“There are no front lines in war or peace,” the late Israeli leader Shimon Peres told me in an interview way back in 1995 when the influence of the internet was first being felt. “Science knows no borders, technology has no flag, information has no passport. The new challenges transcend the old notion of boundaries.”
Global data transfer of private information, not to mention the alleged episode of Russian influence meddling in the U.S. election as well as regular bouts of cybertheft from China and America’s own cyberattacks on Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs, have proven Peres prescient. As former four-star general and CIA director David Petraeus writes this week in The WorldPost, “Cyber capabilities are further blurring the boundaries between wartime and peacetime, and between civilian and military spaces.” In the military realm, he says, cyber has now become a borderless domain of warfare. Yet, as with nuclear weapons in the past, he concludes, “Security in the century ahead will depend more on our moral imagination — and with it, the ability to develop concepts of restraint — than it will on amazing technological breakthroughs.”
Matthew Dallek argues that cyber technologies will change warfare as much, if not more so, than the advent of air power, which enabled the “total war” of firebombing or nuking major cities. To prepare for what the future might bring, he advises that “we allow our fears to inspire our thinking, and anticipate new perils and consequences before they show up at all of our doorsteps.” For philosopher Peter Singer, what we are more likely to confront, at least in the near term, “is a competition more akin to the Cold War’s pre-digital battles, where you saw a cross between influence and subversion operations with espionage.” He adds: “That’s particularly true with what Russia has been up to.”
Addressing the related issue of “alternative facts” and “fake news,” Daniel Dennett, makes the counterintuitive argument that too much transparency is bad for democracy. “Staying afloat in today’s flood of information means understanding the subtle relationship between transparency and trust,” the famous philosopher of consciousness writes. “And it is not what you might think ― the more transparency, the more trust. The reality is the opposite: when everything is exposed, all information is equal, and equally useless. When no one knows things that others don’t know, and there are no institutions or practices that can establish and preserve credibility ― as is threatened today with the new dominance of peer-driven social media ― then there is no solid ground for a democratic discourse.“ This new transparency,” he argues, has set off “an arms race of ploy and counterploy.” Certainly, the whole notion of objectivity is a casualty of that battle of truths.
Flemming Rose, the editor who controversially published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper, comments on another dimension of the deteriorating discourse ― “safe spaces” against offensive ideas in the university. As Flemming sees it, this common practice on today’s college campuses is creating intolerant students unable to stomach the views of others unlike themselves.
One place truth is struggling mightily to find a place in the discourse is in Russia. As Nick Robins-Early reports, surprisingly large demonstrations took place in some 90 cities across Russia last weekend in conjunction with video revelations by Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s foundation alleging the corrupt accumulation of wealth by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. The government cracked down in response, arresting over 700 protesters, including Navalny, who was sentenced to 15 days in jail. Human Rights Watch’s Andrea Prasow is encouraged that Trump’s administration has called on Russia “to immediately release all peaceful protesters.” She sees it as “a sign that public pressure is working” both in its impact on Washington and the Kremlin.
On the other end of the continent, British Prime Minister Theresa May this week formally gave notice of her country’s plan to exit the European Union following the “leave” vote in a referendum earlier this year that was part and parcel of the growing anti-globalization backlash. Former U.K. Trade Secretary Peter Mandelson believes this is a strategic misjudgment. “The biggest risk in the current political debate,” he says “is that we move from the undeniable truth that globalization could work better to the false conclusion that we are better off without it.”
Looking at Europe’s disintegration from far off Beijing, Cristopher-Teodor Uglea offers a novel response to the continent’s growing populism: a “vertical meritocratic democracy” in which citizens have more power and accountability at their local level while at the same time delegating stronger powers to Brussels over large issues like climate change. In between, he envisions experimental regional arrangements where competencies are coordinated.
Writing from Hong Kong, labor activist Han Dongfang reports on growing worker restlessness across China as their wages stagnate while the rich get richer. “[Chinese President] Xi [Jinping] needs to deal with popular dissatisfaction over inequality,” he warns, “if he wants to maintain his power.” Han also reports some successful cases of collective bargaining that raised wages ― something the government itself needs to see happen if future growth will depend more on domestic consumption than exports.
This busy news week also saw U.S. President Donald Trump signing an executive order dismantling the Obama administration’s carbon-curbing policies, effectively undermining the American commitment to fighting climate change while boosting China’s. But Jane Goodall sees a sliver lining for the U.S. “People who were apathetic before, who didn’t seem to care, now suddenly it’s like they’ve heard a trumpet call — ‘What can we do? We have to do something.’ And these are people thinking about future generations, not just themselves.”
While Americans have been caught up in Trump’s controversial orders and Russia-related investigations, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) warns that the president is also dragging the country into a deeper war in Syria.
Dean Obeidallah, who sees Trump’s “radical Islamic terrorism” narrative unfairly discriminating against Muslims, commends New York for indicting a white man with terrorism charges for the fatal stabbing of a black man, but says we shouldn’t have a double standard when it comes to violent white supremacists: “there’s no white person exception for terrorism.”
Carolyn Gregoire reports on a new medical breakthrough that enables the mass production of artificial blood. Finally, our Singularity series this week looks at the weird world of cyborg animals such as remote-controlled bugs and mice whose minds are controlled magnetically.
WHO WE ARE
EDITORS: Nathan Gardels, Co-Founder and Executive Advisor to the Berggruen Institute, is the Editor-in-Chief of The WorldPost. Kathleen Miles is the Executive Editor of The WorldPost. Farah Mohamed is the Managing Editor of The WorldPost. Alex Gardels and Peter Mellgard are the Associate Editors of The WorldPost. Suzanne Gaber is the Editorial Assistant of The WorldPost. Katie Nelson is News Director at The Huffington Post, overseeing The WorldPost and HuffPost’s news coverage. Nick Robins-Early and Jesselyn Cook are World Reporters. Rowaida Abdelaziz is World Social Media Editor.
EDITORIAL BOARD: Nicolas Berggruen, Nathan Gardels, Arianna Huffington, Eric Schmidt (Google Inc.), Pierre Omidyar (First Look Media), Juan Luis Cebrian (El Pais/PRISA), Walter Isaacson (Aspen Institute/TIME-CNN), John Elkann (Corriere della Sera, La Stampa), Wadah Khanfar (Al Jazeera) and Yoichi Funabashi (Asahi Shimbun).
VICE PRESIDENT OF OPERATIONS: Dawn Nakagawa.
CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Moises Naim (former editor of Foreign Policy), Nayan Chanda (Yale/Global; Far Eastern Economic Review) and Katherine Keating (One-On-One). Sergio Munoz Bata and Parag Khanna are Contributing Editors-At-Large.
The Asia Society and its ChinaFile, edited by Orville Schell, is our primary partner on Asia coverage. Eric X. Li and the Chunqiu Institute/Fudan University in Shanghai and also provide first person voices from China. We also draw on the content of China Digital Times. Seung-yoon Lee is The WorldPost link in South Korea.
Jared Cohen of Google Ideas provides regular commentary from young thinkers, leaders and activists around the globe. Bruce Mau provides regular columns from MassiveChangeNetwork.com on the “whole mind” way of thinking. Patrick Soon-Shiong is Contributing Editor for Health and Medicine.
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