Thursday, March 20, 2014

In the fifth domain

Two million square nautical miles, we are told, equates approximately the surface area of the Australian continent. This is the vastness in which a trace of the Malaysian airliner is still being sought after it vanished on Saturday the 8th of March. All the high technology in the world seems unable to deliver answers, which must at least incite us to question our exaggerated faith in the ubiquitous computer and in so-called intelligent systems.

On the other hand, there continue to be revelations from Edward Snowden which give the impression of an omnipotent and omniscient National Security Agency. So if our every Amazon purchase, Facebook status update, Google search or Whassup message can be documented how can today's hyper-surveillance fail to track accurately an errant Boeing 777?

Might we have to get used to such paradoxes in future? As the situation in the Crimea continues to look like a very old-fashioned exercise in sabre-rattling brinksmanship, let us imagine... indeed hope... that by and large the guns on both sides will remain silent. Sanctions are, of course, bloodless ripostes which can be made by both sides. It could be that both Russia and the West in 2014 have a very pragmatic preference for combat which does not involve sending conventional armies into battle.

Which brings us, perhaps, to the brink of cyber-war? What better way to reply to sanctions... which will be claimed to be swingeing... than by launching massive attacks on the IT infrastructure of the opposing force? Not that any such incursion will be directly traceable to the Russians or any of the other powers involved. The use of unwitting digital proxies could be almost be taken for granted. Neither Washington nor Moscow would be so naive as to append their own signatures to poison pen missives sent in either direction. The 'logic bombs’ might appear to be lobbed from anywhere… from Belgium, from Iceland, from Egypt!

The search for the true culprits could be as frustrating as the quest for MH370 has become. A mere two million square nautical miles could come to be seen as little bigger than a normal back yard.  

Some food for thought here.

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