Nils Petter Gleditsch
Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
Steve Wright (1952–2019) was an activist academic. He headed the Police Monitoring Unit in Manchester in the 1980s, went on to direct the Omega foundation, a think tank devoted to military security and police technology, and eventually became a Reader in the School of Applied Global Ethics at Leeds Beckett University. This volume presents some of his own writings, articles by others on related topics, and personal memories by some of his numerous collaborators. The thrust of his work lay in exploring the social consequences of new technologies. He wrote extensively on police technology, sub-lethal weapons, landmines, state surveillance, drones, and cyber warfare, but he also developed a multivariate time-series analysis of the conflict in Northern Ireland. The epithet 'spy', which he used himself, was derived from his habit of visiting arms and security fairs and asking inquisitive questions about new technologies and their potential use. The book contains an interesting, previously unpublished, guide to such 'field visits'. He was well aware of the potential risks of getting too close to sensitive secrets, particularly in authoritarian countries. He was worried that some of the new police technologies could undermine traditional techniques of civilian resistance and he was critical of the way in which new military technologies, such as drones, increased the separation between executioner and victim. With Brian Martin, a frequent collaborator, he wrote about potential countermeasures to repressive technologies. He was also active in the work to expose the Echelon global surveillance system. Although the book is a bit of a mixed bag, it provides plenty of food for thought for those who are interested in how new technologies shape social relations and the ethical dilemmas they raise.