Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Technology and Int'l Relations: Not Such Strange Bedfellows

SAIS Bologna's curriculum has changed over the years, evolving as it should. International relations are in constant flux. And while our program does not shift with every passing breeze, it keeps up with the times.

Who would have thought, when SAIS was founded more than six decades ago, that technology would soon play such an important role in shaping relations among nation states?

For that matter, how could an engineer become director of SAIS Bologna? Prof. Kenneth Keller, who has a Ph.D in chemical engineering, will be glad to answer that.

Martin Ross, who recently graduated from SAIS Bologna, took Prof. Keller's "Science, Technology & International Relations" class last year.

What is the course all about?

"This course examines how advances in science and technology as well as the dynamics of technological development affect relations among nations in matters such as autonomy, national security, relative economic strength, environmental protection, cultural identity and international cooperation. It illustrates these effects with examples from the current international scene, and it considers various approaches to negotiating international agreements in areas affected by these science and technology considerations."

I asked Martin, who comes from Canada, what the course meant to him.

"I have been interested for many years in the technical side of what to do when the existing IP address space runs out," he said.

Martin receiving his prize at graduation
"Luckily the course gave me the opportunity to explore the policy and political aspects relating to Internet governance in a much more detailed manner than I was able to previously.  The paper was especially timely as the first public large scale purchase of IP addresses by Microsoft from the defunct Nortel occurred a few months after I wrote the paper. The uptake towards the next generation of the Internet protocol continues to be slow and several auction internet sites have already sprung up."

Our readers have already seen award-winning papers by Christina Politi and Annabel LeeHere is a paper that Martin submitted in Prof. Keller's class and which won him, too, a C. Grove Haines prize for academic excellence at graduation in May.