Global Data Shock
Strategic Ambiguity, Deception, and Surprise in an Age of Information Overload
Published by: Stanford University Press
272 pages, 152.00 x 229.00 mm
- ISBN: 9781503608962
- Published: April 2019
Intelligence and security communities have access to an overwhelming amount of information. More data is better in an information-hungry world, but too much data paralyzes individual and institutional abilities to process and use information effectively. Robert Mandel calls this phenomenon "global data shock." He investigates how information overload affects strategic ambiguity, deception, and surprise, as well as the larger consequences for international security. This book provides not only an accessible framework for understanding global data shock and its consequences, but also a strategy to prepare for and respond to information overload.
Global Data Shock explores how information overload facilitates deception, eroding international trust and cooperation in the post-Cold War era. A sweeping array of case studies illustrates the role of data shock in shaping global events from the 1990 Iraqi attack on Kuwait to Brexit. When strategists try to use an overabundance of data to their advantage, Mandel reveals, it often results in unanticipated and undesirable consequences. Too much information can lead to foreign intelligence failures, security policy incoherence, mass public frustrations, curtailment of democratic freedoms, and even international political anarchy. Global Data Shock addresses the pressing need for improved management of information and its strategic deployment.
This introduction identifies the study's central puzzles; delimits the scope of the discussion (including its geographical scope, its time frame, and substantive issues covered); explains what makes the analysis unique and provocative; and highlights the linkages between this investigation and broader security questions. The necessary background is provided to clarify why studying global data shock, incorporating the security impact of information overload on strategic ambiguity, deception, and surprise, is such a critical issue now. There is also an explanation of why it is so important to incorporate the perspectives of both manipulation initiators and manipulation targets in this analysis.
This chapter summarizes the roots and current nature of globally exploding information overload. It begins by summarizing contrasting reactions to the information explosion, providing a comparative pre-Internet-Age retrospective to demonstrate how much more intense the security impacts have been in recent decades, discussing "big data analysis" promises and perils, and exploring mass public global data shock fears and concerns. The chapter then analyzes in detail the major barriers to information interpretation, including data quantity/quality distortions involving escalating information overload and security information unreliability; receiver processing limitations involving human cognitive frailty and organizational decision inflexibility; and system value heterogeneity involving global cultural diversity and international political anarchy. This chapter sets the stage for the resulting increase in strategic ambiguity, deception, and surprise discussed in the next chapter.
This chapter explores the linkages between information overload and the increasingly evident patterns of strategic manipulation in today's world, involving ambiguity, deception, and surprise. It specifically examines how information overload can intensify and expand the range of strategic manipulation across national boundaries. It then reviews strategic manipulation goals, comparing those of offensive manipulation initiators and those of defensive manipulation responders; the general dynamics of strategic manipulation and the specific dynamics of strategic ambiguity, deception, and surprise; and a comprehensive assessment of strategic manipulation costs and benefits. This chapter completes the picture of why both intelligence analysts and private citizens are currently experiencing global data shock, overwhelmed with data that they cannot properly interpret and cannot find appropriate ways to manage.
This chapter presents ten global case studies highlighting distinctive security challenges for coping with global data shock, for both initiators using offensive manipulation and targets defending against manipulation under information overload. The cases are organized by theme—whether the primary form of manipulation exhibited by initiators is strategic ambiguity, manipulation, or surprise. Highlighting strategic ambiguity are the 2017 foreign security policy style of American president Donald Trump, the 2016 Brexit vote to leave the European Union, and the 2002-2003 nondiscovery of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Highlighting strategic deception are the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea, the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, and the 2008 Russian invasion of Georgia. Highlighting strategic surprise are the 2007 Israeli destruction of the Syrian al-Kibar nuclear plant, the 2005 Andijan massacre in Uzbekistan, the 2001 al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on the United States, and the 1990 Iraqi attack on Kuwait.
This chapter reviews the patterns emerging from the ten global case studies about initiator manipulation facilitation under information overload and target manipulation vulnerability under information overload, including patterns specific to strategic ambiguity, deception, and surprise and patterns specific to manipulation initiators and manipulation targets. Then it summarizes the trend in post-manipulation tensions, eroding trust and predictability among longtime allies. Next, it provides a detailed analysis of under what circumstances (1) information overload most promotes strategic manipulation; (2) initiators' offensive manipulation and targets' defensive response are most effective; (3) strategic manipulation is most legitimate; and (4) strategic manipulation is most dangerous. Finally, the chapter highlights notable general case lessons informing global data shock management, and it explains the countermanipulation conundrum that makes such management so challenging.
This chapter suggests ways to help to manage information overload and to assist both initiators and targets to manage strategic ambiguity, deception, and surprise. Creative thinking is vital to cope with foreign data interpretation and strategic manipulation, including combining fluid, innovative, and responsive measures, avoiding "stick-in-the-mud" repetitive use; discovering or creating new information and communication channels; and engaging in more systematic advanced contingency planning. The first step is to avoid the many forms of global data shock mismanagement, which are chronicled in detail regarding information overload, initiator offensive manipulation, and target defensive responses. Then the chapter provides a probing comparative prioritization of general management strategies, showing decisive advantages for some approaches over others. Next it provides specific policy recommendations for improving offensive manipulation and defensive responses under information overload, followed by specific advice for specifically addressing strategic ambiguity, manipulation, and surprise.
This conclusion wraps up the book by identifying how global data shock stymies the universal search for meaning; how the rise of informal influence in international relations connects to the growth of strategic manipulation; how ethical concerns arise from the international use of strategic manipulation; how a paradox surrounds the desirability of information transparency on a global scale; how ominous dangers surround future global data shock trends; and how better human-computer, state-to-state, and citizen-government collaboration is needed to cope with global data shock. The emphasis is on taking responsibility to address this seemingly intractable problem rather than avoiding confronting it or fatalistically accepting it.
"The prevalence of awful mistakes historically made statesmen assume they would do better if they had more information. Robert Mandel brings sharply into focus the very modern and surprising problem that more information turns out to be as much a curse as a cure, and creatively examines the implications for a wide range of policy challenges." ~Richard K. Betts, Director of the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies, Columbia University
"This pertinent, well-written, and timely book addresses authoritatively and comprehensively the critical tension between the benefits of access to multitudinous data and the potentially pernicious consequences of being overwhelmed by it. Global Data Shock offers remedies to this vicious problem and should be required reading for policy analysts, students, and practitioners." ~Yaacov Vertzberger, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
"Robert Mandel offers a cautionary tale for technophiles who believe the combination of supercomputers and limitless data will end ambiguity in international affairs. Global Data Shock stakes out its position clearly: people are the weak link in the human-machine interface and information overload makes that link increasingly tenuous, creating unprecedented opportunities for deception in international relations." ~James J. Wirtz, Naval Postgraduate School