Research Projects

ISS supports outstanding Projects, in which scholars, practitioners, and students collaborate on pioneering research of the highest quality. Three such Projects are confirmed with a wide range of exciting activities planned for the 2021-2022 academic year.

Schmidt Program on Artificial Intelligence, Emerging Technologies, and National Power

The Schmidt Program on Artificial Intelligence, Emerging Technologies, and National Power will foster research and teaching that spans the disciplines of computer science, data science, economics, engineering, history, international relations, law, philosophy, physics, and political science.

The Schmidt Program will serve as a hub for scholars and practitioners to work across disciplines on the technological and strategic transformations that are reshaping our world.  It is founded on a recognition that cyberspace is now the backbone of our global commerce, communication and defense systems, and a key aspect of the critical infrastructure that powers our modern civilization. Technologies and information spread nearly instantaneously, while the world economy and supply chains are integrated to a degree unprecedented in history.

Yet despite the immense benefits that have resulted from this global connectivity, significant vulnerabilities persist and threats are on the rise. Competition over strategic technologies and contests for advantage in the “information space” are growing, so far without standard international rules of the road. Moreover, the future likely will prove even more transformative due to advances in artificial intelligence (AI). Machines capable of sophisticated information processing, towards the frontier of autonomy, pose tremendous opportunities for economic growth and societal well-being. But the potential threats also are extraordinary: autonomous weaponry, AI-augmented cyberwarfare, sophisticated disinformation campaigns, and geopolitical instability as nations race to deploy these unpredictable technologies.

The Schmidt Program will examine how AI has the potential to alter the fundamental building blocks of world order. Particular attention will be paid to whether there exist any parallels between the development of AI and nuclear weapons, and the relationship among technology, strategy, and power in the digital age. In addition, a focus on nanotechnology, quantum science, synthetic biology, hypersonic technologies, and long-term space development will equip aspiring policy leaders with the requisite technical fluency to identify and respond to emerging threats.

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Maritime and Naval Studies

Maritime trade underpins the world economy, rising sea levels threaten coastal communities, and American naval hegemony is no longer assured. The ISS Maritime and Naval Studies Project convenes leading academics and practitioners to analyze lessons from naval history and the precarious state of maritime affairs today.

Under the leadership of Professor Kennedy, ISS has hosted a series of speakers and events aimed at promoting the study of the sea at Yale, including a major international conference in 2018 on “Navies in Multipolar Worlds.” As part of this Project, ISS plans to host its second Naval History Conference at Yale on April 22-23, 2022. In addition, ISS will continue its close partnership with Admiral James Stavridis, former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO and Dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University, who will return to Jackson for his third year as a Visiting Fellow in 2021-2022.

America, China, and Eurasia

China’s ascendance to great power status is the defining feature of the twenty-first century, while Putin’s Russia remains deeply disruptive to the U.S.-led liberal world order. As the United States turns inward to contain and mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, China and Russia are seeking to fill that leadership void in Asia, Europe, and on the world stage.

The 2018 U.S. National Defense Strategy for the first time identified the “re-emergence of long-term, strategic competition,” and “not terrorism,” as the primary American national security concern—a position that the Biden Administration has maintained. Deciphering Russian goals vis-à-vis Eurasia, as well as Chinese intentions with regards to the Indo-Pacific region, can help prevent intense geopolitical competition from inadvertently escalating into conflict. This new ISS project will combine the study of history with current policy analysis.

ISS affiliated distinguished practitioners include Amb. Susan Thornton, Senior Fellow at the Paul Tsai China Center, Yale Law School. A retired senior diplomat with nearly three decades of experience, Amb. Thornton is the former acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, where she was responsible for stabilizing relations with Taiwan and the U.S.-China Cyber Agreement, among other critical assignments.

Jackson Senior Fellows Stephen Roach, former Chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia, and Amb. David Rank, former acting U.S. Ambassador to China, also will participate in this project. ISS also is delighted to host Russia and Eurasia expert Professor Fiona Hill, who will return to Jackson for her second year as a Visiting Fellow in fall 2021.