R. David Edelman

R. David Edelman

Nonresident Senior Fellow – Foreign Policy, John L. Thornton China Center

R. David Edelman is the IPRI Distinguished Fellow at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, holding appointments in the Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Lab and Center for International Studies and leading research on the governance of artificial intelligence, the geopolitics of technology and telecommunications, and the national security dimensions of computing at the Internet Policy Research Initiative.

His book, “Rethinking Cyber Warfare: The International Relations of Digital Disruption,” will be released by Oxford University Press on May 7, 2024.

He is currently writing and engaging on several projects at the intersection of technology, national security, and international economics including the role of AI and digital supply chains in the U.S.-China relationship; escalation and possibilities for restraint of cyber-enabled conflict; the future of trade and global data flows; and the domestic and international governance of AI systems.

For over a decade in government, Edelman advanced many of the U.S. government’s foundational technology policies spanning international cyber policy, internet governance, digital trade, AI, and emerging technologies. He served for six years in the Obama White House, including as special assistant to the president for economic & technology policy on the National Economic Council, director for cybersecurity on the National Security Council, and senior advisor in the Office of Science & Technology Policy. When appointed in 2010, he was the youngest-ever director in the NSC’s 60-year history. Prior to the White House, he began his career as a civil servant at the State Department and helped found the Department’s Office of Cyber Affairs, ultimately serving as lead U.S. negotiator on cybersecurity and digital economy matters at the United Nations and later, the G-20. He was the recipient of multiple superior and meritorious honor awards during his tenure.

In the private sector, he has built public-sector and global strategy teams at leading companies in the AI, robotics, and clean energy sectors; founded an advisory firm helping emerging technology companies and executives navigate geopolitics and cybersecurity risks; invested in a range of venture-backed startups; and appeared as a frequent keynote speaker.

His insights and analysis have appeared in print in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Der Spiegel, Financial Times, The Economist, WIRED, Fast Company, Forbes, and Fortune, and in broadcast on NPR, CNN, Bloomberg, CNBC, and MSNBC. He is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Edelman holds a bachelor’s from Yale, and a master’s and doctorate from Oxford University, where he was a Clarendon Scholar.


  • Anzu Partners, venture partner
  • Catalyst•Wayfare, partner
  • Electric Power Engineers, board of directors
  • Freedom Forum, board of directors
  • Fusion Industry Association, board of directors
  • Institute for Education, president
  • Areas of Expertise

    • Cyber security, diplomacy, and warfare
    • Emerging technologies
    • Internet governance
    • U.S.-China relations
  • Current Positions

    • IPRI Distinguished Fellow, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Past Positions

    • Special Assistant to the President for Economic & Technology Policy, National Economic Council/OSTP, The White House
    • Director for Cybersecurity/International Cyber Policy, National Security Council, The White House
    • Policy Advisor, Office of Cyber Affairs, U.S. Department of State
    • Analyst, Northeast Asian Affairs, U.S. Department of State
  • Education

    • Ph.D., Oxford University
    • M.Phil., Oxford University
    • B.A., Yale University
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