Governments are losing control. Society is being drawn into the digital world step by step. Digital platforms, cyber criminals, the super rich and dubious regimes increase their power in a world in which the digital economy will soon dominate the classical economy. Due to lagging legislation and national impotence, governments are losing control over digital companies, cybercrime, numerous new digital developments, the growing digital economy and, finally, society as a whole. In fact the democracy is at risk. Who does not believe this, please read the article of Shoshana Zuboff, professor emeritus at Harvard Business School, and the author of “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism” in the New York Times of 29 January 2021. We are in danger of ending up in a disordered society, where the – digital – right of the strongest will become the norm. Some examples will be mentioned below.
Cyber crime is totally out of control and has become a very profitable international business of around € 1200 billion in 2018. The criminal world has been totally turned upside down by the possibilities of digital technology (ransomware, phishing, etc.) and criminal platforms, so that criminals can achieve maximum results at low risks (zero chance of being caught), negligible costs and without physical victims. As an example ransomware as a Service (RaaS) can be mentioned by means of which IT systems can be held hostage. RaaS can be bought cheaply on the so called darkweb, a website for criminals, as a service for cyber criminals. Governments hardly put up a defence, in particular because this extortion uses hazy international routes. Conspiracy has never been so easy.
But the protection of Data privacy in general is a nightmare. China, the US and other countries increase their grip on data files because of their importance for national security. Tech Giants use and manipulate private data to expand their business. Regularly private data are accidentally arriving in the public domain, due to sloppy data protection of organizations or due to hackers. So nobody can be sure that his private data are not being robbed, or held hostage, or monitored by a government or accidentally published. The police mainly fight traditional thefts. But where can you go for digital accidents with your private data ?
Information is increasingly stored in the cloud. Governments, citizens and companies often do not know where their data are or what is happening yo them. Most European companies and private persons store their data in clouds of American companies under American security jurisdiction. Not a pleasant idea.
The financial world is increasingly dominated by algorithms that partly function autonomously, which, within milliseconds, allows capital to be transported from one part of the world to another on behalf of the super-rich, criminals or financial companies. National governments have hardly any insight into international money transactions anymore.
Fake news, deep fakes and conspiracy theories directly threaten democracy. Elections have been influenced in the US. The UK have moved to a Brexit based on fake messages. Deep fake techniques allow the makers to make well-known people say whatever they want them to say. Citizens no longer know who or what to believe and are constantly manipulated by algorithms or might be drawn into conspiracy theories. Some politicians are actively using these technologies to influence their voters. There is not much we can do about this, because things are often organized on an international scale.
The digital power of large countries such as China and the US is unknown but very big anyway. They can effortlessly hack each other’s infrastructure or other sensitive systems. That they are quite far advanced with respect to cyber warfare with each other or other countries is certain.
Artificial intelligence and robotics are rigorously and permanently changing the labour markets, by automating labour that was previously done manually. Not much thought is given to the many ethical dilemmas and social consequences of applying the many new technologies. Software in many large organizations or installations (Boeing 737 MAX) might suddenly turn out not to work resulting in major accidents or disruptions. It takes days, sometimes months, for the error to be discovered because software is often poorly documented and supervision hardly exists.
Increasing digital chaos is imminent. The world is landing into growing digital chaos as the economy continues moving to cyber space. Cyber space is a irregulated digital jungle, in which accepted rules hardly exist. Irrevocably, more and more serious digital incidents will occur in the years to come, like climate change is causing more tornadoes, draughts or flooding. As is the case with climate change, the conclusion must be that we can only manage the expanding digital problems by cross border cooperation between all countries and major tech companies. There is a need to establish some kind of global “digital agreement” to cover a great number of digital topics. As in the case of climate change, time has come for a radical change in how we manage cyber space in society: the digital risks are becoming too big and are unmanageable by individual nations.
Conclusion. If such a worldwide consultation does not succeed, human society is in danger of getting pulled into a digital black hole step by step. The super rich, criminals and corrupt regimes will continue to increase their grip on citizens, companies and society thanks to new technologies. More and more new technologies will be applied without any form of regulation or control, while ethical guidelines simply do not exist at all. Due to all digital developments, society is in danger of being held hostage in a digital black hole by groups of elusive people and by means of numerous uncontrolled technologies.