The 2016 Q Lecture: Terrorism in an Age of Quantum Insecurity

Jairus Grove, University of Hawaii Center for Futures Studies

The 2016 Q Lecture is presented by the Centre for International Security Studies with the support of the School of Social and Political Sciences and the Carnegie Corporation of New York

11 February, 2015

The quantum challenge, as a set of questions over causality, time, and action at a distance, cannot be constrained to the subatomic level or confined to a single discipline of thought.

This is particularly evident in the entangled and non-locality of world politics, where International Relations theory has endeavoured to explain ‘spooky action at a distance’ in the practices and places of diplomacy, deterrence and war. Now media savvy organisations like ISIS succeed precisely because of their ability to leverage these characteristics of global life.

Events like those that erupted in Paris, France and San Bernardino, California are only the most recent examples. The latter event had no explicit connection to ISIS, and yet this spectacular violence is an undeniable asset to the atmosphere of terror that ISIS requires to increase its international significance. Such events do not operate in a three dimensional space in which we can measure something like speed or mass. Instead, contemporary terrorism takes place in the dimension of ‘feeling’ such that space/time is often irrelevant to the intensity of the consequences of an event.

When a pineapple soda can becomes a ‘bomb’ and takes down a Russian airliner, the everyday objects around us provoke a sense of horror. International Relations is in need of a quantum turn so that we can understand the very real consequences of events and things whose capacities defy easy or rational explanation.


Jairus Grove

Jairus Grove is Director of the University of Hawaii Center for Futures Studies. His research focuses on the relationship between technology and global politics, specifically the transformative effects of what are often called ‘disruptive technologies’ and the ways technical innovations undermine political order and governance systems. He has been a guest of the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Japanese Ministry of Science and Technology, and is currently engaged in the co-design of a mobile governance platform for indigenous and island communities displaced by sea level rise and climate change.

His recent publications can be found in Critical Studies on Security, Theory & Event, and The Boston Review. He has recently completed two book manuscripts, Thinking Like a Bomb: Essays on The Insurgency of Things and Must We Persist to Continue.