Uncertainty, information, and risk in international technology races

Revise and resubmit at the Journal of Conflict Resolutuon


A formal model reveals how the information environment affects international races to implement a powerful, dangerous new military technology, which may cause a ‘‘disaster’’ affecting all states. States implementing the technology face a tradeoff between the safety of the technology and performance in the race. States face unknown, private, and public information about capabilities. More decisive races, in which small performance leads produce larger probabilities of victory, are usually more dangerous. In addition, revealing information about rivals’ capabilities has two opposing effects on risk - states discover either that they are far apart in capability and compete less or that they are close in capability and drastically reduce safety to win. Therefore, the public information scenario is less risky than the private information scenario except under high decisiveness. Finally, regardless of information, the larger the eventual loser’s impact on safety relative to the eventual winner’s, the more dangerous is the race.

R&R at Journal of Conflict Resolution
Nicholas Emery-Xu
Nicholas Emery-Xu
Ph.D. student in Economics

I am a political economist currently working as a Ph.D. student in economics at UCLA. I am interested in the governance implications of new technologies, especially computing and AI.