Linkpost for a short op-ed I wrote in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in light of the upcoming 60th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis and President Biden's recent comments that "For the first time since the Cuban Missile Crisis, we have a direct threat to the use of nuclear weapons, if in fact things continue down the path they’d been going."

Was asked to keep it mostly nuclear (i.e., only some narrow AI and no bio, which was in my first draft), but managed to keep in some broader points about technology development and deployment, like "artificial intelligence and other new technologies, if thoughtlessly deployed, could increase the risk of accidents and miscalculation even further."

First couple of paragraphs:

This month marks the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis. For two tense weeks from October 16 to October 29, 1962, the United States and the Soviet Union teetered on the brink of nuclear war. Sixty years later, tensions between the world’s major militaries are uncomfortably high once again.

In recent weeks, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear-charged threats to use “all available means” in the Russo-Ukrainian war have again raised the prospect of nuclear war. And on October 6, US President Joe Biden reportedly told a group of Democratic donors: “For the first time since the Cuban Missile Crisis, we have a direct threat to the use of nuclear weapons, if in fact things continue down the path they’d been going.”

Any uncontrolled escalation of these existing conflicts could end in global catastrophe, and the history of the Cuban Missile Crisis suggests that such escalation may be more likely to happen through miscalculation and accidents. Lists of nuclear close calls show the variety of pathways that could have led to disaster during the Cuban crisis. Famously, Soviet naval officer Vasili Arkhipov vetoed the captain of a nuclear submarine who wanted to launch a nuclear-armed torpedo in response to what turned out to be non-lethal depth charges fired by US forces; had Arkhipov not been on this particular vessel, the captain might have had the two other votes he needed to order a launch.

Today, artificial intelligence and other new technologies, if thoughtlessly deployed, could increase the risk of accidents and miscalculation even further [...] 

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