This 2023 John Gee Memorial Lecture will be delivered by Professor Toni Erskine. 

War is changing rapidly – and with it the challenge of ensuring that restraint is exercised in both the resort to force and its conduct. Lethal autonomous weapons systems are able to select and engage targets, with and without human authorisation. Algorithms that rely on big data analytics and machine learning recommend targets for drone strikes and will increasingly infiltrate state-level decision-making on whether to wage war. The spectre of future iterations of these intelligent machines surpassing human capacities, and escaping human control, has recently received a surge in attention as an approaching existential threat. Yet, this future-focused fear obscures a grave and insidious challenge that is already here.

A neglected danger that already-existing AI-enabled weapons and decision-support systems pose is that they change how we (as citizens, soldiers, and states) deliberate, how we act, and how we view ourselves as responsible agents. This has potentially profound ethical, political, and even geo-political implications – well before AI evolves to a point where some fear that it could initiate algorithmic Armageddon. Professor Erskine will argue that our reliance on AI-enabled and automated systems in war threatens to create the perception that we have been displaced as the relevant decision-makers and may therefore abdicate our responsibilities to intelligent machines. She will conclude by asking how these risks might, in turn, affect hard-won international norms of restraint – and how they can be mitigated.

About the speaker

Toni Erskine is Professor of International Politics in the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs at The Australian National University (ANU) and Associate Fellow of the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence at Cambridge University. She is also Chief Investigator of the Defence-funded ‘Anticipating the Future of War: AI, Automated Systems, and Resort-to-Force Decision Making’ Research Project and a Founding Member and Chief Investigator of the ‘Humanising Machine Intelligence’ Grand Challenge at ANU. She serves as Academic Lead for the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP)/Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU) ‘AI for the Social Good’ Research Project and in this capacity works closely with government departments in Thailand and Bangladesh. Her research interests include the impact of new technologies (particularly AI) on organised violence; the moral agency and responsibility of formal organisations in world politics; the ethics of war; the responsibility to protect vulnerable populations from mass atrocity crimes (‘R2P’); and the role of joint purposive action and informal coalitions in response to global crises. She is currently completing a book entitled Locating Responsibility: Institutional Moral Agency in a World of Existential Threats and is the recipient of the International Studies Association’s 2024 International Ethics Distinguished Scholar Award.

 

About John Gee

Dr John Gee AO served with distinction as an Australian diplomat in a number of countries. His greatest contribution, however, was in the field of disarmament, where he had a particular interest in chemical weapons. After a period as a Commissioner on the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq following the first Gulf War, he became Deputy Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague, serving there until 2003. In recognition of his achievements, Dr Gee was made a member of the Order of Australia in January 2007. Gee leaves behind a legacy and a memory of a great Australian.


If you require accessibility accommodations or a visitor Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan please contact the event organiser.

Amy King and Wenting He explore the enduring concept of 'self-reliance' (zili gengsheng) in Chinese political discourse over a century.

CHINA, DEVELOPMENT AND INTERNATIONAL ORDER SEMINAR SERIES

The idea of ‘self-reliance’ (zili gengsheng) has endured in Chinese political discourse for nearly a century, transcending profound changes in China’s political, economic, and strategic circumstances. While ‘self-reliance’ is frequently misinterpreted as economic isolation or autarky, we instead show that ‘self-reliance’ has always been comprised of three interlocking pillars: autonomy, interdependence, and order-shaping. These three pillars sit in tension with one another, and yet have accommodated and co-existed with one another since the earliest articulations of the idea. Drawing on discursive institutionalism and its understanding of ‘ideational resilience’, we argue that this tripartite structure, replete with internal contradictions, has enabled Chinese leaders since the Republican era to reinterpret and usefully deploy the idea of ‘self-reliance’. Our findings underscore the resilience of key Chinese foreign economic policy ideas; and the ideational logic driving Xi Jinping’s apparently contradictory pursuit of ‘technological self-reliance’, open global markets, and greater connectivity with the developing world.

 

About the speakers

Amy King is an Associate Professor in the Strategic & Defence Studies Centre at The Australian National University, and Deputy Director (Research) in the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs. She is the author of China-Japan Relations after World War Two: Empire, Industry and War, 1949-1971 (Cambridge University Press, 2016). The holder of an Australian Research Council DECRA Fellowship and a Westpac Research Fellowship, she leads a team researching China’s role in shaping the international economic order.

Wenting He is a PhD candidate in International Relations at The Australian National University. Her PhD project investigates how China’s ambiguous understanding of market-state relations has shaped its interpretations of economic crises and subsequent engagement with international economic order. Her recent publications unpack the constructive ambiguity of national interest in the context of U.S.-China relations.


About the chair

Wesley Widmaier is a Professor of International Relations at The Australian National University. His research addresses the interplay of wars, crises, and change – and the ways in which stability can cause instability, a concern that spans International Political Economy and International Security debates. He is the author of Presidential Rhetoric from Wilson to Obama: Constructing Crises, Fast and Slow (Routledge, 2015) and Economic Ideas in Political Time: The Rise and Fall of Economic Orders from the Progressive Era to the Global Financial Crisis (Cambridge University Press, 2016). Previously he was a Section Chair of the International Political Economy section of the International Studies Association.



If you require accessibility accommodations or a visitor Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan please contact the event organiser.
 

 

This seminar series is part of a research project on How China Shapes the International Economic Order, generously funded by the Westpac Scholars Trust and the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, and led by A/Professor Amy King from the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs.