Does the Doomsday Clock Move Anywhere?

Dr. Kristina Rago of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory has spent much of her career tracking the links between innovation and terrorism. In short, terrorism has evolved to exploit what she calls…

Does the Doomsday Clock Move Anywhere?

Dr. Kristina Rago of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory has spent much of her career tracking the links between innovation and terrorism. In short, terrorism has evolved to exploit what she calls a “double-edged sword” — innovations that enable a new level of protection against terrorism, but also lead to the spread of new weapons that can cause even greater damage. She recently updated her recent book Digital Terror, which she co-authored with Walter Stroh, explaining how the digital world has changed the dynamics of terrorism and offers some new ideas on how to prevent and react to it.

Outside experts can’t single out a single technology or piece of technology that they think has become the new hub of terror, but there is ample evidence that this innovation is indeed occurring: For example, the creation of bomb-making instructions has been an ongoing trend, with new extremist and terrorist training manuals being published every day. And the spread of videos designed to promote terror, including some that directly target children, has been facilitated by the Internet.

Rago and Stroh stress the crucial importance of coming to grips with the concept of terrorism, which involves greater coordination among agencies of the state and an informed culture that develops an understanding of the challenges faced. The resulting pool of knowledge is what can make the difference between the demonization of a relatively new technology, like the use of encryption and it not really having any impact on terrorists, and the understanding that a fundamental technology is under threat.

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