Technology is increasingly linked with global affairs, and we should evaluate what that implies for both. This includes crypto, climate, international development, and defence procurement.
Reflecting on the approximately 40 articles we’ve published in recent months, a few themes emerge: Tech industrial policy is gaining support. Emerging tech is hot. Where China doesn’t lead, it’s close behind.
It has made significant progress in confronting these difficulties (see my piece on the State Department’s new cyber office), but not in negotiating the rising convergence of geopolitics and technology. The United States needs more than new agencies or infrastructure investments to win the 21st century (however large they may be). Then there’s a lack of an industrial
Need a geopolitical technology doctrine?
TechCrunch Global Affairs Project:
What is a doctrine? Generally, technology policy can be seen in two ways. As a new security domain. We have invested billions of dollars on developing our cyber capabilities to safeguard our civil and military networks as well as attack adversaries. While many of our networks are still vulnerable, we understand the issues and are working to improve our defences.
The second assumes that whoever country possesses (and integrates) the most advanced technologies will win the future. Thus, tech policy is influenced by economic competitiveness. Much of our current debate centres on whether we’re on the right route with upcoming technologies like 5G, quantum, and AI. SECURE OUR SUPPLIES What regulatory edge can we provide US tech firms? How can we enlist allies to help us?
These two aspects of technology policy are vital, and they ought to be discussed in this series and elsewhere. Invading Ukraine isolated Russia from Western tech supply chains and software updates.
But they ignore an important aspect of tech’s involvement in geopolitics that I believe we addressed today. That tech is a plus. But, like other economic resources (like the dollar), tech can be used to advance broader foreign policy goals. We haven’t really thought about how to use or defend this power.
Our competitors aren’t shy. Authoritarian regimes, indifferent with human rights or the rule of law, have pioneered inventive and effective — if ugly and unethical — geopolitical tech methods.
Scott Carpenter warned about dictators just shutting down the internet to deprive their population of knowledge early in our series. Stephen Walt and Ali Al-Ahmed write about how regimes use spyware to track down opponents, and how countries like Israel use it to lubricate their own diplomacy. Jessica Brandt investigated how Russia and China utilise social media to discredit the West. Samantha Hoffman writes on how China’s firms collect data to gather global intelligence.