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

A signature new initiative of Yale’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs and International Security Studies (ISS), 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.

The multidisciplinary Schmidt Program will bring prominent technologists to campus as Schmidt Program Senior Fellows; offer postdoctoral fellowships to Schmidt Visiting Scholars; support collaborative research and student internships; and develop a robust offering of cyber- and AI-focused lectures, symposia, workshops, and conferences to further the dialogue around emerging technologies and security studies.

The Schmidt Program places teaching undergraduate, graduate, and professional school students at the core of its mission. The Program will encourage faculty to develop new classes available to Jackson students, as well as administer its own flagship course on “Artificial Intelligence, Emerging Technologies, and National Power.” The new yearlong class, offered by ISS Executive Director Ted Wittenstein and team-taught by colleagues from across the university, will help bridge the divide among global affairs, law, social science, and STEM students at Yale who are studying AI from different vantage points.

The Schmidt Program also will launch a new “AI Symposium” to bring visiting experts to campus for public talks and classroom visits beginning in spring 2022, enriching the Jackson and broader Yale community.  In addition, the Program will co-sponsor this year’s Yale Cyber Leadership Forum, which will focus on the national security implications of AI research and development.  A partnership between the Jackson Institute and Yale Law School’s Center for Global Legal Challenges, the Forum is directed by Professor Oona Hathaway and brings together an impressive array of attorneys, entrepreneurs, policymakers, and academics to tackle the most pressing cyber challenges.

The new program was made possible by a $15.3 million gift from the Schwab Charitable Fund through the generosity of Eric and Wendy Schmidt, and by recommendation of Schmidt Futures. Read more

Learn more about the Schmidt Program’s initial areas of research emphasis.