Rachel Bronson
Big Brains podcst

Doomsday Clock’s ‘historic wake-up call,’ with Rachel Bronson (Ep. 62)

CEO of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists discusses threats of COVID-19, ‘infodemic’ 

Rachel Bronson
Big Brains podcst

Show Notes

This year the Doomsday Clock has been set at 100 seconds to midnight—as close to total destruction as we were in 2020. But after a year of increasingly dangerous weather and wildfires, not to mention the COVID-19 pandemic, why didn’t the clock move?

Rachel Bronson is the president and CEO of the Bulletin of The Atomic Scientists, the organization that sets the clock. We sit down with her to talk about the thinking behind this year’s clock, climate change, pandemics and the ever-increasing threat of nuclear war.

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(Episode published Feb. 11, 2021)



Paul Rand: It’s 100 seconds to midnight.

Tape: A new United Nations report warns the impacts of climate change are increasing and inevitable.

Tape: The U.S. Navy had for the first time deployed a submarine armed with a low-yield Trident nuclear warhead.

Tape: UK scientists are saying the bush fires in Australia are a warning of what may be to come around the world.

Tape: Governors complain they simply aren’t getting enough vaccine doses to meet demand.

Tape: Arctic sea ice has retreated to a near unprecedented level.

Tape: If Iran continues to lift some of these restraints imposed by the agreement, that could get down to a matter of weeks.

Paul Rand: If you’ve been listening to our show for a while, you know we’re talking about the Doomsday Clock.

Rachel Bronson: The Doomsday Clock is really a metaphor.

Paul Rand: This is Rachel Bronson. She’s the president and CEO of the nonprofit organization The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Its science and security board sets the Doomsday Clock’s time each year.

Rachel Bronson: The clock has been about existential threats, and so we look at now, nuclear risk, climate change, and increasingly we keep our eyes on new disruptive technologies.

Paul Rand: These three doomsday problems—nuclear risk, climate change, and disruptive tech—all have one thing in common. As The Bulletin says: “Humans created them; we can control them.”

Rachel Bronson: The questions I ask the Science and Security Board every year is: Is humanity safer or at greater risk this year compared to last year? And is humanity safer or at greater risk this year compared to the nearly 75 years we’ve been setting this clock?

Paul Rand: It’s a design meant as a warning, a visual representation of how close we are to destroying our world. And this year, The Bulletin had a simple message: Wake up.

Rachel Bronson: COVID-19 is a warning sign about our inability to deal, at a global level, with global threats. If we think we can handle nuclear risk and climate change, this warning signal to us has been absolutely not. We are ill-prepared to deal with these issues, and we’re ill-prepared to deal with pandemics that could be what we are expecting to be more frequent and likely to be worse. One author has called COVID a starter pandemic.

Paul Rand: And yet, Bronson says all is not lost.

Rachel Bronson: People often ask, “How do you get up every morning?” There is an element of optimism. This clock is built to alarm us so that we pull it back. and we move it back.

Paul Rand: From the University of Chicago, this is Big Brains, a podcast about the pioneering research and pivotal breakthroughs that are reshaping our world. On this episode, the Doomsday Clock in 2021. I’m your host, Paul Rand.

Paul Rand: In 1945, the United States detonated two atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Tape: It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe. The force from which the sun draws its power has been loosed.

Paul Rand: Shortly after, a group of Manhattan Project scientists at the University of Chicago, who helped build the atomic bomb but protested using it against people, started The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Tape: For the future, the choice is peace or total destruction. The atomic age is here.

Paul Rand: They wanted to urge fellow scientists to help shape national and international policy to mitigate the risk of the nuclear technology that they themselves had helped create. And they wanted to help the public understand the dangers of nuclear weapons to the future of humanity.

Tape: We knew the world would not be the same. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita, “Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.” I suppose we all thought that, one way or another.

Paul Rand: In designing the cover of its magazine, The Bulletin created something striking, a clock running out of time.

