2020 marks the second 50-year journey of the Internet. After 50 years of development, the Internet has become an integral part of people’s lives. If “Internet” is used as a keyword in search engines, there will be 12.5 billion web pages. In terms of numbers alone, this is already equal to the number of web pages in which substances necessary for human existence such as “food”, “water” and “air” exist.
In the future, the development of the Internet will enter a new stage, and its importance to human society will become increasingly critical. What we are concerned about will not be the Internet itself, but a series of emerging technologies brought by the Internet, such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, cloud computing, big data, the Internet of Things, quantum computing, etc., or Internet technologies and applications Challenges brought by cyber security, data security, and cyber warfare. Human society also faces how to adapt to the restructuring of actors and emerging technologies in cyberspace, as well as the relationship between actors.
Humans and the Internet are still adapting to each other
The first 50 years of the Internet were experimental fields of human society’s dream. The Internet has realized the “interconnectivity” of all mankind, overcame the obstacles set by time and space on human interaction, truly realized globalization, and turned the earth into a global village of “sound of chickens and dogs”. The information age represented by the Internet has continued the trend of industrialization to make humans faster and stronger, further accelerating the empowerment of individuals. The Internet has realized the decentralization of information dissemination in structure, overcame the restraint of “hierarchy” in the organization structure of human society, and improved the efficiency and accuracy of information dissemination and organizational mobilization. The Internet has also achieved normal operation without national intervention and coordination with international organizations. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), as a key institution to maintain the normal operation of the global Internet, is only a few hundred employees, each year Non-profit organization with a billion dollar budget.
Will the next 50 years of the Internet be the return of human “reality”? When the ideal society of humankind is approaching, we did not fully embrace it, but a little “Ye Gong Haolong”, focused on the problems brought by the Internet, and tried to retreat to the pre-Internet era for various reasons. . More and more discussions are beginning to focus on increasing inequality caused by the Internet while improving efficiency. When the Internet makes life more and more convenient, it also greatly increases the operational risks of society. Spam, network polarization, fake news, zombie accounts, emotional induction, big data killing, people attribute the loss of self-consciousness to the control of “algorithms” on people; while enjoying the joy of “likes” in the circle of friends Is also scolding the Internet for exposing privacy.
When the Internet strengthens national strength, it also brings challenges to national security. Russia has started an “off-network” exercise, the European Union has emphasized the need to safeguard data sovereignty, and the United States is trying to “decouple” China from ICT. This series of actions jointly promoted the division of the Internet from the logical, data, and physical layers. On the other hand, the cyber security game of big powers caused by the militarization of cyberspace and the nationalization of information and communication technology is also further promoting the “Balkanization” of cyberspace.
This reflects to a certain extent that human society has not fully adapted to this deeply interdependent relationship brought about by the Internet, and the distance and time of “disappearance” have also magnified the differences and contradictions between different civilizations and systems. As the most important actor in cyberspace, the state’s attitude towards the Internet has gradually evolved into anxiety and vigilance. It has tried to strengthen the control of the Internet from the data level, and regained control of core technologies from the private sector. There has been fierce conflict between countries. And confrontation has become a reality.
“Decoupling” thinking could profoundly change the future of the Internet
China and the United States are the two most important countries in cyberspace. Sino-US cyber relations are the key variables affecting the future development of the Internet and will also have an important impact on the overall situation of relations between the two countries. The Internet used to be one of the areas with the highest degree of interdependence between China and the United States, and formed a global ICT ecosystem with China and the United States as the core. From a structural point of view, the development models of the two countries are highly complementary. Relying on Silicon Valley’s strong innovation capabilities, the United States is far ahead in the field of basic theoretical research and core technologies. China relies on its huge domestic market and user community to flourish in the areas of application innovation and Internet consumption. China and the United States have also made a perfect connection in the field of ICT supply chain. For example, in the field of chips, the United States leads R & D and design, and China is responsible for packaging and manufacturing. Its efficient and seamless docking has brought globalization to the extreme. It is because of this complementary relationship that Internet companies in China and the United States have almost monopolized the top 20 global market capitalization lists.
When countries fail to establish appropriate cognitive models and institutions, this deep interdependence will become a major challenge in relations between the two countries. Interdependence has become a fragile point for each other, and the Internet is full of risks and threats between the two countries. Many people in the United States believe that China’s growth in the field of cyberspace will challenge or even replace the hegemonic position of the United States in cyberspace. The United States began to pay close attention to China’s scientific and technological development, industrial policies, and even local government documents, and tried to find any “evidence” that could prove that China would challenge the United States. In this process, the facts are not important, what is important is the imagination. For example, the United States has repeatedly emphasized that Huawei has jeopardized U.S. national security. The actual situation is that except for some remote areas, Huawei’s products and equipment cannot be sold in the United States at all.
Some people in China also believe that the United States can control China’s cyberspace at any time by “cutting supply” of core components or implanting backdoors in equipment and systems. There are many cases on both sides to confirm their judgments. The outbreak of any one case will cause a comprehensive reflection and re-orientation of China-US network relations. Driven by this thinking, the “decoupling” in the emerging field of science and technology is becoming the vanguard of the “decoupling” of state relations. The United States has almost used the power of the entire government to restrict market access, investment restrictions, export controls, and scientific and technological cooperation restrictions Various aspects restrict cooperation with China in the field of emerging technologies.
When the Internet entered the next 50 years, perhaps we did not want to understand what the two “Internet” between China and the United States meant to the relationship between the two countries and to the world.