Cyber Conflict and the Perils of Technological Illiteracy

One of the points that was touched on by our guest speaker, Michale Sulmeyer, was in regard to current politicians’ lack of understanding of cyber conflict. I don’t think that this issue can be understated. Right now, we have a president who barely knows how to use Twitter, let alone address the intricacies of cyberspace.

Beyond the White House, Congress and other policy-forming institutions are filled with representatives and officials who fundamentally lack an understanding of cyberspace. This is understandable — many representatives are older and may lack technological literacy — but it is unacceptable. Representatives must gain education on these issues so that policy is not based on Cold War tactics which don’t necessarily apply in cyberspace.

Obviously, there are some very smart people in the Pentagon working on issues relating to cybersecurity and cyber warfare, but I think that beyond the covert, there needs to be more of a public effort to educate our representatives. At the very least, representatives need to understand the importance of cyber issues and allow experts on the subject to advise policy decisions.

One of the big problems comes down to the idea of abstraction. I feel that the ambiguity relating to issues of cybersecurity can be drawn back to the term “cyber.” Each representative most likely has a very different view on what cyberspace is, and this is problematic. To make informed decisions regarding the Internet and cybersecurity, we need a technologically literate government. When representatives attempt to form policy without basic understanding, inevitably the wrong decisions are made.

If the United States is going to survive and thrive in the age of cyber, the government must evolve.


  1. profsmith

    November 16, 2017 @ 2:33 pm


    You have a great sense of humor, plus a good point this week. Your post got me to think. In the medical profession, we mandate Continuing Medical Education (CME) for our doctors. ACCME.ORG defines this as “educational activities which serve to maintain, develop, or increase the knowledge, skills, and professional performance and relationships that a physician uses to provide services for patients, the public, or the profession.” You’re basically calling for continuing education for our elected representatives, and I think it is a great idea! CME became necessary because what you needed to know to be a good doctor moved on a timescale faster than a doctor’s career. The same thing is now true in politics! What you need to govern well moves faster than the length of a politician’s career! How do we enact this?

  2. Jim Waldo

    November 19, 2017 @ 9:38 pm


    You have actually nailed the reason that I now teach at the Kennedy School (and in their Exec. Ed. program). The idea that those making the laws and regulations don’t have to understand the technology that is the target of their work is, well, ridiculous.

    It goes beyond the people who are elected. Perhaps more important are the members of their staff, who do much of the actual work. Getting the staff members to understand technology may be more important than getting the Senators and Congresspersons to understand. But it is a long slog to do so.

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