The third and final day of GLOBSEC 2018 kept the audience engaged with several in-depth sessions which focused on the role of technology in democracy, intelligence operations and more.
Geopolitical Trends in Central Europe
- There would be no prosperity in Central Europe without the region’s membership of the European Union (EU) and NATO. However, the findings of GLOBSEC Trends 2018 suggest that the Visegrad Group countries are distancing themselves from the West and becoming increasingly neutral. Put another way, Central Europe’s identification with the transatlantic community is coming into question.
- GLOBSEC Trends 2018 also highlights that Central European societies are increasingly choosing to portray themselves as in-between Russia and Europe.
- In response, panelists hinted at the necessity for more thought leadership and public campaigns that promote European value-systems.
- It was further suggested that the V4 are not the only countries demonstrating a decreasing commitment to democracy. On the contrary, this is a worrying global trend.
Too Much Intel, Too Little Action
“Managing threats is about having an ability to collect a wide variety of data from the vast source area.”
Michael Chertoff, former US Homeland Secretary
- Essentially, our skills to comprehend and understand the vast swathes of information obtained by intel sources are outdated and render the information useless. Thus, big data analysis (and the like) has become an essential tool to fill in the gaps left behind by our conventional methods.
- There are still lessons to be learned from the 9/11 attacks, where the significance of key information was overlooked and a lack of data navigation was exercised.
- The unpredictability of the current US Administration is made worse be erratic social media messages and a lack of strategy. It’s also making the world more dangerous and unstable. Disruption on this scale requires fresh thinking and new strategies.
Competition vs Cooperation: Stakes in the AI Race
- China has a very clear strategic plan to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a driver for industry and creating future applications. Conversely, Japan conceives AI as transforming societies to the point where humans will live and work alongside robots – a society 5.0.
- A key difference between China and the US is how both states collaborate with the private sector to utilise AI in government settings. China even has a much-maligned security law which effectively means the government controls all the data in the country.
- Over 3000 Google engineers recently signed a letter criticising the company’s collaboration with the US government and military. This has lead to a discussion of standards and ethics related to the use of AI. Panelists agreed that AI should do no harm to societies.
- Societies will have to give up some moral authority when using AI, a ‘fact’ that could create a backlash in some quarters. This is especially so in “grey” areas which can’t be understood by a binary decision-making process.
“It is really hard to say what challenges AI will have on our values system.”
Marek Rosa, CEO & CTO, Good AI
- It remains to be seen whether AI will make the world more secure. AI will most likely benefit sustainability. It’s growing used in weapons systems is an altogether different story.
Explosive Data: Cyber Threats to Democracy
- The amount of sensitive data collected by digital companies is disturbing. For instance, insurance companies will soon be able to differentiate their offers based on data related to individual.
- The majority of people surveyed express more and more distrust in social media and online platforms.
“Unfortunately, digitalisation often means privatization.”
Marietje Schaake, Member of the European Parliament
- Alleged tampering in the 2016 US Presidential elections underlines that the effects of disinformation on society are well known. In response, the global community must come together to create a policy framework that protects democratic institutions from cyberattacks
- Not everybody agrees with the above proposal, with some warning that it might compromise technological progress. Opponents argue that technology only puts some already present problems on steroids rather than creating an entirely new set of threats.
Age of Bots and the Robotisation of Truth
- It was once thought that growing use of the internet will lead to better-informed citizens and voters. However, we are now witnessing the wide-ranging abuse of these platforms and freedoms to undermine democratic values and processes.
- GLOBSEC’s Daniel Milo offered some interesting insights into comparisons between bot-related and human-generated traffic. According to his estimates, a high percentage of online traffic is created by bots and crawlers, meaning all sorts of automated systems, but not necessarily malware.
“Bots could be compared to guns – it depends on what you use the tool for.”
Daniel Milo, Head of Strategic Communication Programme, GLOBSEC Policy Institute
- 85% percent of Russian language Twitter content is created by bots, compared to 40% in English. As a result, decisionmakers may act upon truly biased perceptions of the “will” of people – thanks to the distorted picture received by social media. So, the misrepresentation of facts, in turn, distorts reality, as it becomes very difficult to get the complete picture on particular issues.
- Two points shared by the panelists: 1) it will be necessary to push for more transparency and support online platforms to flag bot-created content. 2) Moreover, while fact-checking is always crucial the fundamental question is whether individual users are actually curious about specific facts. If so, then this is not an online problem but a much deeper question of social organisation and responsibility.
Ukraine: Out of Tune with Europe? + CLOSING REMARKS
- Unlike most European countries, Ukraine has experienced three revolutions over the past three decades. Each revolution brought the promise of state revival but only the last looks set to deliver meaningful reforms.
- In this respect, panelists presented a mixed picture of the current state of Ukraine. Pension reforms, for example, are already underway even if major progress has not been made. Corruption and privatisation remain significant problems. At the same time, Ukraine’s budget deficit has decreased fivefold, and Kiev is better at managing its public resources.
“Key for stability is to push away a very common narrative that Ukraine is so corrupted that it basically is a failed state.”
Katarína Mathernová, Deputy Director-General, DG NEAR, European Commission
- It was also highlighted that the Minsk Agreements are far from implementation. One of the bolder assessments to come out of this panel was that the conflict will only end when Russia decides that it’s not worth the effort to continue.