Monday, February 16, 2015

THE WAR OVER CONTROL OF THE NET IS A WAR OVER INFORMATION ADVANTAGE

THE WAR OVER CONTROL OF THE NET IS A WAR OVER INFORMATION ADVANTAGE


It’s possible to assume that the concept of “information advantage” arose as soon as civilizations broke beyond tribal stage. We can observe groups spying on each other in all parts of recorded history, and even though the winners write the (surviving) history books, we can see that those who knew more were also the ones who came out on top.

There are many reasons for this. One is the straightforward concept of military intel: if you’re at war with somebody and know about their weaknesses, you can exploit them and get the upper hand. Most of the net generation are perfectly familiar with the concept of the Fog of War, and the value of sending scout drones early in a StarCraft game.

But it’s more subtle than that. If you establish yourself as knowing more than others, for whatever reason, other people will start asking you for information. Information – perceived truth – will flow from you to others. This is one of the most powerful positions somebody can be in; it establishes the power of narrative, and it lets a group essentially dictate truth, enlighten people, or poison the news-well according to what fits their interest on any particular day, as long as they are perceived to still hold the information advantage.

It’s easy to observe that governments have had this role. “Our satellite imagery shows X, Y, and Z on the ground in Farawaystan.” You can’t really dispute it, you have to take that government at their word, simply because you don’t have any expensive satellite network of your own. It’s quite outside of your budget range. Or rather, you had to take them at their word: you don’t anymore. All of a sudden, you have distant acquaintances on the ground in Farawaystan who are confirming or disproving the statement, and usually doing so within minutes.

It’s not hard to see what a power shift this creates – how the many are taking the power away from the few. It used to take an enormous nation-state-level machine to provide information detail at the satellite-level degree; today, better information can be obtained by the informal network that is the internet.