Future Wars conference report

IssueDecember 2022 - January 2023
News by Chris Cole

Peace campaigners gathered at Birkbeck University on 12 November for the ‘Future Wars: The Shape of Things to Come’ day conference.

Organised by Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and Drone Wars UK, the event focused on looking at the danger of emerging military technology and how campaigners can challenge and oppose new developments in this area.

Professor Paul Rogers set the scene for the day in an opening contribution made via video.

A panel of expert speakers then opened up the issue in a session titled ‘Technology: empowering or enslaving?’

Kate Hudson, general secretary of CND gave a historical overview of how technology has enabled and expanded warfare.

Software engineer Laura Nolan spoke about the dangers of the military use of artificial intelligence (AI). She had campaigned against Google’s involvement with Project Maven, the Pentagon’s use of AI to analyse drone footage, before quitting Google in protest,.

Anuradha Damale-Day from the British American Security Information Council (BASIC) gave an overview of the growing use of space by the military, while Lucas Wirl, executive director of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms spoke about the use of new technology in the war in Ukraine.

Three issues were then the focus of separate in-depth sessions: the militarisation of space, information war, and AI/Killer Robots.

Academic Jill Stuart and Melusine Lebret of Youth Fusion led the discussion at the militarisation of space workshop, detailing the growing use of space by the military and highlighting environmental concerns. The imminent first British space launch from the UK was raised as a campaigning opportunity, as was the opening of a new spaceport in the Shetland Islands.

Matt Kennard of Declassified and Carol Turner of London CND explored information war, focusing on the media’s almost complete acceptance of the military security narrative. Peter Burt of Drone Wars chaired a session on the military’s increasing use of artificial intelligence, with contributions from Ben Donaldson of UK Killer Robots Campaign and Laura Nolan.

At the final session of the day, Stuart Parkinson of Scientists for Global Responsibility spoke about the fallacy of military claims of environmental responsibility, and Lindsey German of the Stop the War Coalition insisted that military spending would not produce security, arguing that ‘security is the opposite of militarism’.

Finally, Jeremy Corbyn MP rounded off the day with a call for continued action against the present and future war machine in solidarity with its many victims around the globe.