Interview with Beatrice Fihn, AOMD Podcast Episode 013 – Natasha Bajema

Interview with Beatrice Fihn, AOMD Podcast Episode 013

Welcome to the episode number 13 of the Authors of Mass Destruction podcast. My name is Natasha Bajema, aka WMDgirl on Twitter. I’m a fiction author, national security expert and your host for this podcast.

  • If you’re interested in science & technology, in reading good fiction, or want to write fiction based on technology, you’re in the right place.
  • Before we get started, a few notes:
    • The views expressed on this podcast are my own and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.
    • The AOMD podcast is proud to be part of the Authors on the Air Global Radio Network. Check us out at
  • My headline for this week is “Could unmanned underwater vehicles undermine nuclear deterrence?”by Sylvia Mishra, published by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute on May 8.
    • In this short piece, Sylvia talks about the rise of unmanned underwater vehicles and describes how swarms of autonomous unmanned underwater vehicles might hunt and threaten ballistic missile submarines.
    • Ballistic missile submarines carry missiles that are capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
    • Submarines are known for their extreme stealth.
    • For decades, nuclear armed submarines have played a vital role in supporting nuclear deterrence. They represent a reliable retaliatory capability because adversaries have trouble locating them and targeting them with weapons. This is what we call a second-strike capability. Such a capability will prevent or deter a first strike because of the potential for massive retaliation.
    • But what if this were to change? What if underwater drones are more capable of hunting and targeting submarines that carry nuclear weapons? This would undermine the second strike and increase the incentives for first strikes and raise the risk of deterrence failure.
    • The United States, Russia and China are investing in these technologies and UUVs could be deployed in the near-term. Russia claims to be developing an autonomous underwater drone (Poseidon) that can deliver a nuclear weapon.
    • “some experts argue that underwater drone technology is still in a nascent stage of development and faces challenges in autonomous operations and communication.”
    • There is also the concern about command and control. How much autonomy would a country be willing to hand over a machine?
  • My second headline is “From the A bomb to the AI bomb, nuclear weapons’ problematic evolution” published on May 10 at
    • This piece summarizes some key points from a report published by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) led by Vincent Boulanin that examines the impact of AI on strategy stability
    • The report examines the risks posed by unmanned underwater vehicles, the use of AI for command and control and early warning, and the cyber vulnerabilities introduced through automation of national security systems.
  • Let’s get to my interview. This week, I’m talking to Beatrice Fihn, who is the Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICANN), the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize-winning campaign coalition that works to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons. We talk about whether it is rational to expect the world’s most dangerous weapons to protect us.

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