California trip

I recently got back from a trip to California, where I met a few people at UC Berkeley and UC Santa Clara’s Center for Science, Technology, and Society, and gave a talk at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, part of the Monterey Institute for International Studies.

The talk, I think, went quite well. I outlined how the Wassenaar Arrangement, and export controls generally, are based on three assumptions:

  • That it is possible to know from whom one wishes to keep technology;
  • That it is possible to actually control the export of technology;
  • That it is possible to define what the technology is one wishes to control.

My research focuses primarily on the last of these assumptions, and in the talk I gave a few examples of how it can be difficult to decide on a definition of a ‘dual-use’ technology when changing the Dual-Use List of the Wassenaar Arrangement.  The three basic views on how to define the text of the Dual-Use List can be crudely labelled as security, bureaucractic, and economic.  The security discourse will generally want to broaden the current categorisation to incorporate the technology, say by taking away a de-control note (which remove controls for items with specific parameters or uses) or by removing a parameter (instead of controlling “aerial quantum cryptography”, just control “quantum cryptography”) .  The bureaucractic discourse will want to refine the List, preferably by making a new entry or sub-entry for the technology; a place for everything and everything in its place.  The economic discourse will argue, not surprisingly, for the technology not to be on the List at all, and if it is, for their particular technologies not to be controlled, perhaps by fighting for more parameters – thus more narrowly defining the technology – or else specific decontrols for their uses, such as the Cryptography decontrol Note (Category 5, Part 2, Note 3). Each of these interact in the list-modification process at Wassenaar, often constructively, though not always.

The talk was well attended, and I hope to engage in further dialogue with CNS in the future.