Monday, June 10, 2013

The Military-Digital Complex

It's bad when even retired spooks think things are going too far:
"It’s capacity-driven. We have this enormous capacity to collect and sort data. We do this because we can, and because it’s the one area where the government can really overmatch its terrorist adversaries. What now seems extraordinary is soon accepted as normal, and becomes the baseline for the future. Over a period of time, this baseline shifts, and these new intrusions accumulate and reinforce one another—and that fundamentally changes things. In the past, at the end of the emergency, the balance has shifted back and a lot of those powers were ended. But we’re in a situation now that doesn’t have a finite ending. If there isn’t an end, then these powers accumulate and accumulate and accumulate. This is a fundamental difference. What we put in place becomes a permanent part of the landscape." Brian Jenkins
A recent report from the UK's Defence Academy (part of the Ministry of Defence) on The Global Cyber Game - which came out before the recent debacle - provides a brilliant analysis of what's going on (they do ask permission to install cookies on your computer, by the way :-). They explore the bigger picture of our new, post-Westphalian age of international diplomacy and declining national sovereignty, using the analogy of a cyber power board game to explore trends and scenarios. The chart below shows the board, and the various areas of co-operation and conflict now playing out:


The Military-Digital Complex (my play on Eisenhower's Military-Industrial Complex) represents that interface between commercial co-operation/competition and plain old coercion/co-option.  Their scenarios for how things evolve from here are sobering. We've been living through the 'free lunch' phase of the digital economy, and are now in the 'rising alarm' phase (in case you hadn't noticed):


After that, things will get better... or they will get worse. How much better (and how very much worse) is set out in the MOD's report.

I'm inclined to see things getting worse. And not because I'm a techo-luddite (far from it), but mainly because I've been reading Oswald Spengler's remarkably prescient Decline of the West. Written precisely one hundred years ago.

A bigger topic, for another post.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting post and discussions...

    Two points I would contribute:

    1. The 'big brother' complex - I would definitely say that the way it works, and the corresponding concern that ought to arise in terms of CONTROL is NOT that 'big brother is continually watching us... Rather, it's us continually watching big brother through all our various screens and other media - Subconsciously programming the thoughts, desires and pictures in our heads.

    2. Concepts of internet 'security' are on the verge of a paradigm shift. Very much on the way out is the old 'lock-down' approach to it. What is becoming key is ADAPTATION. There is an increasing Darwinian evolutionary tendency coming into its own in the global e-network, and surely a large part of the evolutionary impetus is security. But it is on the cusp of changing so fast. New security techniques and software approaches are adaptive. But the question is, do they have the adaptive capability of an individual human brain? Therein lie the battle fields for the coming 'war' referred to. - Adaptive software engineering in conjunction with social engineering by individual intelligent agents. It is only individuals can make those creative leaps. Surely, industry in alliance with state military resources will recruit many such individuals, in their efforts to protect their holdings. But young, creative people, inspired by 'young ideas' will always be there to try and relieve these companies of their holdings, and to try and change the world, and so on. Of course, there is the more organised sinister element too, conflated with these idealists. That aspect also sets the scene for the accompanying propaganda war, and that goes back again to the big brother point made above...

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