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Institute for Technology and Humanity

 

Biography

Professor Matthew Connelly is Director of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge and professor of international and global history at Columbia University. For the last seven years has been co-director of Columbia's social science research centre, the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy.

From 2009-2013,  Matthew directed the Hertog Global Strategy Initiative, a research program on the history and future of planetary threats, including nuclear war, pandemics, and climate change. Since then, Matthew has been the principal investigator of History Lab, a project that uses data science to analyse state secrecy, with a focus on intelligence, surveillance, and weapons of mass destruction. Matthew has taught courses on “The History and Future of Pandemic Threats and Global Public Health”, “The History of the End of the World”, and “The Future as History”. He has frequently co-taught and co-authored articles with leading experts on pandemics, nuclear weapons, climate change, and religious violence.

Matthew has significant policy experience. He served as a consultant for the Gates Foundation, the World Bank, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). For DHS, he joined a multi-disciplinary team responsible for forecasting long-range threats to critical infrastructure. Matthew has also testified before Congress on population policy, and has advised Senate committees on policies to protect national security information. 

Matthew is currently working on a book about “the history of the end of the world”, which will analyse how big institutions have predicted and prepared for the most catastrophic threats. In February 2023, he published The Declassification Engine: What History Reveals about America’s Top Secrets, which narrates the rise and fall of America’s national secrecy complex, and explains how and why it cannot be trusted to protect truly dangerous information. Connelly’s 2008 Fatal Misconception is a critical account of the movement to stop the “population explosion”. It was an Economist and Financial Times book of the year, published at a time when experts were warning of Malthusian famines. Instead, fertility rates have fallen, and even China has abandoned its one-child policy.

His publications also include A Diplomatic Revolution: Algeria's Fight for Independence and the Origins of the Post-Cold War Era, which won five prizes. Matthew received his B.A. from Columbia in 1990 after spending a year reading history at Cambridge, and went on to earn his Ph.D. from Yale in 1997. Since then, he has been a professor at the University of Michigan and the London School of Economics, and has also held visiting positions at the University of Oslo, the University of Sydney, the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris, and the Fundação Getulio Vargas in Rio de Janeiro. Matthew has written research articles in Nature-Human Behaviour, the Annals of Applied Statistics, Comparative Studies in Society and History, The International Journal of Middle East Studies, The American Historical Review, The Review française d'histoire d'Outre-mer, the Journal of Global History, and Past & Present. He has also provided commentary on international affairs for The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and Le Monde, and has hosted documentaries for BBC Radio.

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Portrait of Matt Connolly
Centre Director, CSER
Professor of International and Global History

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