Rachel Bronson: It started as an artistic piece created by Chicago based Martyl Langsdorf. She was married to a Manhattan Project scientist, so she understood the scientists’ concerns about this new technology and the need for public engagement. And they had asked her to create some sort of design that would engage the public on how serious the threat of this new technology. And she set it at seven minutes to midnight.

Paul Rand: Every year since then, The Bulletin has set the hands of its metaphorical clock in relation to how close to doomsday we might be. Last year, the group moved it to a mere 100 seconds to midnight.

Rachel Bronson: And at the time, we got a lot of chiding, like, “It’s 2020, how come it’s so close? Do you really believe it’s this close?” And then sure enough, we saw the massive wildfires right out of the gate in Australia, that got repeated in California this year, but obviously COVID, and the inability of the global community to deal effectively with COVID, was to us, a clear indication of our inability to deal with existential threats.

Paul Rand: Now, in some ways you could make an argument that it should have been even closer to midnight this year, because you had your existing threats and then you had that real life pandemic, which is continuing to affect us. How come we didn’t go further to midnight?

Rachel Bronson: Yeah. So in some ways, we don’t want to double count, right? And so a lot of the warning signs were what moved it to a hundred seconds to midnight, but it is a very dangerous environment and we do want to acknowledge that a hundred seconds to midnight is dangerous. We do see some bright spots and some opportunities. So those bright spots helped us from moving it forward, but we weren’t prepared to move it back.

Paul Rand: It may be tempting to look at the clock this year and take some hope from the fact that it didn’t move closer to midnight. But remember, it’s still the closest to midnight that we have ever been. And this year, The Bulletin highlighted new threats. One that they said is a threat multiplier to all the other problems that we face. What the World Health Organization called a massive infodemic.

Rachel Bronson: People are really grappling with what are trusted news sources and how do you find them and how do we share this? So we’re all overwhelmed with data and information, but it’s very atomistic when it comes to shared information or what you and I know. And so that becomes very disorienting and it becomes quite dangerous, right? It sets up the ability for authoritarian leaders to create their own information and different sites to create their own information.

Paul Rand: We’ll get into the surprising ways that this infodemic touches every threat factored into the Doomsday Clock. But we’ll start with the issue that was really the canary in the coal mine of this infodemic. Climate change. The scientists have been warning us for decades and yet...

Rachel Bronson: They’re the ones who experience a lot of these issues in terms of misinformation and disinformation first, the denying of climate science, the marginalization of them, the using of science, which is kind of about uncertainty and evolution to dismiss what scientists have to say.

Tape: All of this with the global warming under then that. A lot of it’s a hoax, it’s a hoax. I mean, it’s a money-making industry. OK.

Paul Rand: Climate change is not science. It’s religion.

Rachel Bronson: It pulls the rug out from under scientists and experts exactly the time when such expertise is actually needed. Not to, on their own, create policies, but to contribute to the discussion. And within the context of the U.S. there can be real differences among Republicans and Democrats of what you think about market versus regulation. Those are really, really important questions that we should be debating fiercely right now that we can’t, when it’s being defined as climate change, yes or no. We can’t even have the kind of real political conversations that we should be having. And we see at the international level, what do you do with economies that are just becoming fossil fuel intensive now, right now. What do we do with areas that are energy poor and need new energy sources to turn on lights? How are we going to provide that in a clean and sustainable way, and who should be bearing those costs? That’s a fundamental question we should be having in the United States where we can’t, if the U.S. isn't in Paris, or if it’s not leading on that.

Paul Rand: And it’s interesting before you and I started recording today, I was reading about the reactions to some of Biden’s policies and the protests that are coming up. And some of the senators coming up saying, “You can’t just spring this on us. You have to plan to move away from a carbon economy.” And as if it’s the first time these things are being heard. And so these are challenges that people, for whatever the reason don’t want to get their arms around, no matter what. And the fact to your point is that it’s still being debated whether or not it’s real.

