By Cristiana Era


In a post-modern world dominated by an increasing number of competing elements of influence – either human or social, cultural, political and economic “security is, or should be”, a primary concern not just for States as actors in the international arena, but also for institutions, entities, organizations and subjects that characterize contemporary society. It is an all-inclusive concern that, given the current hyper-complex scenario in which the borders between “real” and “virtual” are gradually fading, requires a comprehensive approach overtaking the mere concept of military defense. New threats from cyberspace add on the traditional ones and actually change them as their scope is enhanced by the virtual world. Internet communication, for example, is a double-faced issue: if from one side it can erode the inward-looking system of an authoritarian regime and help spreading democratic ideas, on the other it can also promote and develop the activities of criminal networks, or move huge immigration waves.


Governments need, then, to rethink the concept of security and adapt it to the new reality. It might sound obvious. It is not. Most western leaderships seem culturally and politically unprepared to address the challenges ahead, lacking a thorough vision of what is a global threat, but being extremely attentive not to hurt politically-correct feelings than might raise criticism from the electorate. National and regional security is also the first victim of poor and politically-oriented media information, disinformation and unprofessional “experts”.


Citizens, too, should do their part. Defense and security is not the job of the authorities alone. Technology makes our life more comfortable but it entails high risks: if our smartphone can control our alarm system, be connected to our car, check our bank account, send instructions to the domotics system of our house, then it will suffice to break into our mobile device to deactivate the alarm, compromise wheel and brake controls, steal our savings and have all the household appliances run out of control. Does it sound unrealistic? Well, this is not fiction: welcome to the Internet of Things, or as Prof. Alessandro Armando calls it, the Internet of Everything.


Likewise, phenomena like global mass movements or climate change will have disruptive effects on many societies. The ongoing debates are marred by political and economic interests or by the lack of in-depth knowledge of their causes, and some of them are often concealed under human rights or ethical issues, which disregard any well-grounded and unbiased analysis but have the power to raise large popular consensus.


We should start from here: from becoming informed and rational citizens who are able to discern information from disinformation, avoiding the demonization of words and ideas, which can only increase internal and external polarization and radicalization. Knowledge and awareness are the first step towards more security. Western countries have developed high technology, but many still lack the “culture” of technology: that “little pretty thing” which prevents technology’s metamorphosis from a constructive support to human development into a global destructive tool.

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