PIPS Fellows 2017-2018

Sarah Harmon
 Sarah Harmon
Microtargeting Mass Manipulation: The Final Frontier of Sensory Propaganda


Evolving propaganda technologies allow actors to conduct campaigns using personalized messages that contain manipulated audio and video files indistinguishable from authentic sensory media. The combination of these technologies will create Computer-Generated Sensory (CGS) propaganda, a tool that will ena­ble the release of compelling and specialized messages to target audiences. The interplay between varying audience sizes and the persuasive power of these messages will drive the progression of CGS propaganda and possibly catalyze the ultimate end of credible news and online communication. The U.S. government should pursue public education campaigns and encourage news sourcing encryption technologies to counter the immediate threats posed by CGS propaganda.


Rebecca Lamb
Rebecca Lamb
The Shadows of Europe: Strengthening Regional Security through Labor Reform


The European response to the 2015 migration crisis has overlooked a crucial threat to regional stability—the European shadow labor market. Previous reforms intended to increase employment flexibility in Italy, Greece, and Spain unintentionally reduced the job security of young European workers, forcing them into the shadow labor market. Barriers to legitimate employment for immigrants have exacerbated this trend. The inability of governments to rein in their shadow economies will delegitimize domestic institutions and magnify political tensions within the European Union.  Brussels should therefore encourage Southern Europe to balance flexibility and equality in their labor markets to maintain European unity and security cooperation.


Margaret Miller
The Poor Man’s Air Force: Unattributed Mid-Range Drone Attacks


Military and commercial technological advances make mid-range unmanned aerial vehicles (M-UAVs) increasingly inexpensive and accessible. M-UAV proliferation enables resource-poor states and non-state actors to target civilian population centers with lethal airpower that is difficult to attribute. The United States faces difficulties countering asymmetric threats and engaging with adversaries at below-war levels of conflict. Attributing and responding to anonymous or proxy M-UAV attacks will exacerbate this gray-zone challenge. Uncertain attribution will impede deterrence of conventional attacks, allow misattribution of attacks for propaganda purposes, and contribute to U.S. policy paralysis.


Collin Nelson
The Weaponization of Wheat: Climate Change and Russian Agricultural Power


Climate change is often viewed as harmful.  However, recent studies indicate that climate change is increasing Russia’s wheat production, while reducing its competitors’ relative share of the global market. This trend, combined with growing demand for wheat in Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa, will make these regions increasingly reliant on the world’s future breadbasket—Russia. The United States should expect Moscow to exploit this agricultural leverage to influence vulnerable countries where it currently has limited influence, such as in Asia, while deepening its power in the Middle East and North Africa.



Alexander Nocks
The Geointelligence Revolution: Real-Time Reconnaissance and Its Dangers


Actors—from lone-wolf terrorists to transnational criminal organizations—will soon have geointelligence capabilities currently limited to states. In the next five to ten years, increasingly accessible geospatial data will allow adversaries to conduct remote, real-time reconnaissance with minimal risk of detection. Improvements in commercial satellite imagery, paired with an increase in publicly-available, geolocated data, will empower non-state actors at each stage of the attack cycle. U.S. policymakers must prepare for a future in which the exploitation of open-access data is a constant threat.



Rosie Olwell
The Perils of Palm Oil: Environmental Degradation and Food Insecurity in West Africa


Palm oil companies are buying millions of acres of land in West and Central Africa, where conditions are ideal and land is cheap. The conversion of forests and farmland into palm oil plantations will accelerate deforestation, aggravate environmental degradation, and worsen regional food insecurity. Conflict and unrest exacerbated by food insecurity and a rapidly growing youth population will intensify political volatility in affected states such as Nigeria. As a major regional power and U.S. ally, Nigeria’s stability is essential for regional security. The threat posed by palm oil production in West Africa can be fully addressed by creating a council to integrate existing programs devoted to improving regional food security and mitigating environmental concerns such as deforestation.



Ranjani Parthasarathy
Securing the Next Biometric: Vulnerabilities of DNA-based Identity Verification Systems


DNA is a biometric identifier that may be used for instantaneous identification within the next decade. This technology has three major vulnerabilities: sale of private data from commercial genetic analysis, spoofing based on DNA synthesis capabilities, and introduction of DNA-based malware. Current legislation inadequately safeguards US citizens’ genetic information. Inexpensive DNA synthesis will enable spoofing by non-state actors. Further, open-access publications will accelerate the proliferation of malware design and production capabilities.