The internet increases warfare: such is the conclusion of a new study. Yes, the great connector is also the great warmonger, or so runs this latest bizarre exercise in technofear.
the frequency of wars between states increased steadily from 1870 to 2001 by 2% a year on average. The research argues that conflict is being fed by economic growth and the proliferation of new borders.
So far, so good, at least in terms of political science, history, and common sense. As one of the researchers puts it, "One of the key drivers is the number of countries, which has risen dramatically – from 47 in 1870 to 187 in 2001." Note, too, that the study examines the number of wars, not their total destruction.
But here's where FuturePundit heads into haunted spaces territory:
The internet creates new borders which leads to greater opportunity for conflict. The internet warfare between nations and even by private groups against governments can be viewed as a result of more borders created by the internet. The internet effectively has created huge numbers of virtual borders online where firewalls try to enforce sovereignty in protected zones while invaders from other zones try to invade and pillage...
Let's break this down.
- "internet warfare between nations" - that means preexisting national borders. Which means no causal role for the internet in creating new conflicts by making new borders. Unless the author wants to argue that the internet somehow incites more battles over old borders, which he/she doesn't do.
- "private groups against governments" - what kind of war is this? Are we talking Anonymous vs Orlando's city government, or Egyptian protestors using blogs? "War" is the wrong word, when "conflict" is better.
- "virtual borders" - assume this means borders different from preexisting national ones (example: the virtual fence between the US and Mexico). Have we really seen pillaging between Comcast and Teljet users? Has the Apple-Android struggle gotten out of hand recently?
In short, the internet doesn't add to the number of wars. It might change the quality of war, rather than its quantity. It enables new forms of conflict, such as DDOSes, but those are different creatures, much as the Voice of America radio or pamphlet drops play a role in statecraft, or gang graffiti in nonstate actor violence.
(thanks to Tim Pendry via Facebook; image via Bookforum)