September 7, 2023

Center for Global Affairs Faculty Spotlight: Nicholas S. Reese

NYU SPS Center for Global Affairs (CGA) adjunct instructor Nick Reese is an entrepreneur and former director for Emerging Technology Policy in the Office of Cyber, Infrastructure, Risk, and Resilience Policy at the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) where he focused on critical policy issues related to artificial intelligence, quantum information science, smart cities, space, and cybersecurity. Reese joined us to discuss his two-plus decades of experience in national security, teaching, and emerging challenges to global security and infrastructure.

Tell us about yourself.
I have a 20+ year career in national security at multiple levels of government, and recently left government service to start two companies. I grew up in rural Western Pennsylvania and joined the US Navy following high school. After nine years and three overseas deployments, I left the military to pursue graduate studies. Following graduate school, I began a career in the US intelligence community where I managed and executed intelligence operations in multiple countries worldwide.

I served as the first-ever director for emerging technology policy at the DHS, where my team and I produced major pieces of technology policy such as the DHS AI Strategy, National Security Memorandum-10, Executive Order 13960, the National Space Policy, and DHS's post-quantum cryptography policy. I'm now the cofounder of the Frontier Foundry Corporation, an AI startup focused on using AI to augment human experts and to identify risk.

What do you enjoy most about teaching at the Center for Global Affairs?
The students are by far the best part. I'm always excited to work with diverse and talented students and watch as they bring so much interesting depth to the courses. I love the ability to bring ideas forward and turn them into meaningful student experiences that are unique to CGA and NYU SPS.

With your intelligence background, what do you consider the most pressing issues related to global security and global crime, and why?
It is a great time to be entering the global security field because we are at a moment of pivot that we have not seen since September 11, 2001. The primary global security threats come from nation-state actors rather than non-state actors representing a shift from security studies over the last 20 years. If you look at policy and strategy from the US, its allies, and its adversaries, all are pressing to gain an advantage in statecraft capabilities enabled by advances in emerging technology. Technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing, outer space, telecommunications, and more are new strategic assets. and the cyber world is the means by which states are engaging in this competition. As we see this new dynamic take shape, we can see the central role of emerging technologies and the demand for professionals that have backgrounds in these technologies at a deeper level. Going into the new academic year, I look forward to helping our NYU SPS students and learners better understand how these technologies and platforms will impact global security, infrastructure, and policies today and in the future.

Could you speak to the importance of quantum workforce education in the global arena?
Quantum computing is going to deliver a level of computer power far beyond the magnitude of what we have today. This means that things will be possible with a quantum computer that have never been possible with a classical computer, such as breaking certain types of encryption. Educating our quantum workforce means bringing the strange and non-intuitive concepts of the quantum world to a wide variety of NYU SPS students and professionals. We need security professionals, lawyers, businesspeople, government leaders, policy makers, and other practitioners to know and understand why quantum computing is different and why it matters.

Many of today's headlines focus on the potentially problematic side of AI. As someone involved in an AI startup, what are some of the positive impacts you envision AI having on the global stage?
Critically, the term "AI" actually does not mean anything because we do not have, nor are we close to, machines that anyone would consider intelligent in the way we understand intelligence. AI is a catchall term for things like machine learning, large language models, computer vision, and more. It is true that many of the headlines focus on the problematic side of AI and so do many of the conversations in government and the security community.

One of the reasons I chose to start an AI company is because conversations were dominated by risks of using AI to the point that many feared using it at all. There is a tremendous opportunity globally for AI to help us make sense of the mountains of data we are all generating every day. If AI can simply process that data, find non-obvious risks or opportunities, and display it in a way that human experts can quickly evaluate, risk across so many domains will be changed for the better. We should always keep vigilant watch for problems with the technology but we also cannot be afraid of it.

Related Articles