The contested commons are growing in number and nature. In addition to geospace, space, and aquaspace (Risk Group terminology for maritime areas), cyberspace is also now a contested common. While no nation owns or controls these contested commons, over the years, the order in geospace, space, and aquaspace was effectively managed. However, the emergence of cyberspace has fundamentally disrupted the global order.
Cyberspace brings nations substantial strategic value. Today, any nation with the right technologies and strategy can benefit from the contested commons of cyberspace. While access to cyberspace is a right for every nation: its individuals and entities across governments, industries, organizations and academia (NGIOA), the integration of cyberspace (and its speed and scope) with other contested commons brings both risks and rewards. Governing the commons of cyberspace is proving to be difficult, as is providing security. Everyone is on their own and must provide for their security. Nations not only have a limited ability to control what happens outside their borders (as seen in difficulty controlling hackers), but they also cannot control what happens within their borders. It is reshaping not only the global power dynamics but also how the power is shared within national boundaries.
As a result, the world is undergoing a profound and lasting shift in the relative balance of power across cyberspace, aquaspace, geospace, and space (CAGS). Since these contested commons offer each nation as many opportunities as they do challenges, the coming clash of the contested commons brings critical security risks for the future of humanity.
Acknowledging this emerging reality, Risk Group initiated a much-needed discussion on The Digital Global Age: The Contested Commons with Prof. Valerio De Luca, Director of Global Security and Foreign Affairs program, a joint program of Academy Aises and American studies center of Rome on Risk Roundup.
Disclosure: Risk Group LLC is my company
Risk Group discusses “The Digital Global Age: Contested Commons” with Prof. Valerio De Luca, Director of Global Security and Foreign Affairs program, a joint program Academy Aises and American studies center of Rome.
Leveled Playing Field
Existing and emerging technologies that are transforming the contested commons are revolutionizing every component of a nation. The playing field has been leveled and has brought each nation an unprecedented possibility of progress. What needs to be seen is whether in the almost leveled technology playing field nations will be able to compete and lay a new foundation for lasting prosperity.
In the contested commons, what is common to all nations is access to technology and information. But what is not common is how one uses that information and for what purpose and goals. While cyberspace has given nations the same starting point in access to technology and information, there are many other variables in geospace, space, and aquaspace that will determine whether a nation will be able to use the information from cyberspace to develop, progress, and succeed in all spaces.
Reliable access to the contested commons is the foundation of global order: peace and security. The reality remains that cyberspace has brought each nation to a juncture of revival and reformation or inexorable decline. So, the question is, what can any individual nation do to improve its competitive and innovative position in the world, thereby tipping the scale of cyberspace in its favor for all contested commons?
Changing the Paradigm
Each of the contested commons is expected to face extraordinary changes and challenges in the coming years, with growth as a likely constant in those changes. The democratization of destruction will put enormous pressures on these contested commons.
While in cyberspace, growth means more people, devices, connectivity, data opportunities, and risks. The growth in space will mean human colonization, asteroid mining, and more. Similarly, the growth in aquaspace means understanding the deep sea for human exploration and more. The emerging trends in the contested commons reflect significant shifts of players and actions that reveal the reconfigurations of interests, influence, and investments in the domain of global politics and power play. It will be interesting to see what paradigm shifts will emerge in world politics and power if any. One thing is sure: the challenges of cyberspace are making all the contested commons vulnerable.
Individually and collectively, the upcoming clash of the contested commons is on its way to triggering the disturbance of the pre-existing global order.
As nations begin to create the necessary infrastructure in the contested commons, the technological and economic progress and development in the human ecosystem come with enormous security concerns. The time is now to ensure that the contested commons and the evolving technology infrastructure are used for the growth and development for the future of humanity.
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Jayshree Pandya, Ph.D. is Founder of Risk Group & Host of Risk Roundup. Jayshree Pandya (née Bhatt), Founder and CEO of Risk Group LLC, is a scientist, a visionary, an expert in disruptive technologies and a globally recognized strategic security thought leader and influencer. She is actively engaged in driving the global discussions on existing and emerging technologies, technology transformation and nation preparedness. Her work focuses on the impact of existing and emerging technological innovations on nations, nation preparedness and the very survival, security and sustainability of humanity.
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