An important question to ask, however, is whether an “arms race” can be sustained indefinitely without there eventually being some sort of calamity or obstacle, and the answer, most likely, is in the negative. Moreover, the collective focus has shifted in recent years from conventional and nuclear war to cyber and informational war. Thus, the notion that “brains” are more important than “brawns” has grown increasingly credible in recent times, especially when we consider that we are in an “Information Age” whereby human competition, covetousness, and focus is largely centered on the world of “data” rather than nuclear bombs.
In turn, globalization and technology means that there is now equity to a certain extent amidst what is now an open competition between academia, individuals, companies, and governments over data and information. As Henry Kissinger wrote, the effects of technology “extend to every level of human organization.” Kissinger added:
“Individuals wielding smartphones (and currently an estimated one billion people do) now possess information and analytical capabilities beyond the range of many intelligence agencies a generation ago. Corporations aggregating and monitoring the data exchanged by these individuals wield powers of influence and surveillance exceeding those of many contemporary states and of even more traditional powers. And governments, wary of ceding the new field to rivals, are propelled outward into a cyber realm with as yet few guidelines or restraints. As with any technological innovation, the temptation will be to see this new realm as a field for strategic advantage.”
But in a sense, the “strategic advantage” in the ever-growing realm of data and information – and one must note, Kissinger knows this better than perhaps anyone else – is fostered by the art of intelligence prioritization. This particular factor – namely, intelligence prioritization – is the factor which decides why humans still have the edge over ‘artificial intelligence’ (AI) in making judgments about the patterns, trends, and conclusions which can be derived from data and information. With the overwhelming amount and volume of data and information that is now out there, no one can possibly consume and process all of the data and information that now exists. Thus, companies, academia, individuals, and governments have to be judicious, selective, and perhaps even intuitive regarding both the data and information they select as well as the sources for the data and information which they select.
As mentioned before, while AI can extract patterns, trends, and even conclusions from the data and information which it receives, the issue of whether the patterns, trends, and conclusions are even valuable or whether they are worthy of consideration and use is something that is subject to human judgment and wisdom more than anything else. Thus, the human factor can never be subtracted, even in an age where technology is preponderant over human lives. There is also the issue of something as basic as “neurons” and thus the functions and operations of the human brain, a fact which is fully known by intelligence agencies and scientists. Certain devices and substances can enhance and even speed up the functions and operations of the human brain. But the dangers and perils of such devices and substances are also very real, thus the inescapable risk factor that is associated with virtually everything in life.
Some individuals have even gone as far as expressing doubt that intelligence agencies can even adapt to the dispersal and volume of knowledge and information as a result of globalization and technology. To a certain extent, academia and the private sector have broken the barriers which once existed between them and the intelligence community (IC), and thus the monopoly on data and intelligence has now been broken. One of the major challenges that now exists for the IC is to integrate “open-source intelligence” (OSINT) into what has traditionally been a “closed intelligence” culture amongst the IC. What has arisen to a certain extent is a competition between academia, the IC, and the private sector in maintaining the edge over knowledge and information. Human nature would suggest to a certain extent that there will be a reluctance on the part of these aforementioned parties to cooperate with one another when it comes to sharing knowledge, information, and intelligence. The issue of “Bureaucratic Politics” and the history of one agency competing with another over information and intelligence is a well-known fact in the United States. And what is humorous and even ironic is that the competition has just started.