Rachel Bronson: Yeah. So first of all, you need to plan. There’s been plans laid out in the past and so, in some ways the Biden administration can look back at the Obama administration and say, “We had a clean energy act. We did have plans.” But let’s just take this seriously for a moment. There’s a real conversation for the president to have with Mitch McConnell if he was willing to be serious about this, which is his state is 90% coal.

Paul Rand: Kentucky we’re talking about here.

Rachel Bronson: Yeah. So that’s a real serious issue for him.

Tape: The job of a United States senator from Kentucky is to fight for coal jobs in our state.

Rachel Bronson: Taking off all the rhetoric, right? You can understand why Mitch McConnell would be very concerned about a move away from coal. So what kinds of adjustments can be made for coal intensive states? Right? Marco Rubio is another... this is very domestic, but I think it speaks to where we should be versus where we are, which is when Marco Rubio was in the primaries, so this is now four years ago, right? Again, kind of taking on this mantle of climate denialism, his mayors came forward and put a lot of, Republican mayors, put a lot of pressure on him and said, “We’re in a very low lying state. We need a climate policy.”

Tape: Senator Rubio, the Miami mayor has endorsed you. Will you honor his request for a pledge and acknowledge the reality of the scientific consensus of climate change and pledge to do something about it?

Tape: Sure, the climate is changing. And one of the reasons why the climate is changing is because the climate has always been changing. There has never been a time when the climate is not changing.

Rachel Bronson: Miami and others came forward to him. It’s a lot of pressures of saying that, like we to think about this because our businesses are... we’re becoming a less competitive state.

Paul Rand: Now, there are a couple sides of this story when you talk about climate change, because certainly politically it’s worrisome on many, many different levels. Interestingly, on the corporate side or the private sector side, that there are some changes that are becoming afoot, whether or not it’s the growth, and you saw what happened with general motors.

Tape: General Motors is aiming to go all electric. The company will end the production of gas and diesel powered cars and trucks by 2035 and turn completely carbon neutral by 2040.

Paul Rand: And the idea that other auto makers are going to go forward to it. And I think this idea of the growth of renewables and what’s coming in that area, how do we reconcile, which interestingly seems to be the private sector, actually figuring out how to embrace this just in the way you talked about Florida and the political sector, actually trying to run the other direction?

Rachel Bronson: Yeah. And General Motors is this perfect example as a rebuttal in terms of we need to plan for this. When the political leadership was saying, “We’re not going to invest in renewables and we’re going to double down on fossil, General Motors was preparing lawsuits to say that they shouldn’t be forced into California regulation, right? But the moment the political winds change, like literally the moment they change...

Tape: General Motor says it will no longer support the Trump administration over a pollution battle in California.

Rachel Bronson: They have in the ready that they’re moving to fully electric cars in the next 15 years or so. There is business to be done and jobs to be created and the private sector sees this and they’re trying to get ahead of it. They want to be first out of the gate, the first to market, right? So the sense of wait, we need to plan. There’s plenty of planning underway. It’s just a matter of where political leadership is going and the companies are ready. They know that over time, they’re going to have to move in this direction. It’s just who’s going to force them to move first.

Paul Rand: General Motors and other U.S. companies weren’t the only ones to change their tune after President Biden took office. China actually might be another example.

Rachel Bronson: During kind of around inauguration for the Biden administration what you saw from Chinese official newspapers was suddenly an elevating of climate as an important issue once again to engage on. And for some China watchers and some national security watchers, that was a signal that perhaps that was an area where the U.S. and China could coordinate or cooperate that. I mean, that’s a wait and see, but it’s part of the glimmers of hope out there on the climate space, because if you could get coordination between the U.S. and the Chinese as you’ve had in the past, that would go a long way to reducing the challenges that we’re facing in the climate space.

Paul Rand: This year’s clock is framed by the world’s responses to COVID-19 and Bronson says there are some key questions at the intersection of that crisis, the climate crisis, and the economy.

