Launch: Disruption Network Institute, September 11, 2023

Disruption Network Institute:
Investigating the Kill Cloud

A new hub for investigations and empirical research on how artificial intelligence impacts new technologies of war, automated weapons, and networked warfare.

Launched on September 11 2023, Disruption Network Institute and its fellows will investigate the use of automatised technologies in the field of networked warfare, and the social and ethical implications of machine learning and algorithms in developing tactics of control, data tracking and surveillance. The inaugural research programme Investigating the Kill Cloud: Information Warfare, Autonomous Weapons & AI advancing concepts developed through collaborations between whistleblowers, researchers, advocates and civil society, through the work of the Disruption Network Lab in building transdisciplinary networks of trust.

Investigating the Kill Cloud (2023-2024) will research links between artificial intelligence, surveillance, drone deployment, and further developments of automated weapon systems, aiming to produce knowledge urgently needed to critically assess and regulate the further merging of artificial intelligence into warfare. The concept of the Kill Cloud was first outlined by drone whistleblowers Cian Westmoreland and Lisa Ling in the anthology Whistleblowing for Change, edited by Tatiana Bazzichelli (transcript Verlag, 2021). Besides feeding into relevant advocacy efforts, outputs generated within the Institute will also be disseminated and discussed within the Disruption Network Lab's well-established formats of public programming.

An essential novel aspect of the Institute's approach is the direct involvement of whistleblowers and other affected experts. These have designated the Lab as their preferred hub of research, enabling them to delve deeper into studying the effects of this complex matter on our societies and devising strategies to mitigate risks. With this approach, the Institute not only feeds into an important ongoing debate regarding the future of warfare, public participation therein, as well as the protection of civilians – it also directly mobilises the invaluable knowledge of people with first-hand experience of these systems from within.

The four 2023–2024 fellows are: Lisa Ling (Whistleblower, Technologist, former Technical Sergeant, US Air Force Drone Surveillance Program), Jack Poulson (Executive Director, Tech Inquiry, US), Naomi Colvin (Whistleblower Advocate and UK/Ireland/Belgium Programme Director at Blueprint for Free Speech, UK), Joana Moll (Artist and Researcher, ES). Read more about the fellows here.

The fellowships will be running for one year from September 2023, and the findings will be presented at the 33rd conference of the Disruption Network Lab in Berlin on September 20–22, 2024, and published by Disruption Network Lab in a new anthology by spring 2025.

The research output will enable the Institute to inform debates, solidify thought leadership in the area and influence civic society as well as governments.

The first research programme investigates:

  • How does the inclusion of artificial intelligence and autonomy impact networked warfare?

  • What are the experiences and knowledge of whistleblowers which undermine networked warfare’s legality, morality, and ethics?

  • What challenges does global connectivity, AI, and connected weaponry bring to human rights and civil society?

  • How does a technologically mediated view of the battle space impact policies for drone strikes and targeting killings?

  • How is information warfare fueled by social media, data extractivism, and cellphone location-tracking surveillance?

  • How is artistic practice able to produce evidence in the field of information warfare?

The Institute and Disruption Network Lab will organise yearly conferences to showcase the research in collaboration with other organisations, experts, think tanks and relevant institutions, in order to disseminate the findings. Disruption Network Lab plans to connect with different actors and partners at the forefront in this space of knowledge development.

Disruption Network Institute is conceptualised and directed by Tatiana Bazzichelli (Director and Founder, Disruption Network Lab, IT/DE) and coordinated by Veronika Nad (Finance and Administration Officer, Disruption Network Lab, DE). The activities of the Institute including the organisation of the research programme and public events, publishing of findings and planning of advocacy campaigns, are developed by Disruption Network Lab. The focus areas for the upcoming years as well as possible common actions will be defined by the research director together with the fellows, advisory board members, and affiliates.

Disruption Network Institute gives potential risks in the context of the programme its due diligence and ensures that appropriate attention is given to the compliance of all research and artistic contributions with the requirements of the national and international legal and regulatory framework. A compliance monitoring and risk mitigation mechanism is operated and updated during the programme.