Carnegie Mellon University

CMIST Launches Pioneering Program in Politics, Security, and Technology

February 01, 2024

CMIST Launches Pioneering Program in Politics, Security, and Technology

By Lindsay Marcellus

Imagine a future where artificial intelligence writes laws, robots fight wars, and synthetic biology alters human life itself. Are we prepared for the unprecedented challenges and opportunities this future holds? At the Carnegie Mellon Institute for Strategy and Technology (CMIST) we believe the answer lies in education. That's why we're excited to announce two new academic programs: the Bachelor of Science in Political Science, Security, and Technology and the Minor in Political Science, Security, and Technology

The Bachelor of Science in Political Science, Security, and Technology (BS PSST) equips students with the expertise to navigate the challenge of influencing fast-paced technological developments in the public interest. Unlike any other program in the United States, students will learn how rapid technological innovation and diffusion affects the political landscape so that they have the tools to promote global stability and protect the future of humanity.

Emily Half, CMIST Deputy Director for Academic Affairs emphasized, “There is no other undergraduate program that combines political science, national and international security, and emerging technologies.”

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), already a pioneer in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and other cutting-edge fields, cements its position as a leader in security and technology with the establishment of CMIST and the launch of this trailblazing degree program. As a result, CMU students are uniquely positioned to shape the way that emerging technologies impact societies.

The BS PSST fills a critical need by training students capable of bridging the gap between innovators and policy makers. As a complement to the technical approaches taught throughout the university, the program uses a social science lens to analyze the political, economic, social, and ethical dimensions of new technologies. 

This is the third degree offered by CMIST, and it introduces students to traditional political science approaches as well as contemporary techniques, including tools like geospatial mapping, sensor-driven machine learning, and large language models. While not necessarily building these tools (like their peers on campus do), graduates gain proficiency in using them effectively to predict problems, identify potential backlash, and answer important questions. 

“The new Bachelor of Science in Political Science, Security, and Technology is an exciting and innovative program that will train students in an area of critical relevance for politics, policy, and society––the intersection between technology and security,” said assistant professor Josh Schwartz, who will be teaching one of the foundational courses of the new major––An Introduction to Technology and War. “Emerging technologies like drones, cyber, and social media are rapidly changing the nature of warfare and international competition, and existing technologies like nuclear weapons continue to pose a potentially existential threat to humankind.” 

The impact of digital technologies creates challenges that resonate across the political spectrum, affecting human beings in the United States and around the world. Responding to this reality, the BS PSST provides students the flexibility to specialize in international security or domestic American politics through their electives. Students are also strongly encouraged to participate in the Carnegie Mellon University Washington Semester Program (CMU/WSP), providing them professional experience in DC while taking classes that may count toward electives for their degree. 

During their course of study, students can study topics like emerging technologies and political power, a strategic introduction to artificial intelligence, ethics of technology and security, the implications of synthetic biology for ethics and security, and the development and diffusion of military technologies. 

Jayla Hemphill, a junior who recently shifted to the new major, is preparing for a career in artificial intelligence and military use. Hemphill is drawn to the new major in part due to an interest in the intersection between social sciences and technology, noting that “the security and technology aspects of the major will cater well to the changes that we're anticipating in the world.” 

The exciting new programs are open not only to Dietrich College students but to all Carnegie Mellon undergraduates, who can pursue an additional major or minor on top of their primary fields. For example, the PSST minor enables students to explore the ethical, social, and political implications of emerging technologies like AI, cybersecurity, and synthetic biology. Students from across campus–from Engineering to Computer Science to Business–will consider the social impacts of exciting advances in their fields, to anticipate broader effects and contribute to political discourse about them. With flexible course options and double-counting opportunities, this minor easily integrates with existing majors, allowing students to delve deeper into the intersection of technology and politics.

The new minor is the sixth offered by CMIST, joining programs in international relations, cybersecurity, military strategy, public policy, and the newly-launched Minor in American Politics and Law.

Students interested in pursuing the groundbreaking new PSST major or minor should contact Emily Half, CMIST Deputy Director for Academic Affairs. More information about the new major and two new minors is also available on CMIST’s academic programs webpage.