📚 The Wires of War - Technology And The Global Struggle For Power by Jacob Helberg


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How two powers and two ideologies underlay the worlds modern networks. Walk through the story of how we arrived at the race for a democratic and open web or one controlled by an authoritarian state. Parallels history of the internet with history of relations between Silicon Valley and Washington D.C. From ARPANET to 1989 to Moscow to Beijing, you get a sense for our worlds geopolitical landscape in cyberspace.

Chapter 6 titled, Winning the Gray War, was the highlight of the book. The author details a plan for the democratic web to win this race. He keeps a bipartisan tone for the bipartisan issue, tipping the cap to both sides while also expressing frustration with both sides. He begins the chapter at NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence in Tallin, Estonia where the sickle and hammer are still visible in parts. A place that used to be under soviet rule, and now a place where academia, military, government, and industry converge for workshops and presentations. It is referred to as “The Gray War” because it finds itself in the gray area that involves all of the sectors mentioned.

On one hand you have the potential to cause an act that provokes an Article 5 response from NATO (an attack on one is an attack on all), and on the other you have strings to pull that may disrupt a supply chain or steal intellectual property. It is a non-linear issue and more resembles the glassball with tiny lighting bolts inside, that if touched change bolts around it.

With China establishing its techno-bloc of nations, bound by Chinese-built networks and tech companies, the United States should demarcate its own techno-bloc of nations operating under democratic principles and using Internet Infrastructure free of authoritarian influence.

In order to combat anything on this spectrum he calls on the elevation and institutionalization of digital defense. It is not something I entirely agree with, but understand the call for it. In order to do such a thing, Silicon Valley and Washington D.C. relations need to take a step forward, together. It is understood that Silicon Valley began on a revolutionary tone, and has held an anti-washington attitude for most of its modern age. Move fast and break things works well in the industry, but not well in government. This is at the root of not being able to see eye to eye for so long.

Chapter 7 titled, A Sputnik Moment, talks about “the imperative of human capital to stay competitive…” and goes into a call for the reindustrialization of the free world. The work we’re doing at calibir made the following quote stand out.

But twenty-first-century education is a continuum, and a single entity devoted to that objective would allow us to better support Americans with the skills they need throughout their professional lives.

The founding principles of the web, started with ARPANET in 1969 are a reflection of the democratic principles that underlay the creation of the United States. People in Silicon Valley and Washington D.C. share a common goal in protecting these values, and a common foe in the authoritarian fibers running from Beijing.

All in all this book made me think about a variety of things. The OSI model, the current infrastructure and its vulnerabilities to kleptocratic purposes. Also crypto brain had some flickers. The book didn’t mention it specifically. Yet with the percolation of a blockchain based web with security being a pillar of its infrastructure, it is something to consider. Awesome read.

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