Information warfare as future South African national security threat

Van Vuuren, Rianne (2016-12)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2016.


ENGLISH SUMMARY : The objective of this study was to use the emerging discipline of futures studies through the application of social science methodologies to generate foresight about the plausible manifestation of information warfare in the 2030s as an upcoming national security threat. Interdisciplinary theories from futures studies and international relations in conjunction with methodologies from business and futures studies (environmental scanning, causal layered analysis, a Delphi study and a scenario exercise) were used. Information warfare is an emerging threat which is on its way to develop into a significant global challenge. The definition proposed for information warfare encompasses three manifestations, namely netwar, psychological operations and cyber warfare. The differentiation between the three manifestations is elucidated by a cognitive-technology continuum. Critical realism, which regards all knowledge as conjectural, served as basis for the philosophical approach in this study. According to critical realism there are both an external world independent of human consciousness and, at the same time, a dimension that includes humanity’s socially determined knowledge about reality. Transformation, networking and the impact of technological innovation in all the environments investigated were highlighted as central to the manifestation of information warfare in the present as well as in the future. These drivers influenced not only the entities involved in power relations in society, but also enhanced the potential influence and power of small and marginalized entities in society. New forms of network-related actions were identified as of particular use for information warfare in the future. A model to address information warfare as an upcoming national security threat was developed. The two most significant driving forces were an increase in integration and polarization that will contribute to systemic stresses, and information communication technology (ICT) embedding itself as a crucial part of society. This resulted in four plausible scenarios. The “Shango Rejuvenated” scenario foresees rapid technological advances, boosted by high levels of social integration stimulated by swift advancement in communication technologies. Information warfare is a preferred tool for power projection and consolidation but takes place in the context of relatively advanced cognitive and technological capacities. The “Gaunab Rising” scenario anticipates low levels of social cohesion combined with high levels of technological participation resulting in a potentially volatile society providing opportunities for authoritarian elites to expand control. Information warfare remains rife and is expanding on all societal levels. The “Inkanyamba Reduced” scenario foresees that the combination of low social cohesion and low levels of technological participation will magnify dissent, resulting in high levels of conflict and competition for resources. The technological part of information warfare in the form of cyberwar is limited, but the cognitive aspects in the form of netwar and psychological operations remain high. In the “Tsunigoab Revived” scenario high levels of social integration with low levels of technological participation ensure relative stability but also limit the potential value that technology could add to society. The intensity of information warfare is lower but information warfare continues to be an instrument for power enhancement in society. Polarization poses a significant future risk in terms of leveraging information warfare as a national security threat.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING : Geen opsomming beskikbaar.

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