?
  • The International Monitoring System — How effective is it if the treaty isn’t in effect?
  • The modernization of U.S/Russian/Chinese nuclear arsenals and what that means
  • Why there’s a push for nuclear testing
  • Why opposing nuclear testing can help ensure the US maintains nuclear superiority

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Despite the 2017 international Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, weapons companies continue to build them. Facilitating this production is a massive amount of investment capital contributed by private financial institutions. Don’t Bank on the Bomb’s new report, Shorting our security: Financing the companies that make nuclear weapons, identifies which banks are investing in nuclear weapons producers, and how much they’re investing. The report finds that over 748 billion USD was invested in the top 18 nuclear weapons companies between January 2017 and January 2019, representing capital from 325 financial institutions. Read more.

More June Highlights

by Victoria Krakovna

This year the International Conference on Learning Representations hosted topic-based workshops for the first time, and I co-organized the Safe ML workshop. One of the main goals was to bring together near and long term safety research communities. The workshop was structured according to a taxonomy that incorporates both near and long term safety research into three areas — specification, robustness, and assurance. For an overview of the talks and panels that took place and the papers that were presented, click here.

What We’ve Been Up to This Month

Anthony Aguirre participated in the Foresight Institute AGI Strategy meeting in San Francisco on June 20th.

Jessica Cussins Newman participated in the Foresight Institute AGI Strategy Meeting. She also met with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in DC on June 17th.

Richard Mallah participated in the Foresight Institute AGI Strategy Meeting and attended Foresight Institute’s event “Civilizational Collapse: Scenarios, Prevention, Responses.” He also attended EA Global in San Francisco. Richard was the presenter for two workshops in Italy on AI, AI ethics, and AI safety, hosted by The European House Ambrosetti.

FLI in the News

The Future of Humanity Institute’s Research Scholars Program is hiring a Project Coordinator to manage day-to-day operations as the program scales, and take a lead on side projects. Learn more.

The AI Now Institute is hiring an Executive Director to join their Leadership Team. Learn more.