Liberals should develop their own stuxnet
Geopolitics and the development of ICT create a fertile ground for political campaigns based on fear. An effective response woul be to start thinking of technology as more than a just tool to deliver messages.
From Colombia to Trump
Many wer surprised when the peace agreement signed between the colombian government and the FARC was rejected by the public in a plebiscite. The shock resulted not only because Colombians refused to end a bloody conflict that cost more than 200,000 lives, but also because pulbic opinion polls predicted the opposite outcome. There are many possible causes for rejection of the Peace Agreement. Some inlcude: the inability of the elites to translate the benefits of the agreement to the people, inability of the elites to translate the benefits of the agreement to the people, inability to understand the needs and concerns o fmany Colombians who suffered directly from FARC’s atrocities and a tough campaign by the opposition led by former President Alvaro Uribe.
Colombia is not alone. Other recent referendums and political agreements such as the Brexit, Israeli elections and Trump campaign show similar symptoms. The coarse thread between all those can be desciribed as a situation in which people in real time, decide on their future according to their emotions and not according to reasonable arguments based on linear thingking.
From an international relations perspective, the massive use of social media networks, instant messaging apps along with rise of radical Islamci terrorism, mass immigration and economic uncertainty created a fertile ground for the success of political campaigns based on fear.
Whether the threat is perceived or real, the outcome is the same – majority of the public that is detached from physically feeling potential future benefits that were sought y political, economic and social elites. In the case of Colombia, is might have been easier for people to feel anger at FARC than feel the nevefits of peace, as for Brits to fear lsing their jobs for immigrants, or for Israelis to feel the danger of losing strategic ground in case of withdrawal from the West bank and risk a Gaza 2 scenario.
Emotions and fear throught technolgy
In a 1 on 1 game – emotions beat reason, espeically when strong national identity is involved. This however is not a new phenomonon. Back in the 16th century Machiavelli said that for a leader it is better to be feared than loved. What has changed since then are the means to deliver emotions through technology. Text, pictures, videos carried thorugh social media today craete a much stronger impact than 10 or 20 years ago.
Technology is not the drive but the tool – latform of delivery, therefore a peaceful message could also be carried on the same patforms. However, our primal evolutionary instincts though us that fear is the most powerful motivator since our survival depends on it.
So, how can we use technology in an efficient way to overcome the basic human emotion-reason/ fear-hope conundrum? The answer could be by looking at technology as more than simply a tool to deliver messages, but to move beyond the virtual dimension into the physical one.
For many years, security industries have been doing so, by creating drons, battlefiled robots and cyber-warfare. Peace industries shoud do the same and use technologies that woud use technology as platforms to manage processes and creation of tools. Taking for example the Stuxnet computer virus that was allegedly used to penetrate Iran’s nuclear facilities and damage it. This computer virus had two features that made it unique nad highly effective: it was undetectable in its orginal version and it managed to transform into a physical force that destroyed machines-centrifuges.
A challenge for Liberals and peacebuildres would be to take the same model and devlop a way in which invisible messages sawrm through the web and transform into the physical dimension and create objects that carry peaceful ideas. A place to start would be by lloking into the Internet of Things and/or Internet of Everything – ideas and messages that will be built in search engines, business networks, wearables and smart homes. Once a Peaceful idea will be resonant in information, processes, things and people then hope will have a chance to stand against fear.