On 6 October, 2016, the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, together with the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, and the Permanent Mission of Switzerland hosted an event on the disruptive impact of 3D printing in creating weapons, synthetic biology, and autonomous weapons systems on international security, including disarmament and non-proliferation, and international law.
The event was moderated by Sabrina Dallafior, Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the Conference on Disarmament, and featured three expert speakers with a unique understanding of the role emerging technologies play in international security. Kerstin Vignard, the Chief of Operations at UNIDIR, discussed the issue of increasing autonomy in weapons systems, including their potential to take the decisions to target and kill humans. Ms. Vignard raised the key issue of whether existing disarmament machinery was capable in addressing these emerging issues.
Dr. Filippa Lentzos, Senior Research Fellow at King’s College London, discussed the potential dangers posed by synthetic biology in bio-terrorism. Mr Robert Shaw, of the Center for Non-Proliferation Studies, reviewed the rapidly emerging industry of 3D printing (or additive manufacturing), including the potential for states to use the technology to violate international sanctions and export controls. Mr. Shaw discussed the rapid evolution of the 3D printing industry.
The event was well-attended, with a packed room of delegates. It represented a useful opportunity to connect industry experts, diplomats, and scholars to build a greater understanding of how emerging technologies are presenting new threats to international peace and security.