Rachel Bronson: How do we marry this need to address climate change to the massive stimuli policies that are coming out to respond to COVID? So the key on this is now where huge investments are going to across the globe are going to go into stimuli packages. How do you build them in such a way that you’re not just sustaining the existing infrastructure, right? Which is an easy way to get people back and working, but what’s shovel-ready that, to remind ourselves of a phrase from the economic crisis of 2008 and ‘09, what’s shovel-ready in terms of renewables, or where should we be placing those investments so we can help on this transition that’s so necessary and bring people with us, rather than just moving on, or worse, just investing in old technologies that are eventually going to disappear anyway?

Paul Rand: After the break, more on what we’ve learned from the pandemic and the threat The Bulletin is most known for measuring, nuclear war.

Paul Rand: If you’re getting a lot out of the important research shared on Big Brains, there’s another University of Chicago podcast network show you should check out. It’s called Not Another Politics Podcast. Not Another Politics Podcast provides a fresh perspective on the biggest political stories, not through opinions and anecdotes, but through rigorous scholarship, massive data sets, and a deep knowledge of theory. If you want to understand the political science behind the political headlines, then listen to Not Another Politics Podcast, part of the University of Chicago podcast network.

Paul Rand: The 2021 Doomsday Clock statement started by addressing the elephant in the room. It said that COVID-19’s consequences are grave and will be long lasting, but it will not obliterate civilization. It is however, an unmistakable global wake up call. Next time, it said, it could be much worse.

Rachel Bronson: COVID-19 is an early warning. It’s a warning sign about our inability to deal at a global level with global threats. There are some like in the nuclear community who believe if there’s a lean in towards some sort of potential nuclear strike that somehow we could coordinate internationally and reduce that threat. There’s nothing to suggest that we can. And there were huge learnings. To some extent, China was more forward-leaning about this novel coronavirus in the beginning. They still didn’t deliver to the international community the information we all needed to respond quickly. And the first moment where we needed true global cooperation, we got name calling between the U.S. and China ,mostly led in this case, by the U.S., but China was not delivering what they needed to be delivering either. We saw a whole bunch of, this comes back to the infodemic misinformation coming back, and to take us back those wild rumors that it was created using the AIDS virus and all these things that prove not to be true.

Rachel Bronson: So our ability to understand it, our ability to create public health campaigns, our ability to work internationally, we didn’t see any of that happening. So at a time when we need international responses to international solutions, we saw a dive to nationalism. So the need to invest globally in emergency management system, public health institutions but we didn’t actually. We’re likely to see that for the next few years now that we’ve been through COVID, but what our public health experts are asking is how do we sustain those investments? The kinds of investments we need are significant, but they’re hard to defend when you’re not experiencing a pandemic. When you experience something like Ebola or bird flu, or COVID, there will be public support for those kinds of investments, but in five years, how do you defend them? So there was a perfect example in California, where California had invested quite significantly in public health response, and they had facilities and cots and all of that.

Rachel Bronson: So, we don’t see this current pandemic as a man-made existential threat. But what we do worry about is any set of actors now non-state or state who wonders whether or not the global community and/or the United States can handle a biological threat has learned pretty clearly, we cannot. And that is on display for everyone to see. So it makes us weaker. It makes us more vulnerable, and we should rest assure that allies and enemies are surveying the landscape to see where vulnerabilities are as we are as well. And nobody is handling this well.

Paul Rand: Which brings us back to where the clock started. Man-made nuclear threats. Nuclear weapons have only been used twice in history. This can make the threat seem remote, unlikely the stuff of history. Bronson says this assumption is dangerous.

Rachel Bronson: So for the last number of years, we’ve been steadily moving the clock closer to midnight to try to draw attention to the huge investments being made by all nuclear actors in terms of their nuclear arsenals and investing in ways that seem to make them more usable rather than less. So new technologies, drone technologies, hypersonic technologies...

