Current Research | Digital Decisions

As part of a 3-year Addison Wheeler Research Fellowship from the Institute of Advanced Study (IAS) at Durham University in the UK, I have the privilege of being able to research in its Department of Geography. Here, I am pursuing a wide-ranging project on what I term ‘digital decisions’ in order to explore the ways in which computation are transforming how security is performed in ‘more-than-human’ ways. On this website, I will post updates on the research and my thinking on digital decisions as I progress. At the time of writing (July 2021), the Covid-19 pandemic has limited empirical engagements with this topic, but I hope to be able to do some fieldwork in early 2022.

Current Writing on the topic

I have started to articulate this thinking (see “Cybersecurity’s Grammars” and “Algorithms Don’t Make Decisions!“), with a particular focus on my research focus on cybersecurity.

Background

I began themes related to decision in my DPhil thesis at Oxford – Malware Ecologies – in how machine learning (frequently articulated as artificial intelligence) is transforming decision in cybersecurity, and no more so than in its potential applications in offensive cyber operations. There is a burgeoning, if not emergent, research area on understanding ‘Cyber AI’ (Cybersecurity and Artificial Intelligence) and I hope to be able to contribute to this, albeit in ways that I think often diverge from the discussion in International Relations. In particular, I shall be investigating how “automation” of security means staying-with (à la Donna Haraway) the trouble of ‘posthuman’ relationships. By this, decision is complicated by what I deem to be computational choices and I critique the possibility in the future for the ‘human in the loop’ in AI Ethics debates (where there will be a forthcoming book chapter in September 2021).

My research fellowship is exploratory in trying to understand today’s emergent machine learning techniques, offensive cyber operations, and how this translates into different policy areas. Work is being done elsewhere under similar thoughts such as at ‘The Cyber AI Project‘ at Georgetown University in the US. I hope I will start to contribute to a ‘European’ perspective. However, as part of this, I realise that these discussions have become exceptionally Eurocentric – so I will also be exploring this in non-traditional areas for cybersecurity to bring forth some postcolonial threads that may contradict and counter a US and European-centric view on the automation of cybersecurity (I am doing some work with colleagues at the German ‘Dynamics of Security‘ collaborative research centre where I was a visiting fellow in 2019 on this that is part of a forthcoming special issue in the journal Critical Studies on Security). Likewise, I will be delving into archival material on ‘decision’ and technological change with reference to computation to understand how policy has dealt with these difficulties before.