Is Data The Key To The 21st Century?

Is Data The Key To The 21st Century?

Last week at Davos, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Indian PM Narendra Modi, French President Emmanuel Macron, and billionaire philanthropist George Soros all more or less agreed on one thing: whoever establishes control over data and information will win the 21st century contest for power. How, and why?


Well, as you ponder what could be done with the millions of bits of data that you are already emitting about where and what you are doing/buying/eating/reading/hearing/wearing/exercising — here are a few things to consider, from yours truly and Signal’s tech guru Kevin Allison:

Influence and Control: The proliferation of social media platforms and gargantuan troves of personal data make it possible for governments and companies to target people ever more effectively with information — real or fake — that is designed to influence their perceptions about the world around them. At the same time, this data provides huge new opportunities for governments (or companies, again) to track and surveil people.

War and conflict: “Acts of war” will increasingly involve cyber-invasions of the platforms where sensitive data is stored, transmitted, or used to operate our critical infrastructure. There are few international rules on limits or accountability for this kind of conflict, at a time when hackers (state and non-state) are getting more sophisticated and sensitive data looks increasingly vulnerable. Of course, it’s not always so complicated: here’s a recent storyabout US troops giving away secret positions by using a popular exercise app. Back in the old days we needed Geraldo for that.

People and Robots: One of the main applications for all this data is to feed the algorithms that underlie automation technologies, which will have their own disruptive effects as people are put out of work by robots and computer programs. The countries that have strong education systems (to prepare people to take new jobs) and supple social safety nets (to care for those who cannot) will have the best chance of prospering economically and holding together politically.

So who will win this race for dominance? Will it be companies or governments? We’ll address the strategies and approaches of the three main players — China, Europe, and the US — in next week’s Signal…

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Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at the deteriorating human rights situation in Belarus, Delta variant woes, and Lebanon one year after the Beirut blast.

An Olympian refuses to return home to Belarus and an anti-Lukashenko activist has been found dead in Ukraine. What's going on?

Yeah. That anti-Lukashenko activist was found hanged in a park in Kiev. Once again, not exactly likely a suicide. These anti-Lukashenko activists have a way of turning up injured or dead. It's a horrible regime. Their friends are limited largely to the Russians. That's about it. The economic pressure is growing from Europe, from the United States, very coordinated. But the problem is a very hard to do much to Lukashenko when he has not only support of his military, but also the support of most of the workers in the country who aren't prepared to strike because they want to ensure they still have jobs. I expect this is going to continue, but human rights abuses are stacking up. It is nice to see that the Americans and the Europeans are coordinating policy as well as they have been.

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It's been 365 days since twin blasts at a Beirut port decimated Lebanon's capital. More than 200 people were killed and some 7,000 were injured, yet accountability has been scarce. There is ample evidence that multiple Lebanese officials knew that ammonium nitrate was being improperly stored at the port. Four high-ranking politicians, including former PM Hassan Diab, have been charged by a Lebanese judge, but they all refuse to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.

Since then, Lebanon's already-dire economic and financial crises have only intensified. The Lebanese pound, the national currency, has plummeted, losing 90 percent of its value since 2019, when the country's economic crisis erupted. And more than 50 percent of the population is now living below the poverty line.

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The Biden administration is finally devoting more attention to Southeast Asia. Last week US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin traveled to Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines, marking the first regional visit by a Biden cabinet official. A trip by Vice President Kamala Harris is already in the works as well, and this week Secretary of State Tony Blinken will meet (virtually) with ASEAN counterparts.

The flurry of activity comes after earlier concerns that President Joe Biden was neglecting Southeast Asia, the region where US-China rivalry is the most intense. To understand better what Austin's visit meant, and what comes next, Eurasia Group's lead Southeast Asia analyst Peter Mumford spoke to us from Singapore.

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Raisi won't have it easy: The newly "elected" president of Iran, Ibrahim Raisi, was officially endorsed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Tuesday. In his inaugural address, the 60-year-old hardliner pledged to get US sanctions removed and to respond to rising socioeconomic grievances within Iran, but he warned that he wouldn't lash Iran's prosperity or survival to "the will of foreigners." In Iran, the president's role focuses mainly on domestic policy, but with the economy reeling one of Raisi's big early challenges will be to continue complicated talks with the Biden administration to renegotiate the 2015 nuclear deal, which would lead to the US lifting some of the harshest sanctions. Both sides say they want a new deal, and have gone through half a dozen rounds of negotiations already, but they remain at odds over who should make what concessions first. Raisi also pledged to restore Iranians' flagging trust in their government and to improve the economic situation, but in ways that are in line with "revolutionary principles." He'll have his hands full with that. And don't forget that the likely imminent (re)takeover of neighboring Afghanistan by the Taliban — whom Tehran don't like at all — will also occur on Raisi's watch. Good luck, Mr. President, you'll need it.

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158: To boost vaccination rates, New York City will soon require proof of COVID vaccination or a negative test to enter gyms and restaurants, as daily new infections in the Big Apple have jumped 158 percent over the past two weeks due to the more contagious delta variant. New York is the first major US city to take this step, following similar schemes already in place in France and Italy.

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