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.

The Department of Pacific Affairs’ biennial State of the Pacific (SOTP) conference will take place on 4 and 5 September 2024 at The Australian National University in Canberra.

Registrations for this event will open in June.

A Pacific Research Program flagship event, the State of the Pacific Conference brings together leading academics, policymakers, business leaders, civil society representatives and the media to present on, discuss and debate current issues of interest concerning the Pacific Islands region. SOTP 2024 will involve the presentation of new research and analysis from prominent Pacific figures and scholars and others deeply interested and engaged in the Pacific. It will generate discussion on the factors shaping our collective forward-looking research agenda on the Pacific Islands region.

The Pacific's Place in the World

The countries, territories and communities of the Pacific Islands have received increased attention lately, generating interesting discussions about how the region situates itself within, and relates to, the rest of the world. The theme of this year’s conference, The Pacific’s Place in the World, seeks to engage with evolving narratives constructed both within the Pacific, and by those outside the region, in terms of its own identity and its contribution to the defining global debates of our time: self-determination and decolonisation, climate resilience, migration and integration, and the elimination of inequality. Two keynote addresses will focus on particular self-determination journeys in the Pacific: one by President Moetai Brotherson of the government of French Polynesia, and the other by Theonila Roka Matbob, one of five female members of, and a minister in, the Autonomous Bougainville Government.

Discussions will continue with two panels on self-determination, one on decolonisation and the other on processes seeking ‘external self-determination’. Two parallel streams of presentations will deal with numerous other issues, including: Pacific criminology; disability inclusion and equity; inclusive political systems; migration policy; geopolitics, one panel on external engagement and another on Pacific perceptions; AUKUS; digital connections to the world; environmental peacebuilding; education transformations; climate change mitigation; and challenges of cross-border displacement. We anticipate a focus on many different countries, territories and communities, including the Banaban and Rabi Islander communities of Kiribati and Tokelau; Bougainville; Fiji; Guam; Federated States of Micronesia; French Polynesia; Kiribati; New Caledonia; Papua New Guinea; Samoa and Solomon Islands.

Keynote Speakers

Elected by the Assembly of French Polynesia as the first Polynesian President of French Polynesia in May 2023, Moetai Brotherson grew up in French Polynesia, before gaining experience as a computer and telecommunications engineer in France, Japan, Germany and the USA. He returned to Tahiti over 20 years ago. In 2004, he joined the pro-independence Tavini Huira'atira party. From 2005 to 2008, he held the position of Head of French Polynesia’s Post and Telecommunications Department. From 2011 to 2013, he served as Chief of Staff to Vice President of French Polynesia Antony Géros. In 2014, he became a local councillor for Faa'a, the most populous district in the territory. He was elected to the National Assembly of France in 2017 and re-elected in 2022, and was also elected to the Assembly of French Polynesia in 2018 and 2023. In Paris, as a member of the National Assembly, he stood out for displaying his Polynesian language, shirts, tattoos and lavalava. When he became the youngest President of French Polynesia in May 2023, he resigned from the National Assembly. Mr Brotherson is known for his outspoken nature, consensus-building approach, listening skills, humanist values, and ‘quiet force'. He is passionate about photography, writing and new technologies, he is a chess player and a former rugby stalwart. He advocates a referendum on self-determination for French Polynesia to be held by the 2030s, for reparations to be made for nuclear testing, and for Papeete to be included in the discussions on France's Indo-Pacific strategy. He supports imposition of a moratorium being on the exploitation of the seabed of French Polynesia, and for resources to be pooled with the Oceanians.

An elected member, since 2020, of the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) for the Ioro constituency (which includes the derelict site of the previous giant Panguna copper and gold mine), Theonila Roka Matbob has the distinction of being one of only five female members, and only two that represent any of the ABG’s 33 single-member (‘open’) constituencies, rather than one of the 3 regional constituencies each reserved for 1 female and 1 (male) former combatant representatives. Currently Minister for Community Government, she has been one of the 14 ABG ministers since her 2020 election, and in 2024 is one of 3 female Cabinet members. In her very early years, she grew up during the Bougainville conflict. Since 2020 she has been the lead complainant in an ongoing significant case initiated under an OECD treaty, with support of the Melbourne Human Rights Law Centre, against mining giant, Rio Tinto, till 2016 majority shareholder in Bougainville Copper Ltd, the operator of the Panguna mine, 1972-1989, alleging serious human rights and environmental abuses.

The 2024 SOTP will be opened by the Hon Pat Conroy MP, Minister for International Development and the Pacific.

DISCUSSING AI, AUTOMATED SYSTEMS AND THE FUTURE OF WAR SEMINAR SERIES

This seminar series is part of a two-year (2023-2025) research project on Anticipating the Future of War: AI, Automated Systems, and Resort-to-Force Decision Making, generously funded by the Australian Department of Defence and led by Professor Toni Erskine from the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs.

