The digital revolution is marked by its speed and diversity. It took only two decades for the internet to reach half of the world’s population. Yet only a few people – with very different objectives – fully master it. Control of data is thus beginning to become a determining factor in our political, social and economic lives. All sectors of knowledge and activity have entered the digital era. Artificial intelligence has robbed man of his place in the “hierarchy”: instead of being the master of technology he now faces the risk of losing control of his art.
The cyberworld is neither good nor bad. Neither are the people who create algorithms and artificial intelligence. All manner of limits can be imposed on their activities and it is therefore difficult to imagine that individuals who master the Internet can wield so much influence that they can decisively influence democratic action, human existence and the exercise of social responsibility.
On the plus side, the digital world can give impetus to growth, be a factor for economic and social progress and prosperity and thereby for peace. Used properly it can be a tool for peace and security. But in the wrong hands it can be used to propagate violence. If digitalisation is not properly regulated it can exacerbate inequality. This revolutionary technology thus also constitutes a potential threat to freedom and democratic values. The Internet is becoming a political weapon. It can be used to ride the wave of populism in order to win over and destabilise broad swathes of the population, even influencing election results and upsetting the delicate democratic balance. This cannot go unchallenged. If we are to durably protect and develop our freedom and sovereignty we must give serious thought to the range of different threats facing us in the digital world and adopt countermeasures in order to be able to respond immediately to cyberthreats and maintain control of the Internet.
So what is to be done?
Firstly, we need to strengthen our democratic institutions, ensure the transparency of political action and teach people the proper skills for dealing with the Internet and the new media.
Secondly, we must make ourselves less vulnerable by bolstering our defences against cyberattacks. We must be unfailing in our efforts to do so. We must give top priority to infrastructure protection, bring our cyberdefence structures up to a maximum level of efficiency and encourage industry to innovate.
But political action is also required in order to find allies from all over the world to join us in our cybercombat. Common defences make it much less easy to engage in the cyberattacks that can paralyse infrastructure, drastically disrupting a country and peoples’ lives.
Hartmut Bühl, Editor-in-chief