Previous industrial revolutions affected balance of power and caused geopolitical disruptions of gigantic proportions. The discovery of gun powder, for instance, strengthened the military might of European countries
that enabled a new type of warfare previously unknown to the world. But the geopolitical disruptions by the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) are unmatched. Boundaries of all sorts have been blurred by a non-transparent plethora of actors, including large technology firms, sub and non-state actors, digitally mobilised communities and even influential or vocal individuals. And in this new age of Big Data, Blockchain and the Internet of Things, fundamental questions around data ownership and usage require answers that speak to the complexity of the controversies.
In the political sphere, questions around statehood and control might arise as the 4IR advances. Will power be
transferred to those in possession of data? Will data revolutionise warfare? Is a different kind of arms race looming? And which control mechanisms are necessary to contain it? Will the traditional Westphalian state hold up against the exclaimed “platform planet”? Or could a “cloud state” compete for political and civic space with traditional power holders?