Research Areas — Schmidt Program

The Schmidt Program has developed seven initial areas of research emphasis, in close collaboration with affiliated faculty and practitioners. Each of these research areas are a focused teaching module within the Schmidt Program’s new year-long course, and involve close collaboration with centers of excellence on campus and with non-Yale partner institutions. 

Cyberwarfare and the Nature of Conflict

Can there be deterrence and mutually assured destruction in cyberspace, or do these Cold War concepts not transfer to the current and future cyber threat environment? How might military applications of AI augment cyberattacks or change the character of warfare? Are arms control and verification agreements possible with respect to cyberweapons or lethal autonomous weapons? Can we establish international laws and norms to discourage the proliferation and use of the most destructive AI-enhanced technologies?

Disinformation and the Future of Democracy

How can AI tools help detect “deep fakes” and other forms of coordinated inauthentic behavior online? How can democratic policymakers and social media companies counter the threat of disinformation and online extremism without impinging on freedom of speech and other fundamental freedoms? What are the most effective techniques for educating citizens to the threat of disinformation, and developing counter-narratives to combat conspiracy theories?

Competition and Conflict in U.S.-China Relations

How might AI alter the global balance of power? Are we headed for an AI- or tech- “Cold War” with China, and if so, what lessons can America learn from its generational contest with the former Soviet Union? What are the most effective regulatory approaches for monitoring imports and exports of sensitive AI technologies? How can policymakers decipher intent when certain AI tools are inherently dual-use? How might AI technologies proliferate to state and non-state actors?

AI Ethics and Safety

What techniques can help build AI systems that are reliable, transparent, safe, scalable, and aligned with human values? What ethical principles should govern military and intelligence applications of AI? How vulnerable are AI-enabled systems to subversion by malicious actors, such as through manipulating data inputs or “spoofing” images?

AI Governance

How can social science research help public, private, and nonprofit sector leaders make decisions regarding AI governance? What governance structures shape the development and deployment of machine learning tools? Should there be a change in the current state of openness among the AI research community, and if so how might that impact global prospects for cooperation or competition?

Nanotechnology and Quantum Computing

What are the implications for cybersecurity and global affairs of recent breakthroughs in both the theory and practice of quantum science? What are the potential roadmaps and notional timelines for the development of atomically precise manufacturing? Will these advances enable us to perform otherwise intractable computations, ensure privacy in communications, and develop new types of sensors and measurement devices? What are the most plausible malicious applications of these technologies by state or non-state actors?

Outer Space

What vulnerabilities exist for space-based assets and related critical infrastructure?  What form of legal system and regulatory regime is optimal to enable safe and secure long-term space development? What opportunities exist for adjusting existing treaties and norms to prevent an arms race in outer space, as nations rush to develop anti-satellite and hypersonic weapons? Can AI tools help detect and defend against these threats?