Young Professionals in IR: Hyper-connectedness and the New Order

Categories: YPIR

Dr. Salih Bıçakcı of Kadir Has University was the speaker at the year-end meeting of the Young Professionals in International Relations network. Dr. Bıçakcı talked about how hyper-connectivity through technology and increased dependence on artificial intelligence (AI) create new paradigms, influencing (mostly unbeknownst to us) decision-making from the personal to the interpersonal all the way to international levels.

The speed of the spread of technology is dizzying. At any given time and place, there are countless invisible data pieces flying in the air, and this changes our relationship with information. Whereas in the past, access to information determined the current problem is how to make sense of it all. The so-called 5V of data (velocity, variety, value, veracity, volume) make data a powerful tool that only select few can meaningfully use. This past year showed the whole world through incidents like the Cambridge Analytica breach, and the large-scale disinformation operations that states have allegedly used to influence each other’s elections, that the technologies most of us have welcomed into our lives are also a potential security and privacy breach. Yet it is through this mass data collection that technology has gone to previously unthinkable lengths. Dr. Bıçakcı reminded the audience of how Deep Blue’s victory against Kasparov was a big deal back in the 1990s, whereas now, deep learning technologies have enabled machines to master highly complex games such as Go, and beat the best human minds. For better or for worse, AI is headed towards increasingly accurate predictions of the outcome of any given social, political, economic, interpersonal process; ‘in essence it is headed towards a prediction of the future’ an audience member noted.

Dr. Bıçakcı’s points on psychographics, behavioral communication and economics, and manipulation of messaging by companies and governments met with the most interest from the audience. He stated that generational differences in connectedness present a governance challenge on top of the imbalances created by different levels of access to data. The general discussion revolved around the potential consequences of states having a complete monopoly on, and thus determining their relationship with their citizens over the kind of personal data we volunteer through simple every-day technologies. If this is what non-Western, authoritarian governments are after, the mirror image of this is what (mostly western) companies are doing with people’s data. From quietly influencing consuming patterns to outright manipulating voting behavior, social media and tech companies are responsible for the paradigmatic change within society and between society and the state.