Dual-use refers to technologies, goods, or knowledge with applications in both civilian and military spheres. Rooted in the Cold War, the concept now plays a significant role in international security, ethics, and regulatory frameworks.
Dual-Use: Refers to technologies, goods, or knowledge designed for civilian applications but also having military uses, or vice versa.
Etymology and Historical Context
- Term originates from the combination of “dual” (two) and “use” (purpose), encapsulating the concept of multifunctionality.
- Initially gained prominence during the Cold War era where technology often had both civilian and military applications, necessitating stringent control measures.
- Information Technology: Includes software that is vital for both commercial data processing and cyber warfare capabilities.
- Nuclear Technology: Used for generating electrical power, but can also be modified for creating weapons of mass destruction.
- Chemical Engineering: Behind the manufacture of pharmaceuticals for healthcare and potentially lethal chemical weapons.
- GPS: Developed for military navigation, now ubiquitous in civilian navigation systems.
- Drones: Employed for civilian activities like surveillance and package delivery, but also for military reconnaissance and targeted strikes.
Scientific Research: Data and methodologies often contribute to both civilian sectors like healthcare and military research and development projects.
- ITAR and EAR: U.S. regulatory systems that control the export of items related to defense (ITAR) and those considered dual-use (EAR).
- Wassenaar Arrangement: A multilateral agreement aimed at export control for conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies.
Ambiguities and Definitions
Scope and Blurred Lines: The definition of what is considered dual-use can shift due to national policy objectives or advancements in technology, complicating regulation.
Moral Responsibility: Developers and policymakers face ethical dilemmas in the creation, distribution, and regulation of dual-use technologies.
Strategic Concerns: Dual-use technologies are often a focus in national and international security strategies, given their potential military applications.
Risk assessments are commonly applied to evaluate the potential impact and spread of dual-use items, although no standardized formula exists.
- Ambiguity: One of the most complex aspects is the ambiguous nature of dual-use applications, which complicates ethical and policy decisions.
- Policy Importance: Dual-use is a recurring focal point in international security discussions, technological innovation debates, and ethical considerations.