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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
|
SEPTEMBER 2013
85
must be mindful that life in the feld today
is more constrained by security restric-
tions and terrorism concerns than it was
during Adair’s career. Even so, his adven-
tures underscore the value of diplomacy
and the unique satisfaction that comes
from Foreign Service life at its best.
Shawn Dorman, a former FSO, is associate
editor of the
Journal
and editor/publisher of
Foreign Service Books, AFSA’s book publish-
ing division.
The Next
Future Shock
Te New Digital Age: Reshaping the
Future of People, Nations and Business
Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, Knopf,
2013, $26.95, hardcover, 315 pages.
Reviewed by James Patterson
A timelier book than
Te
New Digital Age: Reshap-
ing the Future of People,
Nations and Business
is
unlikely to come our way
this year. In it, Google
executive chairman Eric
Schmidt and Jared Cohen of the Council
on Foreign Relations describe a brave new
world where wars will be waged online,
governments will exist virtually, fatwas
will be issued via Twitter, and mobile
devices connected to the Internet will give
even the world’s poorest netizens access
to opportunities never before imagined.
Because these advances are rooted
in technological advancements, nations
with historic traditions of freedom and
democracy, including an independent
press and the free fow of accurate and
uncensored information, will have a
signifcant advantage. But even nations as
authoritarian as China are also afected
by this trend.
Two years ago postings on Weibo,
a Chinese microblog platform roughly
equivalent to Twitter, forced Beijing to
acknowledge design faws as the cause
of a deadly high-speed train wreck in
Wenzhou, despite initial claims that bad
weather was the culprit. True, as Schmidt
and Cohen note, so far the regime’s Inter-
net blocking tools, collectively known
as Te Great Firewall, still stand as “the
guardian of Chinese statehood.” But how
much longer can that frewall hold back
the rising food of connectivity before it
bursts under the stress of freedom? Te
authors expect a revolution, but do not
give specifcs.
In the meantime, China seems to
be stepping up its much-publicized
cyberattacks on the intellectual property
of companies like Google and against
various U.S. government agencies. (Such
incursions were a prime topic of discus-
sion during President Barack Obama’s
June meeting with Chinese President
Xi Jinping in Los Angeles.) Despite the
IP protections required by member-
ship in the World Trade Organization
and adherence to the World Intellec-
tual Property Organization Copyright
Treaty of 1996, China routinely engages
in cybertheft. So it is regrettable that
Schmidt and Cohen don’t ofer more
details on the cost of such campaigns or
deterrent measures.
Beijing certainly is not alone in such
eforts, to be sure. Both Barack Obama
and George W. Bush deployed the cyber-
weapon known as the Stuxnet worm, a
joint U.S.-Israeli project, to stall and dis-
rupt Iranian nuclear facilities. According
to former CIA director Michael Hayden,
that initiative actually represented the
frst cyberattack to efect physical destruc-
tion in another country.
Schmidt and Cohen report that digital
activists are already at work all over the
world, pursuing missions that support—
and confict with—U.S. policies. For
instance, the World Food Program has
used radio frequency identifcation tech-
nology in Somalia for better coordination
of food aid deliveries.
“Diplomacy,” the authors observe,
“has never been as interesting as it will be
in the new digital age.” Enhanced global
connectivity could produce policy suc-
cesses previously thought attainable only
over considerable timeframes. However,
state eforts to flter the Internet and limit
connectivity may delay technological
benefts in some states.
As Schmidt and Cohen explain, under-
standing and management of the digital
world will not only challenge existing
paradigms but encourage global connec-
tivity and cooperation. (While the authors
employ some technical terms throughout
the book, they do so in a way that will not
confuse or frustrate lay readers.)
For all these reasons,
Te New Digital
Age
has as much potential to be a game-
changer in global afairs as Alvin Tofer’s
1971 work,
Future Shock
, which also
predicted technology would change
the world. In its pages, Foreign Service
personnel and policymakers alike will
fnd strategies for managing current and
future diplomatic challenges.
n
Former FSO James Patterson’s reviews, essays
and reporting have appeared in
Te Foreign
Service Journal
,
Harvard Gay & Lesbian
Review, Te Hill,
the
Washington Post, In
Tese Times
and
Choices
, among other
publications.
Schmidt and Cohen report that digital activists are already
at work all over the world, pursuing missions that support—
and confict with—U.S. policies.