Throughout history, rival powers have competed over technology. In the digital age, geopolitical competition revolves around who has access to sophisticated technologies – whether AI systems, autonomous drones, satellite internet, or advanced semiconductors – and who does not. Gatekeeping actors (largely made up of Western governments and their affiliated industries) have maintained their leadership over research innovation, standard-setting, and export regulations – accruing crucial geopolitical advantages. Yet, changing global circumstances have driven new countries to acquire advanced technologies for adverse and sometimes hostile purposes. Global tech competition is shifting for several reasons: the rapid diffusion of new technology, China and Russia seeking to break the West’s stranglehold on technological innovation and develop their own networks and capabilities, and regional powers leveraging technology to advance their own interests. This talk will explain what is driving these processes and the consequences of these changes.
Steven Feldstein is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in the Democracy, Conflict, and Governance Program. His research focuses on technology and politics, U.S. foreign policy, international relations, and the global context for democracy and human rights.
Feldstein is the author of The Rise of Digital Repression: How Technology is Reshaping Power, Politics, and Resistance (2021), which is the recipient of the 2023 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order.
He has published research on digital technology’s impact on war, the role of artificial intelligence is reshaping repression, the geopolitics of technology, China’s advancing digital authoritarianism, and new patterns of internet shutdowns. He released a global AI surveillance index to track the proliferation of advanced digital tools and published a global inventory of commercial spyware and digital forensics.
Previously, he was the holder of the Frank and Bethine Church Chair of Public Affairs and an associate professor at Boise State University. He has served in multiple foreign policy positions in the U.S. government. He was a deputy assistant secretary in the democracy, human rights, and labor bureau in the U.S. Department of State under President Obama. Prior to that role, he served as the director of policy at the U.S. Agency for International Development, and also worked as counsel on the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations under Chairmen Joseph Biden and John Kerry.