Modern Wars: How Information Technology Changed Warfare
On the 30th of September Vladimir Vladimirovitsj Putin, President of Russia, announced that Russia conducted its first air-strikes in Syria targeted at ISIS (or ISIL). However, in the days after the United States of America and other countries began to question Russia’s motive and use of old school bombing technology which might cause harm to civilians and inflame the civil war in Syria (CNN/Time, 2015). According to US official’s Russian bombing technology is a lacking behind American weaponry in terms of accuracy. As such moves increase the tensions between the East and the West and businesses use information technology to reach their goals, I started to research how information technology has changed warfare over time.
The main goals of warfare have not really changed, but the way wars evolve and are waged certainly have. Just hundred twenty years ago, armies marched to battle in their uniforms, lined up against one another, and mainly used weapons with a short effective range. Thus, people who killed one another were always in close proximity. Later on, longer-range weapons emerged, and the distance between the soldiers became larger and larger. Today, some countries have the capability to destroy towns without having to be physically at the site or even have a within a hundreds of miles. All due to the introduction of IT in modern warfare which enables people to fight wars with the touch of button. This instantaneous transfer of information through the Internet and availability of the Internet around the world increases the number of participants in war. Unarmed actors thousands of miles away can participate in a conflict even by sitting at their computer, providing funding or (video/picture) information through the Internet or deep web.
It was late 2011 when Sony Pictures released the movie Moneyball. A movie that followed General Manager Billy Bean (played by Brad Pitt) of the Oakland A’s. The Oakland A’s where an American baseball team hosted in Oakland and competing in the Major League Baseball. Having one of the lowest budgets in the Competition Billy was struggling with putting a team together. In order to form a team he ran into Peter Brand, an IT nerd with a new view on baseball. Peter had an IT solution for Baseball and together they made a cheap team of under appreciated players which could be able to win the competition. Although the movie was based on a true story Billy Bean and the Oakland A’s came close, but did not won the league.
IT in the sports grows immensely. A lot of the Top Elite teams competing in for instance the Olympics or the Champions league make use of IT facilities to influence their Sport. Teams keep big data bases about their opponents or use Video Analyzing Equipment to make state of the art analyzes of their matches. Making use of al these technologies sure improves the sport. But at what level?
Data allows us the improve the overall game. Already there are cases where it reduces arbitrary mistakes. Think about the hawk-eye in tennis or the video-referee in hockey. Using statistics makes the game more understandable for average people. Fans now a day can see all kinds of statistics about their favorite player. These statistics contribute to the overall experience of the Fans. IT also helps coaches make better and adequately decisions about their team. Adidas, for instance, provides a system with wearable devices that obtain information and show the coach which players are performing and which not. This information can really help a coach in a game.
Where are we heading with all these technologies in the sports? As long as we use technologies to improve the overall performance of the game I think we are heading in the right way. Arbitrary can improve with IT to reduce faults in decisions. By offering spectators more statistics it benefits the overall spectators experience. In the last part it can benefit the sporters and their coaches. By using all these new technologies players can become better, which results in games at faster speed and higher levels.
Big Data now a day is a “hot” topic. The list of positive influences of these data to the sport is long. As a trainer and a Coach I absolutely support these developments. It should benefit the sport and make sports a better game, but there is a point where I think we should not make IT influence the game. I draw the line at the point where we are going to use IT for future decisions of the sporters. Sport is a game of mistakes, and sport needs these mistakes to make it attractive. If we are going to tell players what to do, we might as well going to play sports with perfectly designed robots. For me the beauty of the game lies in that short split-second decision moment where a player shows that he is truly brilliant.
As a huge fan of academic magazine ‘Foreign Policy’ I came across the recently published article ‘Can Silicon Valley Save the World?’  written by Charles Kenny & Justin Sandefur. In this particular article the current boom of start-ups in Silicon Valley is addressed whereby these particular start-ups attempt ‘to save the world’. New (information) technologies combined with huge amounts of venture capital are used to generate products and services which aim for improvement of the average living standard in the Third World. Although the idea of gaining efficiency and productivity, and thereby fighting poverty, is one which I personally strongly support, the outcome of previous projects seem to have epically failed.
Technology, and especially IT, has contributed to breaking out bit-by-bit ‘forgotten’, isolated areas of this world by enabling them to participate in economic and social globalization. However, these areas have not (yet) benefited substantially of this participation. Improvements have been made, but as the article points out: “[M]ore than half the planet still lives on less than $4 a day, and 2.4 billion people live on less than $2 a day. And that’s after a decade that saw the biggest drop in extreme poverty ever.” Pursuing the idea of technology being able to save the world, Silicon Valley – rewarded and supported by the global community – finally considered itself to become an agent of change, and therefore came up with fancy technology-improving and information-sharing projects that in the Western opinion should be the holy grail to creating economic wealth and social welfare for the Third World.
What Charles Kenny & Justin Sandefur correctly address is that those fancy projects are committed to the way that Western societies would solve the problems that the Third World is facing. In countries where education, institutions, infrastructure, health care and basic nutrition are lacking, westernized knowledge and solutions do not cope well with adapting to this corrupt and poor (in every sense of the word) environment. This is demonstrated by the failure of multiple projects mentioned in the article.
In my opinion, Silicon Valley – or not anyone for that matter – should give up on attempts to increase living standards in countries where poverty rules. However, the strategy for tackling poverty should drastically change. Instead of analysing defaults and inefficiencies from an American point-of-view (as is the case here), those should be approached with an African, Asian, Latin American or Middle East perspective.
IT should provide access to the global knowledge-based economy to those areas in need. Additional resources and educational tools should be provided on how to access the global knowledge network, subsequently providing the opportunity for developing countries to collect and process fundamental information on which they can base their own practical insights regarding problem-solving: from their own local and/or national perspective. Silicon Valley needs to provide seed to enable the Third World to grow their own plant, instead of providing a plant that does not acclimatize to its environment.