Tape: Russia has introduced a new missile system that could be impossible to defend against. The first regiment of avangard hypersonic missiles are now in service.

Rachel Bronson: ... that start confusing whether something, a missile is nuclear or not, whether or not it’s a tactical use and how to respond. So huge investments being made. We saw North Korea, obviously testing it...

Tape: Under the cover of darkness, a midnight display of massive military muscle and leading the Pyongyang parade, a huge new weapon, which analysts say could be the world’s largest intercontinental ballistic missile,

Rachel Bronson: But the Russians have been exercising, doing military exercises with these technologies. We’ve seen tests by Russians and others in terms of hypersonic technologies. So all of this are huge investments being made by the U.S. over $1 trillion over the next 30 years. It had been $1.2 trillion over the next 30 years now, probably closer to $1.8 trillion over the next 30 years. So huge investments being made and the Chinese investing too.

Tape: As we near the Pentagon is required to paint a picture for Congress on the potential threat posed by China. The report alleges that China is looking to expand by building bases around the world and it says that it has 200 nuclear warheads and wants to double that number in a decade.

Rachel Bronson: The Chinese have a long way to go before they get to anywhere close to what the U.S. and the America... But you don’t need and the Russians have, you don’t need a lot of these decrees. They all have it. So we’re very concerned about that. And we’re very concerned about the lack of any sort of arms control architecture.

Paul Rand: The U.S. and Russia control 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons. And at the bedrock of arms control is the non-proliferation treaty or NPT.

Rachel Bronson: And it has basically three principles, which is those who have nuclear weapons will try to get rid of them. Those who don’t have them, won’t try to get them. And everyone’s entitled to peaceful nuclear energy. Why that’s important is because the non-nuclear state signatories are saying, “Hey, we signed onto this not to get these and you guys don’t seem to be disarming.” There’s no movement to it. Yes, you have fewer numbers, but the investments you’re making and the kinds of technologies make... there’s nothing to believe that you think nuclear weapons should go away. And so those countries got together and signed the prohibition of nuclear weapons’ treaty, which went into force just a couple of weeks ago from the UN.

Rachel Bronson: No nuclear country has signed it. So it’s all the non-nuclear. So it’s easy to dismiss it, but it is a warning sign to those who don’t have nuclear weapons say, “Hey, we signed up to not having nuclear weapons because you guys had agreed to get rid of them, and we’re not seeing movement to that. So we get to now rethink kind of what we’re going to do.” They’re throwing up their hands to say this is a very dangerous time.

Paul Rand: If all of this is starting to sound pretty scary, well, it should. But Bronson says there are also some actions that political leaders can take now that would bring down the risk, starting with the new U.S. presidential administration.

Rachel Bronson: There’s two really important things the Biden administration can do and both are quite doable. One is to declare no first use that the U.S. will never use nuclear weapons first. There’s a lot of criticism out there that that would affect extended deterrent. It doesn’t. That it would make us more vulnerable to bio or cyber hacks. It doesn’t. It would actually make us safer. And the other one is to eliminate sole authority. And what sole authority means is the president has the sole authority to launch a nuclear strike. It’s the most undemocratic thing right here in the world’s oldest democracy, one person can end civilization. And so there should be a check on that power. We always hear back from officials, “Don’t worry about it. There’s checks.” They’re not checks on this. The president can fire anyone who opposes him. So there are ways could very quickly bring others into the decision-making process. We do that for natural disasters. We could do that for launching a nuclear strike.

Paul Rand: The Biden administration hasn’t made any public indication, whether that’s the step it will take, but it’s already made some other crucial changes that help keep the clock from moving forward this year.

