States’ use of cyber operations

States are increasingly engaging in cyber operations to support their strategic aims. This POSTnote considers hostile state-backed cyber activities against the UK. It looks at how and why states use cyber operations against other nations and the threats these pose to the UK. It also considers mitigation measures, both internationally and in the UK.

States’ use of cyber operations

Automation in military operations

Advances in robotics and digital technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), are enabling greater levels of automation across many sectors, including defence. The UK Government expects automation to be crucial to maintain military advantage in the future. In June 2022, the Ministry of Defence published its Defence AI Strategy, which sets out how it plans to adopt and exploit AI; automation was cited as a key application. This POSTnote discusses current and future applications of automation and AI, their impact on militaries and global stability, and the challenges around their development and implementation.

Automation in military operations
  • POSTbrief

    Assisted dying

    This POSTbrief provides a brief overview of assisted dying, including ethical debate and stakeholder opinion. It examines how assisted dying functions within health services in countries where it is a legal option, focusing on jurisdictions where most data are available on outcomes: Belgium, Canada, the Netherlands, Oregon (United States), Switzerland and Victoria (Australia). It also covers evidence and expert opinion on key practical considerations that are raised in the context of assisted dying.

  • POSTnote

    Green steel

    Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the iron and steel industry make up 14% of industrial emissions in the UK. Decarbonisation of the steel industry is needed if the UK is to meet its target of net zero GHG emissions by 2050. This POSTnote outlines current steelmaking processes in the UK, the technologies and measures that can be used to reduce CO2 emissions, and the supporting infrastructure and policies that could enable a ‘green steel’ industry in the UK.

  • POSTnote

    Sharing public sector data

    Sharing public sector data can improve public services, facilitate research and innovation, and inform policymaking. However, public sector bodies face challenges when sharing data, both within the public sector and externally. These include cultural and skills barriers, poor data quality, and lack of public trust. Sharing public sector data also raises security and privacy concerns. This POSTnote looks at how public sector data is shared in the UK, discussing the requirements for effective data sharing and the associated benefits, risks, and barriers.

  • POSTnote

    Conversion Therapy

    The UK Government intends to prepare legislation in the new year to ban ‘conversion therapy’ (CT) in England and Wales, for introduction when parliamentary time allows. This POSTnote outlines data on CT and reviews the quality of available research evidence and the impact of CT. It summarises UK stakeholder perspectives on a CT ban and outlines key challenges for policymakers to consider.

  • POSTnote

    Smart Cities

    "Smart cities" describes places that incorporate a range of technologies (especially those that collect and use data) to address economic, social, and environmental challenges. Projects usually take place in urban areas, but are also deployed in rural settings. This POSTnote looks at smart city innovation in the UK and the technologies involved. It considers the factors driving the adoption of smart city technologies, and the potential benefits, barriers and risks associated with their implementation.

  • POSTnote

    Screen use and health in young people

    Devices with screens include game consoles, laptops and televisions. Screen use refers to activities undertaken on such devices and the time spent on them. Children’s screen use has increased over the past decade. Policy-makers and parents have expressed concerns about possible effects of screen use on children/young people’s development and health. This POSTnote provides an overview of how children/young people use screens, the opportunities and risks of this use, evidence on the possible effects on health and development, and evidence on ways to support healthy screen use.

  • Rapid response

    Technology and domestic abuse

    The use of technology to perpetrate domestic abuse, referred to as tech abuse, has become increasingly common. Domestic abuse charity Refuge reported that in 2019, 72% of women accessing its services said that they had been subjected to technology-facilitated abuse. Common devices such as smartphones and tablets can be misused to stalk, harass, impersonate and threaten victims. Some groups have raised concerns that the growing use of internet-connected home devices (such as smart speakers) may provide perpetrators with a wider and more sophisticated range of tools to harm victims. How is technology being used to perpetrate domestic abuse, how can this be prevented and what role can technology play in supporting victims?

  • Horizon scanning

    COVID-19 Areas of Research Interest

    POST has published 20 COVID-19 Areas of Research Interest (ARIs) for the UK Parliament. ARIs were identified using the input of over 1,000 experts. They were then ranked in order of interest to UK Parliament research and select committee staff, following internal feedback. Each ARI comes with a series of questions aiming to further break down each broad area. The ARIs focus on the impacts of the global pandemic and range from economic recovery and growth, to surveillance and data collection, long-term mental health effects, education, vaccine development, and the NHS.

  • POSTnote

    Interpretable machine learning

    Machine learning (ML, a type of artificial intelligence) is increasingly being used to support decision making in a variety of applications including recruitment and clinical diagnoses. While ML has many advantages, there are concerns that in some cases it may not be possible to explain completely how its outputs have been produced. This POSTnote gives an overview of ML and its role in decision-making. It examines the challenges of understanding how a complex ML system has reached its output, and some of the technical approaches to making ML easier to interpret. It also gives a brief overview of some of the proposed tools for making ML systems more accountable.

  • Horizon scanning

    Life beyond COVID-19: What are experts concerned about?

    Over 350 experts have shared with us what they think the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic will be in the next 2 to 5 years. This work was done to inform the House of Lords COVID-19 Committee inquiry on Life beyond COVID, and is based on 366 expert responses. Areas of concern include work and employment, health and social care, research and development, society and community, the natural environment, education, arts, culture and sport, infrastructure and crime and justice.