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Technopolitics: The digital revolution and return of great power rivalry

If nuclear arms symbolised the Cold War confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union in the 20th century, the digital revolution has become the signifier of great power contestation in the 21st century

In the early days of the digital revolution two decades ago, there was enormous optimism about its social, economic and political benefits. The new information and communication technologies, it was hoped, would promote individual freedoms, bring down the barriers between nations and create a networked international society at peace with itself. That optimism has begun to fade as the new technologies sharpen old divisions and trigger new fault lines within nations and among them.

The fond expectation that the Internet would liberate individuals from oppressive governments has turned out to be false. Instead, the digital revolution has allowed states to mount unprecedented monitoring of the citizenry. As digital technologies empower states to assess human behaviour, physical as well as emotional, the prospect for an all-knowing surveillance state is at hand.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 22, 2018, with the headline 'Technopolitics: The digital revolution and return of great power rivalry'. Print Edition | Subscribe