Rachel Bronson: One of the bright spots we put out there was that there was a commitment by the incoming Biden administration to agree with the Russians to extend the new START agreement. So new START, right as the arms control agreement. The last one that is to constrain the numbers of nuclear weapons these two countries have, and it was to be extended in 2020. The Trump administration wasn’t able to get it done. The Russians held out their hand to extend it. There’s a lot of problems with Russia’s commitment to this, but our view, and I think by the Biden administration was, is it’s still better to keep the verification agreements in place that when there’s violations there, we can point to violations, whereas without anything it’s unconstrained and everyone’s allowed to do anything anyway. And that was in the first conversation between Biden and Putin, but one place they could agree kind of the analogy to China and the U.S. on climate maybe, was on extending new START.

Paul Rand: One of the lines that you all wrote this year that stood out quite a bit, was that the potential for the world to stumble into nuclear war increased in 2020. Stumbling into nuclear war is quite a picture, isn’t it?

Rachel Bronson: Yeah. And we believe it.

Paul Rand: The threat of stumbling into nuclear war isn’t just about the formal agreements though. It’s also shaped by the same thing that shaped the climate crisis and COVID-19 the infodemic, the misinformation and disinformation that’s flooded our screens.

Rachel Bronson: We’re worried about cyber attacks and spoofing any sort of nuclear attack. We’ve seen that challenge before where a tape was put in on the U.S. side and it looked like an attack was really a training simulation. Someone could spoof that in terms of a cyber attack on U.S. facilities and to make it look like that. The other thing we’re really worried about, or I’m worried about again, and this comes to like stumbling into nuclear war as we called it out in the, oh, I can’t remember which report it was. Maybe 2017 where the Pakistani defense minister responded with a nuclear threat against the Israelis based on a fake news story. And it was all done via Twitter. We talked about the recklessness around language and the escalatory language and that there’s a reason that nuclear diplomacy is supposed to be super boring so that you don’t misinterpret.

Rachel Bronson: But this was a very serious case that quickly got defused but the minister of defense in foreign affairs, I think it was defense and Pakistan issuing a nuclear threat against the Israelis based on a fake news story. So we’re worried about things like that. And that’s why we have to do everything we can to, again, to get off hair triggers, to create buffers and increase the window of time, the time horizon of making a nuclear decision, not collapsing them.

Paul Rand: As we come to the end of our discussion here, you mentioned this idea that it was designed with the idea that it could be moved backwards. And I wonder as you all think about this, do you ever see a period where those hands are going to move backwards to even the smallest degree?

Rachel Bronson: Yeah, we’re really optimistic. I mean, we have a history of the clock on our website and it has moved back and forward. And that’s what keeps us optimistic actually is the clock itself where you can look back at the end of the cold war and we moved it back to 17 minutes to midnight and I’ll point to in... Let me see if I can get my years right here, in January 2016, when we pointed out, I think we were three minutes to midnight. And the question was whether we should move it back then, because the JCPOA, the U.S. Iran deal was... it hadn’t yet been put into effect, but it had been agreed to. And we knew that the U.S. and the international community was going to join Paris. We were fully prepared to move it back and expected to move it back in January 2017, because all of that seemed entrained and were things that would have propelled us to move it back.

Rachel Bronson: But for reasons of what happened in 2017 and the new U.S. president who was going to trash the agreements and pull out of these things that we thought were important and denigrating experts and things that were happening in Pakistan and elsewhere and you can go back and read that report. We couldn’t. But we have moved it back. So when we call out bright spots like we did in this report, those are the things we’re watching. And those are the things that we’ll balance. If they do come into effect, we’ll take into consideration when we move it back. So, we do have a new administration in the United States, the Biden administration that came out of the gate, talking about a respect for science and scientists and expertise, something that The Bulletin has been really concerned about. Obviously this is a global challenge, and it’s not just a U.S. issue, but when we have a U.S. president who did denigrate scientists and experts, that was extremely problematic.

