Overview

Our enslavement to the machine has never been more complete.

John Zerman and Alice Carnes Ethics in an Age of Technology: The Gifford Lectures 1989-1991, Volume 2

Source: JSTOR, 1962

The previous Study Unit focused on how first or old generation security technology and new generation security technology were used to solve and anticipate problems in terms of energy, the natural environment, health and food security. In this Study Unit, we can begin evaluating the impact and implications of security in terms of energy, environment, health and food. The reason why we are doing so across two Study Units is because [energy, environment, health and food] are complex variables that are often interrelated and impact on each other. Social scientists refer to a situation where two variables impact on each other as bidirectional covariance.

This means that X and Y can occur under the same or common conditions while having an impact [X, Y ] or [ Y, X ] on one another. For example, the police cars in a high-speed chase during the O.J. Simpson trial in Los Angeles, California were also causing environmental degradation through air pollution as well as the wear and tear of the police vehicles in hot pursuit. However, the social variable – which is “chasing the criminal suspect”, in this case – also impacts energy and the environment in an indirect manner. Greater wear and tear of vehicles and the use of fossil fuels for combustion also degrade the environment as we seek to preserve social order and maintain control over the criminal element.

Non-traditional Security

The discussions in this Study Unit on energy, the natural environment, health and food security address these resonant challenges through the lens of issues that impact the survival of states and individuals that are typically beyond that of the military. As with most studies that are entrenched on debates surrounding moral juxtaposition, “two decades since scholars began to rethink the meaning of security, there remains no consensus.” (Caballero-Anthony, 2015) After the cold war, the issues that had dominated conversations on issues that have a critical impact to states and societies have included energy security, environmental security and food security amongst others. “These challenges, seen in almost every part of the world, cannot but raise questions about what a secure world means in contemporary times for different people from different parts of the world.” (Caballero-Anthony, 2015)

Human Security

The 1994 Human Development Report prepared by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) raised the notion of Human Security. The late Mahbub ul Haq, a development economist, noted that - Security today is ‘reflected in the lives of the people, not in the weapons of our country’. (Haq, 1994). The centrality of the concept of Human Security anchors much of the discussions on critical issues in this Study Unit. The reframing of security as a concept was raised in the first Study Unit. The importance of reframing notions of security and technology is a steadfast presence over the last decade. From the devastating impact of climate change, to the unbridled challenges of refugees and internally displaced people, these discussions resonate with long standing discussion on the use of technology to enhance notions of safety and security in uncertain times. Closely tied to the concept of safety and security addressed in the first Study Unit is this notion of Human Security.

Existential Threat

The idea of that which is an existential threat can shift depending on the referent object in the discussion. Dependent on the perceived gravity of the threat, technology can play a fundamental role in ensuring that threats to the existence of the individual or elements of society can be mitigated. A factor to consider in many a discussion on safety and security is the extent towards which an entity is indeed a existential threat and if so the necessity to reevaluate and revisit the most cost effective means through which threats to the existence of humanity can be mitigated. The unprecedented changes that the world has born witness to since the cold war result in the realization that the military paradigm is not the sole paradigm through which issues of security need to be discussed. A greater appreciation