CyberSyn to SkyNet: Security, Cyber Systems, and Society




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Academic Conferences and Publishing International Limited



Peer reviewed



I don't know if you've been looking at your phones or looking at your screens, but, um... Careful with your info (Dj Shadow, 'Urgent, Important, Please Read')

This paper examines the cultural and political implications of cyber, rather than the technological concerns. The use of AI-driven systems for monitoring human behaviour (political, social, economic...) has profound implications for civil liberties and (inter)national security. The ability to govern a nation through the application of integrated cyber systems can arguably be traced back to Stafford Beer's Project CyberSyn (1971-3), and Beer's ideas have mutated into a spectrum of various models of the cyberpolitical, from the panopticon state of China's SkyNet to the laissez-faire western model of private companies which have quasi-total control of the informational realm and the ability to intervene in and subvert the democratic process (as exemplified by the activities of Cambridge Analytica). The western informational space is dominated by an oligarchy analogous to the geographical control displayed in previous centuries by the East India Company. The paper will argue that both ends of the spectrum are equally flawed, from the standpoint of defending individual liberties and the inherent risks both pose to national security. It must always be remembered that the first use of the word 'cybernetics' was in a treatise on government; cyber security must be seen as a political phenomenon. The paper will conclude with a discussion of the ways in which IT and AI may in future be used to promote, rather than repress, human political agency.


The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version


Cyber Security, Governance, Cyber Politics


Scott, K. (2020) CyberSyn to SkyNet: Security, Cyber Systems, and Society. Proceedings of ECCWS 2020: the 19th European Conference on Cyber Warfare and Security. Reading: Academic Conferences and Publishing International Limited. [forthcoming]


Research Institute

Media and Communication Research Centre (MCRC)