Rachel Bronson: So we had an administration coming out and actually articulating their commitment to putting in experts into positions where they belong and a return to at least calls for multi-lateralism. We believe at The Bulletin that these are global challenges we’re facing, and it requires a global solution and global responses. And so to have an administration coming back and talking about climate change and reentering the Paris Agreements, looking back at the WHO, all of these are really challenging issues. It’s not to say that any of this is going to solve it, but we believe that it’s necessary if not sufficient to solving some of these problems.

Rachel Bronson: So, it’s called the Doomsday Clock, and it’s terrifying, but people often ask like, “Well, like how do you get up every morning?”

Paul Rand: Right? Of course.

Rachel Bronson: There is an element of optimism. This clock is built to alarm us so that we pull it back and we move it back. And there are things that we’re looking at. It’s a scary time and we’re very hopeful that we will be able to move back and if you look at our report, there are recommendations and things that we’re watching that would really cause us to move it back. So we tend to be optimistic even though the name of the clock doesn’t suggest it and the time certainly doesn’t suggest it.

Paul Rand: Okay. So, let me ask you a question and maybe you can just say if this stays in or not, but to me in some ways the, what we’ve experienced over the last year or last two years also sheds some additional insight into human psychology and the lack of a willingness to even into the most obvious circumstances, to be willing to make changes or to confront the realities that are there. And as your scientists meet to talk about this, where does that level of thinking come into this equation? And we all want to be as human beings, optimistic and hopeful, but is there anything, or are we just looking at an inevitability of what is destined in terms of the life cycle of our world, that we’re on an inevitable path, and it’s just a matter of when it’s going to occur and how it’s going to occur?

Rachel Bronson: Well, that’s a great question. And I don’t think any of us think it’s inevitable. And I think again, that comes to the optimist of scientists in general, which is what sends them to work every day is how do you address the challenges of our age? So if we look at genetic engineering, it has huge promises, right? It’s going to solve any number of important diseases. There’s so much it can offer, but unless the politicians and the ethicists get behind and think about all the challenges that come, we’re not going to put in place rules and norms that we need to keep this safe. The same for artificial intelligence and the same for nuclear war, that if we’re not paying attention to it, then it is inevitable that these are technologies and mistakes happen and we know mistakes have happened in the past with nuclear technologies.

Rachel Bronson: We know we’ve been extraordinarily lucky to get through it, but if we pay attention to it and we build into our designs the reduction of nuclear weapons, we could take them off hair-trigger alert. If we could commit to no first use, there are things we can do in the policy realm and the technology realm that really will help us make us safer. And I think all of these issues are like crime. It’s always going to be with us, but it can be better or worse. And so we’ve got to kind of stay in that, but if we leave it to others, it gets worse because it’s not being tended to. And so I think that’s what we’ve learned. And right now, pick your issue which you care most about.

Rachel Bronson: We need everybody’s engagement because that’s what keeps politicians’ feet to the fire. People voted in the U.S. in record numbers for addressing climate change, for multilaterals and for a whole host of things that came along with the votes that they put. Others voted against it, but a majority, a significant majority voted for it. And so individuals voted for their feet on these issues. We can make a difference. And difference we’ve seen better and worse relations with the Russians. We’ve seen better and worse relations with the Chinese. And so this is all about how you make them better. And for The Bulletin, it’s a focus on technology and the policies you need to put in place and a commitment to multi-lateralism in the sense of arguing and each of these cases, we keep coming back to global challenges, require global solutions. And if we try to do this nationally, it’s not going to be as effective as if we had other ways of dealing with it.

Rachel Bronson: As we’ve seen in this COVID pandemic, that that has not... We handled Ebola better. It’s a different disease. There’s a lot of things that are different but it was an international effort. Out of COVID, out of the gate, we came out nationalistic and we’d seen the results of it.

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Why shaming other countries often backfires, with Rochelle Terman (Ep. 130)

Scholar examines the geopolitical impacts of confronting human rights violations

Can Trump legally be president?, with William Baude (Ep. 129)

Scholar who ignited debate over 14th Amendment argument for disqualification examines upcoming Supreme Court case

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