How should states balance the benefits and risks of employing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in nuclear command and control systems? Dr Ben Zala will argue that it is only by placing developments in AI against the larger backdrop of the increasing prominence of a much wider set of strategic non-nuclear capabilities that this question can be adequately addressed. In order to do so, he will make the case for disaggregating the different risks that AI poses to stability as well as examine the specific ways in which it may instead be harnessed to restabilise nuclear-armed relationships. Dr Zala will also identify a number of policy areas that ought to be prioritised by way of mitigating the risks and harnessing the opportunities identified in the short-medium term. 
 

About the speaker
Ben Zala is a Fellow in the Department of International Relations, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs at ANU. His work focuses on the politics of the great powers and the management of nuclear weapons. He has been a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow at Harvard University and is currently an Honorary Fellow at the University of Leicester, UK contributing to the Third Nuclear Age project (https://thethirdnuclearage.com/).


About the chair
Toni Erskine is Professor of International Politics in the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, Australian National University (ANU), and Associate Fellow of the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence at Cambridge University. She is Chief Investigator of the Defence-funded 'Anticipating the Future of War: AI, Automated Systems, and Resort-to-Force Decision Making' Research Project and a Chief Investigator and Founding Member of the 'Humanising Machine Intelligence' Grand Challenge at ANU.


If you require accessibility accommodations or a visitor Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan please contact bell.marketing@anu.edu.au.

Discussing AI, Automated Systems, and the Future of War Seminar Series

Experts agree that future warfare will be characterized by countries’ use of military technologies enhanced with Artificial Intelligence (AI). These AI-enhanced capabilities are thought to help countries maintain lethal overmatch of adversaries, especially when used in concert with humans. Yet it is unclear what shapes servicemembers’ trust in human-machine teaming, wherein they partner with AI-enhanced military technologies to optimize battlefield performance. In October 2023, Dr Lushenko administered a conjoint survey at the US Army and Naval War Colleges to assess how varying features of AI-enhanced military technologies shape servicemembers’ trust in human-machine teaming. He finds that trust in AI-enhanced military technologies is shaped by a tightly calibrated set of considerations including technical specifications, namely their non-lethal purpose, heightened precision, and human oversight; perceived effectiveness in terms of civilian protection, force protection, and mission accomplishment; and, international oversight. These results provide the first experimental evidence of military attitudes for manned-unmanned teams, which have research, policy, and modernization implications.


About the speaker
Lieutenant Colonel Paul Lushenko,
 PhD is an Assistant Professor and Director of Special Operations at the US Army War College. In addition, he is a Council on Foreign Relations Term Member, Senior Fellow at Cornell University's Tech Policy Institute, Non-Resident Expert at RegulatingAI, and Adjunct Research Lecturer at Charles Sturt University. He is the co-editor of Drones and Global Order: Implications of Remote Warfare for International Society (2022), which is the first book to systematically study the implications of drone warfare on global politics. He is also the co-author of The Legitimacy of Drone Warfare: Evaluating Public Perceptions (2024), which examines public perceptions of the legitimacy of drones and how this affects countries’ policies on and the global governance of drone warfare.

About the chair
Emily Hitchman is the Research Officer on the Anticipating the Future of War: AI, Automated Systems, and Resort-to-Force Decision Making project. Emily is a PhD scholar at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre focussing on the history of the Glomar (‘neither confirm nor deny’) response in the national security context. She is also a 2023 Sir Roland Wilson Scholar, and has appeared on the National Security Podcast speaking about her research, and as a panellist at the 2022 Australian Crisis Simulation Summit speaking about the future of intelligence. Emily has worked professionally across the national security and criminal justice public policy space, including in law enforcement and cyber policy, and holds a Bachelor of Philosophy from The Australian National University.

This seminar series is part of a two-year (2023-2025) research project on Anticipating the Future of War: AI, Automated Systems, and Resort-to-Force Decision Making, generously funded by the Australian Department of Defence and led by Professor Toni Erskine from the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs.


If you require accessibility accommodations or a visitor Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan please contact bell.marketing@anu.edu.au.

Please join PhD candidate Lee Brentnall as she presents her research proposal.

Please note that this is a hybrid event. For online attendance please sign up to obtain the Zoom link. Access link will be delivered via email upon registration.

The rate of diabetes related amputation in the Pacific is alarming, resulting in generational impacts on people, families, communities and health systems. Rehabilitation services for people after amputation, and access to assistive technology such as prostheses (prosthetic legs), wheelchairs and walking aids, are important aspects of recovery. Further, the experience of disability can be more pronounced if people are unable to access such services. Recent developments enabling greater access to rehabilitation services in the Pacific have largely been in response to growing demands, regional and global advocacy for equitable access and increased focus on disability inclusive development. Despite these normative frameworks and goals, there remains significant inequity in access to rehabilitation and assistive technology services across diverse populations.

This seminar will introduce proposed research to explore rehabilitation services for people after amputation in Fiji and Kiribati. The research aims to identify how Pacific, culturally-informed equity of access to rehabilitation and assistive technology after amputation can be defined and improved. It will explore rehabilitation priorities and needs after amputation and intersectional factors influencing access. It will also consider what people centred and equitable service means within the Pacific context and the potential role of communities in service design and delivery.

Event Speakers

Lee Brentnall
PhD Scholar

Lee is a PhD candidate with Department of Pacific Affairs.