Today, most global citizens have digital avatars and are active in cyberspace. Especially in the wake of the pandemic, almost all aspects of interaction and subscription of services have moved online. Digital technologies have fast-tracked inclusion in multiple geographies in the last decade, including most Asian nations. Amongst other benefits, technology inclusion has proven to be most helpful in humanity’s efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The October 13 meeting in Washington DC between Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, UAE Foreign Minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Israel’s alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid was a reminder of the extent of transformation in West Asia since the announcement of the Abraham Accords on 14 August 2020. A press statement issued by the State Department said that Blinken ‘welcomed the warming relations between Israel and the UAE, including the opening of respective embassies, appointment of ambassadors, new direct flights, dozens of cultural exchanges, and burgeoning economic and business ties that have benefited the people of both countries and the region.’
Commercial satellite servicing—commonly defined as the ability to reposition, refuel, repair, assemble, and remove satellites on or from orbit—is finally becoming reality. Long proposed as being “just around the corner”, satellite servicing has made significant technological leaps in the last decade and is now emerging as a potential new market for private sector space activities that could provide incredible benefits. Yet, for satellite servicing to mature and thrive, governments need to step up and play their part. They need to move past the standard talking points on dual-use technologies and get serious about putting in place the policies and regulations that will help advance satellite servicing in a positive manner.
Arms control and innovation seem like odd bedfellows. But maybe not as much as you’d think. Instead of seeing emerging technology as a challenge to arms control, and arms control as a means of inhibiting innovation, we need to consider the ways in which arms control can and does support technical innovation, as well as the ways in which new tech can enable and facilitate arms control agreements.
Technologies, and the policies for their development, deployment, and use are at the centre of global statecraft and a key enabler for economic, political, and military power. Tech-leading countries and groupings such as China, the European Union (EU), India, Japan, South Korea, and the United States (US) seek to shape the global technological landscape to strengthen their economic competitiveness, secure their national interests, and promote their geopolitical aims. The answer, in part, has been a turn to techno-nationalist policies of reshoring manufacturing and supply chains and drives for greater self-sufficiency across a spectrum of key technology areas including semiconductors and critical minerals.
Counterspace technology is not a new phenomenon. In 1958, only one year after the successful launch of the erstwhile Soviet Union’s satellite, Sputnik 1—the first artificial satellite to ever complete an orbit around the Earth—the first nuclear tests in outer space were conducted. This was a cause for concern for the international community, which aimed to ensure that outer space did not become a new stage for warfare. And yet, despite this, counterspace capabilities remain an issue that has never been properly regulated. This regulatory gap nowadays presents a greater danger than ever: The more important space technology becomes to humankind—particularly for military purposes—the more eager states would be to protect their space assets. As such, in recent years, some states have been increasingly investing in the development and testing of anti-satellite weapons (ASATs), creating an escalatory cycle that threatens to pave the way towards the weaponisation of space, and eventually could lead to it becoming a theatre of conflict.
Contrary to popular belief, the 1800’s Luddite Revolution was not just a fight against progress, but one for agency. Highly skilled weavers, including women, fought for autonomy and labour rights amidst the fear of their employment and agency being snatched away by machines. This new technology threatened to tip the balance of power in favour of the textile-mill-owning elites who controlled the means of production. Today, these old technology gods have been replaced by newer algorithmic ones. As Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered machines take control of our decisions, it might already be too late to take back control of what makes us human—free will and autonomy.
Be it users or citizens, almost all behaviours performed have a digital fingerprint. In the age of surveillance capitalism, the fight for free will is a losing battle. In a post-Cambridge Analytica world, algorithms challenge the bedrock of individual freedom and choices; preserving human choice would need to go beyond mere consent and focus on accountable regulatory mechanisms.
Would an over-reliance on like-minded partnerships result in the splintering of technology norms, standards and rules? This remains a key question as we delve into one of the key themes of CyFy 2021, ‘The Big Pause: Reclaiming our Tech Futures’.
As the world continues to reel from the ongoing pandemic, digital platforms have been agents of hope. However, while several technological advancements have proven that technology can seamlessly fit into our lives, meaningful and inclusive access to all has lagged behind. On 11 June 2020, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres presented a set of recommended actions for the international community, which sought to achieve universal digital inclusion for all by strengthening digital capacity and ensuring human rights in the online world. The timeframe etched out was up to 2030, giving stakeholders nine years to ensure a healthy digital space that is inclusive regardless of ethnicity, nationality, gender, and disability.