The Next World War: Computers Are the Weapons and the Front Line Is Everywhere

James Adams, Author
James Adams, Author Simon & Schuster $25 (36p) ISBN 978-0-684-83452-8
Reviewed on: 12/29/1997
Release date: 01/01/1998
In the Information Age, information has emerged as the ultimate weapon. Adams (Sellout, Hard Target, etc.), CEO of United Press International, argues strongly that the ""revolution"" in war making is occurring in the ""virtual world"" of ""commerce, conversation, and connectivity."" Adams surpasses even the Tofflers in his depiction of a Third Wave whose battlefields will be dominated by bytes, not bullets. It began with Desert Storm, when control of the electronic spectrum created an insurmountable imbalance between combatants. Somalia, Haiti and Bosnia demonstrated the power of information not merely as a force multiplier but as a paradigm shifter. In a country obsessed with minimizing casualties, information warfare seemed an ideal combination of mission facilitator and appropriations guarantor. Adams takes his readers on a comprehensive and enlightening tour of research establishments focusing on micro-electro-mechanical systems, non-lethal weapons and instantaneous communications. He then embarks on a darker journey into the world of high-level computer hacking and its implications for ""cyberterrorism"" with the potential not merely to threaten information security but, for example, to poison a nation's children through accessing the process control systems of cereal manufacturers. Less apocalyptic but equally important is the growing potential of information as a manipulative tool affecting governments and societies alike. In the cybernetic era, Adams contends, the offense outpaces the defense in both methods and principles. Adams's conclusion, that the U.S. is developing its information-warfare capacities while ignoring its vulnerabilities to the same techniques, is a strong reminder that technology depends for effect on matrices of insight, flexibility and will power--none of which can be generated by computers. (Aug.)
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