The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business

It's no surprise Google executives Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen celebrate our wide-open, Internet-connected world. What is surprising, however, is the amount of space they devote in The New Digital Age to analysis of the dangerous--indeed, inevitable--use of this same global network by terrorists, rogue nations and ordinary criminals. With relative calm, they explore the ease with which determined outlaw organizations might recruit disgruntled hackers from anywhere in the world to build "the perfect weapon: powerful, customizable and anonymous."

Their scenarios are not dramatic, 9/11-style "real world" suicide missions, but rather the interruption and even meltdown of the "virtual world" that already controls most of the world's energy, currency and food distribution. Schmidt and Cohen are not indifferent to these threats and have shared their concerns with global political leaders. As they suggest, "What started as the World Wide Web will begin to look more like the world itself, full of internal divisions and divergent interests."

Their objective is not to discourage innovative technology (even that of cheap and easily copied weapon-strapped drones), but to encourage governments and multinational companies to empower people with tools of technology while also building robust and rational protection against their disruptive misuse. Of course, if governments knew how to do that, we wouldn't have wars, terrorism and ruthless dictatorships anyway. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

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