The rise of Artificial Intelligence applications is accelerating the pace and magnitude of the political, securitarian, and ethical challenges we are now struggling to manage in cyberspace and beyond. So far, the relationship between Artificial Intelligence and cyberspace has been investigated mostly in terms of the effects that AI could have on the digital domain, and thus on our societies. What has been explored less is the opposite relationship, namely, how the cyberspace geopolitics can affect AI.
In the last months a meme went viral on social media networks that showed a multiple-choice test with the questions “Who is pushing remote working in your company?” the answers were “CEO”, “CTO”, “Covid-19”. Mutatis mutandis this joke can be translated to many other sectors that are deeply affected by the pandemic. One of these is elections and voting modalities.
With the potential of enabling not only significant economic growth but also the innovation of critical technologies in various fields, both the US and China view 5G as one of the key influencing factors in the “great power competition”.
The UK has taken an intelligence-led approach in assessing the security of its critical network. This model carefully balances the commercial imperatives of network providers with national security risk in the supply chain. An approach taken well before the current debate on 5G.
It is commonly believed that 5G networks will allow the development of new types of services based on innovative use cases, for the benefit of both private end users and companies, thus becoming the real "nervous system" of the future connected society. This will also have obvious positive effects on the economy: the European Commission estimated that 5G will generate a turnover of 225 billion euros in five years, and the related networks will be used by 2.6 billion users worldwide, that is 40% of the total world population.
5G networks represent one of the key elements upon which the future process of digital transformation of both the economic and social level of each nation is based. Indeed, the potentialities of these networks will go well beyond the supply of telecommunications services between users.
5G technologies are reshaping the way users experience the digital sphere and, thus, their daily lives. 5G is one of the game changers that would further enable cyberspace’s potentialities for our societies, economies, and lifestyle. Yet, there are multiple and contrasting geopolitical interests and security concerns regarding 5G adoptions and implementations. The current confrontation between Chinese companies and some Western governments is emblematic. What are the political and securitarian implications of such technological disputes?
The international debate regarding the acquisition of Chinese 5G technology appears symbolic of the re-emerging Great Power Competition, and stark proof of the ongoing decoupling of the global ICT supply chain. Washington has been pressing its allies for more than a year not to adopt Chinese 5G technology and threatened drastic cuts in intelligence information-sharing with those procuring it.
Looking at the ongoing militarization of the Internet, one could rephrase Rousseau’s famous incipit to The Social Contract: “Internet was born free and everywhere it is in chains”. In fact, the Internet is increasingly militarizing, and cyberspace has become the domain of choice for destabilising campaigns and hostile activities that would be unsustainable in the conventional domain.
Now more than ever we need politics to work and our ruling classes to be able to do it. It is a matter of democratic resilience. Indeed, the magnitude of the tasks our states are now facing, from managing the health crisis to mobilising resources to spur reconstruction, put pressure on our political institutions, especially the collective ones (parliaments or national assemblies). The obvious health concerns that arose with the spread of Covid-19 could hamper and even block parliaments’ activities.