Interview with Thibault Moulin

In a few words, can you tell us about yourself and how you found your way to the academic world?

I am currently an Associate Professor at the Catholic University of Lyon (France). Between March 2018 and August 2019, I was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow here, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and I worked with Prof Noam Lubell and Prof Yuval Shany on the project ‘Regulating Military Applications of Cyber Enhancement of Humans’. Life in Israel and the research environment were great experiences and I am so happy to be part of the Center again!

When I started my (joint) PhD, the Universities of Manchester and Grenoble-Alps, I was planning to work in an international organization in the aftermath. However, I started to appreciate research for what it is – and teaching was a nice thing too! – and my career plan progressively changed. I eventually decided to pursue an academic career, and I am fortunate that it came true. 


What is the main core of your research? Can you give an example or two?

Since the start of my doctoral research, I have specialized in the regulation of new technologies. Against this background, I focused on intelligence activities and cyber-espionage during my doctoral research and then, my postdoctoral research fellowship was about cybernetical enhancement. I have since carried out various studies, for instance about non-intervention or deterrence. I am also interested in other fields, like the sources of international law – in particular treaty interpretation or peremptory norms – and the fight against impunity – like international criminal law.


Do you think that in this cyber age these issues are even more complex compared to other times in history?  If so - in what ways?

The so-called ‘cyber weapons’ are affordable and may be acquired quite easily. They also enable malevolent actors to act anonymously – at least for a while. Cyber-threat is more diffuse. That being said, major destruction is theoretically possible but I don’t see it is as a likely scenario – I feel the cold war era and the risk of nuclear winter was even more dangerous.


After explaining the main core of your research, what do you think is the solution? What is the proper model for that? Is it applicable?

I have been studying the regulation of new technologies for a while now, and I think that a multidimensional approach needs to be adopted. Some challenges may be indeed be resolved thanks to the application and interpretation of existing rules of international law. I think that some aspects of human enhancement, for instance, may still be regulated by existing rules of IHRL. I have however strong doubts regarding the application of existing rules to some activities, like cyber-espionage. In this situation, differences between the physical and the virtual worlds may be too strong, and the adoption of new binding rules should be contemplated.


What is the next phase in your professional life?

I got a tenured position not so long ago, but I guess the classical path would consist in supervising doctoral theses, managing cooperative research programs, become a professor etc. These are things I am truly interested in, but it would also be a nice experience to cooperate with the government as a legal advisor and influence decision-making, for instance.


What is your message to the public?

From my European perspective, our continent has never been so peaceful. We enjoy a good quality of life, and we are blessed with democracy, the rule of law and human rights. At the same time, this status may be more and more precarious, with challenges like global warming, resource overexploitation, competition with foreign nations, and emerging illiberal ideologies. For instance, I was shocked to read earlier this week that 50% of young adults in France did not consider that living in a democracy was something important. People had to fight to end oppression here, and others endured terrible suffering. We have to remember that nothing is granted, be vigilant, and make sure that our societies – and our planet – remain a great place to live. This is the type of message I am also trying to share as a scholar.