Technology and Geopolitics
“Now as for you, Daniel, roll up your scroll and seal your words until the time of the end. Many will rush around while knowledge increases.”
— Daniel 12:4, ISV
There are several interpretations of this verse, especially the phrase, “while knowledge increases”. Some posit that the knowledge being spoken of is knowledge of God’s word as revealed in prophecy. The phrase ““Many will rush around,” is interpreted by many as searching or investigating; (cf. Jer. 5:1; Am. 8:12; Zech. 4:10; 2 Chron. 16:9).
Others believe that the phrase refers to an increase in general knowledge comparable to Genesis:
The LORD said, “Look! They are one people with the same language for all of them, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. Nothing that they have a mind to do will be impossible for them!”
— Genesis 11:6, ISV
While many good Bible Scholars may differ in their interpretation of the verse, what is definitely true is that knowledge has increased. Much of that knowledge from science to technology to geopolitics has been increased due to cyber technology.
For most of history, technological change has progressed over time in a series of incremental advances that refined previous discoveries. In geopolitics and warfare, previous tactical and strategic doctrines influenced more modern developments: tanks were considered in terms of precedents drawn from centuries of cavalry warfare; a case can be made where airplanes were developed as another form of artillery, battleships can be seen as mobile forts, and aircraft carriers progressed from airstrips.
For all their magnification of destructive power, even nuclear weapons are in some respects an extrapolation from previous experience. What is new in the present era is the rate of change of computing power and the expansion of information technology into every sphere of existence. Reflecting in the 1960s on his experiences as an engineer at the Intel Corporation, Gordon Moore concluded that if the trend he had observed would continue at regular intervals, the capacity of computer processing units would double every two years. This is now called, “Moore’s Law”.
An article in the Huffington Post noted that almost all the technology devices shown in a 1991 Radio Shack advertisement are now contained in a single smart phone. In an ironic twist, the bottom of the ad says to “‘check your phone book for the Radio Shack Store nearest you.’ When was the last time you even used a phone book?
Moore’s Law has proved amazingly prescient. Computers have grown smaller, cheaper and exponentially faster to the point where a computer CPU can now be embedded in almost anything: phones, watches, home appliances, weapons systems, and ultimately, the human body itself.
The Internet of Everything
The number of devices connected to the Internet now roughly ten billion and projected to rise to fifty billion by 2020. We once we were talking about an “Internet of Things”; now an “Internet of Everything” looms on the horizon. There will be a time in the not-so-distant future when miniature data-processing devices will embedded in everyday objects —“smart door locks, toothbrushes, wristwatches, fitness trackers, smoke detectors, surveillance cameras, ovens, toys and robots”— or floating through the air, surveying and shaping their environment in the form of “smart dust.” Each object is to be connected to the Internet and programmed to communicate with a central server or other networked devices.
These changes have occurred so rapidly as to outstrip most attempts by those without technological expertise to comprehend their broader consequences. Conversely, many people with the technical expertise do not have the moral, social, or political expertise to comprehend these same consequences. We are being drawn into areas that have hitherto been unexplained, or even unconceived. As a result, many of the most revolutionary technologies and techniques are currently limited in their use only by the capability and the discretion of the most technologically advanced. It is truly similar to the time in Genesis where nothing Man could conceive will be impossible. (In an interesting sidelight, some believe that the word “Tower” mentioned in Genesis 11:1–9 doesn’t mean a tower at all. They believe that the word mig̱dāl in the Hebrew means a “portal”. That is subject for a future article.)
Progression of Warfare
Today’s world has inherited the legacy of nuclear weapons from previous weapons of destruction and are capable of destroying civilized life on the planet, if not life itself. But as catastrophic as implications of the weapons of nuclear war are, their significance and use could still be analyzed in terms of separable cycles of war and peace. The new technology of the Internet opens up an entirely new range of war scenarios. Cyberspace brings us into an entirely whole new realm of warfare. While it is pervasive, it is not threatening in and of itself; its menace depends on its use. The threats emerging from cyberspace are nebulous and ill-defined and may be difficult to trace. The pervasiveness of networked communications in a nation’s critical infrastructures has created great beneficial effects, but it has also revolutionized vulnerabilities.
Before the cyber age, a nations’ capability could evaluated through an combination of manpower, equipment, geography, economics, and morale. There was a clear distinction between periods of peace and war. Hostilities were triggered by defined events and carried out with strategies based on an intelligible doctrine.
Asymmetric Cyber Warfare
Internet technology has outstripped strategy or doctrine. In today’s world, individuals of unclear affiliation but of a common ideology, such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda, are capable of undertaking actions of increasing ambition and brutality. They are also capable of some very advanced asymmetric cyber warfare. Both Al-Qaeda and ISIS look at cyberwar as a logical extension of jihad. Al-Qaeda has a cyber training camp in Yemen. Iran has a cyber warfare training academy in Tehran. These camps, along with cyber warfare centers in Moscow, Beijing, Washington, D.C. and Tel Aviv, among other places, make for a combustible combination. Just has nations great and small are seeking nuclear weapons and Iran gaining nuclear capability may trigger a Mid-East arms race, these same nations and many more are seeking to achieve cyber-parity with the great military powers.
Few if any limits exist among those nations and individuals wielding cyber weapons to define any restraints. When nations or terror groups are capable of undertaking actions of increasing ambition and intrusiveness, the very definition of state authority may turn ambiguous. The complexity is compounded by the fact that it is easier to mount cyber attacks than to defend against them, possibly encouraging an offensive bias in the construction of new capabilities.
The complexity is compounded by the fact that it is easier to mount an asymmetric cyberattack than to defend against them, possibly encouraging an offensive bias in the construction of new capabilities. (A typical virus contains about 100 lines of code. A typical piece of anti virus software contains over one-million lines. The danger is compounded by the plausible deniability of those suspected of such actions and by the lack of international agreements for which, even if reached, there is no present system of enforcement. A laptop can produce global consequences. A solitary actor with enough computing power is able to access the cyber domain to disable and potentially destroy critical infrastructure from a position of near-complete anonymity. Electric grids could be surged and power plants disabled through actions undertaken exclusively outside a nation’s physical territory.
Stuxnet, an example of a state-backed cyberattack, succeeded in disrupting and delaying Iranian nuclear efforts, by some accounts to an extent rivaling the effects of a limited military strike. The botnet attack from Russia on Estonia in 2007 paralyzed communications for days. Such a state of affairs can be extremely dangerous when there is already real or imagined threats being wielded between nations.
The Next War in Cyberspace?
In the Tom Clancey novel and movie, “Sum of All Fears”, the world is brought to the brink of nuclear war by a group of terrorists with a nuclear bomb. Who’s to say that the next war, one prophesied in the scriptures, may be triggered by a cyber attack rather than a nuclear one?
- ‘Internet of Things’ in Reach
— Wall Street Journal
- Al Qaeda continues to frighten the U.S, the cyber war is begun
— Security Affairs
- Next war will begin in cyberspace, experts predict
— U.S. Army Website
- Increase in Knowledge/New Technologies
— Prophecy News Watch
- From Nuclear War to Net War: Analogizing Cyber Attacks in International Law
— Berkeley Journal of International Law
– From KHouse.Org