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Dr. Ori Swed

I am a political sociologist and an organization scholar. I am interested in the role of organizations from a global perspective, especially as it relates to peace and war and human security issues. My work assumes a broad perspective that cuts across sub-sections within sociological research. Guided by overarching themes my work traverses between the macro and micro as I try to define contemporary social phenomena from the bottom up.


In my work, I study the role of organizations in human security and the privatization of aid and security. I also look at the relations between technology and organizations and how they utilized in security and conflict settings. 


I am proud to assume the position of Chair of the Peace War & Social Conflict Section at ASA.
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Between Scylla and Charybdis:  The Threat of Democratized Artificial Intelligence

As artificial intelligence (AI) advances, speculations on its implications run parallel, sometimes rampant. On one side, alarmists foresee a technological singularity as AI outstrips human intelligence. Their focus on locating the event horizon, where tools designed to bring a better future turn against us, precludes the ability to identify tangible, relevant threats. On the other side, scholars and analysts tend to trail behind the staggering speed of development. Called cultural lag, the deliberate pace of theoretical reflection is out of sync with the rapid pace of proliferation, leading to under- and misanalysis. Steering between the Scylla of doomsday scripts and the Charybdis of cultural lag, we identify and discuss the threat of violent nonstate actors (VNSAs) exploiting advanced and democratized AI technologies to commit terrorist attacks. The customary concerns about VNSAs acquiring nuclear, chemical, and biological weaponization capacities have not come to fruition despite how fitting they are for violent agendas. Conversely, seemingly benign technologies such as satellite maps and social media have become quite instrumental in the success of VNSA activity. We posit that what determines VNSA adoption and innovation is the confluence of advanced and democratized technologies. The former feature mitigates the necessity of complex engineering efforts and lowers the technical capacity requisite. The latter introduces the dual-use dilemma, removing barriers to access that regulated technologies inhibit. Using these two elements as predictive crosshairs, we analyze three potential threats becoming available to VNSAs as AI evolves: self-driving cars, internet bots, and 3D printing. Our study contributes a sensible and shrewd approach to threat analysis in the dynamic world of AI development.

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Off the Shelf: The Violent Nonstate Actor Drone Threat

The proliferation of civilian drone technologies to violent nonstate actors (VNSA) gives them a new offensive edge and increases challenges to security providers. Though far inferior to exquisite military-grade drones, commercial models enable VNSAs to leverage airpower’s unique attributes for violent attack, intelligence gathering, and propaganda generation. Also, as more VNSAs join the airspace, security providers must divert scarce resources—attention, time, and technology—to mitigate the growing threat. We survey the empirical record to demonstrate how VNSA-operated drones impact international, domestic, and aviation security. Our objective is to highlight and describe the scope and potential impact of the VNSA drone threat. In responding to the threat, we encourage military planners, practitioners, and security providers to consider cost proportionality and sustainability, logistical disruption, and operating context.

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