MLK's "Cybernation" in Action - ASTRA's Fight To Secure It

May 08, 2019

by Dr. Richard J. Chasdi
Professorial Lecturer, Department of Political Science, The George Washington University


Dr Ronnie Lowenstein, Senior Advisor and Futurist to ASTRA welcoming attendees to 2019 STEM on the Hill by recalling the prescient remarks of Martin Luther King Jr in 1968 “....’A great revolution is taking place in the world... a technological revolution with the impact of automation and cybernation....’

It was my great pleasure to be invited by Dr. Ronnie Lowenstein, ASTRA’s Advisor and Futurist, to participate in the “STEM on the Hill” reception on April 2, 2019 in the Russell Office Building, co-hosted by The Alliance for Science & Technology Research in America. I was delighted to attend because, like ASTRA and its partners, I recognize the prescient words of Dr. Martin Luther King, who just four days before his assassination in 1968, described “a triple revolution,” one of which was “… a technological revolution, with the impact of automation and cybernation….”(“Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution,” March 31, 1968, http://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/). Those words reinforce our current need to identify issue areas, innovative policies and organizational processes to help secure Dr. King’s visions of a cybernation.

As a political scientist working in the Department of Political Science at The George Washington University, I not only teach classes in International Security Politics, but conduct and publish scholarly investigations of terrorism, counterterrorism, and cybersecurity. I was invited by Dr. Lowenstein to this event because of our shared concerns about the growing cybersecurity threats in what she describes as ‘an increasingly connected world without borders.’ We also share belief in the value of using ‘futures strategies,’ especially foresight management to shape how the world will evolve. We recognize the need to educate our citizens and establish educational pathways in this ever-changing technological society. Our own life experiences reinforce the intrinsic importance of STEM pathways for students, particularly in terms of their self-actualization. We both have observed how fluency in STEM can serve as the great equalizer for students, helping to break through various levels of “structural violence” endemic in our society to provide access to opportunities or to create them.

Global NetGeneration of Youth Cyberjournalist Amadou Sow enjoyed interviewing ASTRA’s Chairman of the Board Dr. Robert Palazzo and exploring university and career opportunities related to engineering and cybersecurity.

Conversations with a variety of 2019 STEM on the Hill Exhibitors and attendees revealed a general appreciation of STEM and its role in education in the narrower sense, as well as to how STEM gives structural shape to our new world that analysts such as Karlheinz Steinmuller have described as the “fourth industrial revolution” (Identification of Potential Terrorists and Adversary Planning: Emerging Technologies and New Counterterror Strategies http://researchgate.net/).

In one conversation with a member representative, we began to explore the role of non-traditional education – acculturation programs for immigrants and first- generation Americans coming from societies with enormous cultural distance from mainstream America. We agreed that living in an age of international and domestic terrorism, there is a need to redesign education to address the new, rapidly-changing global realities and promote “social resilience” among students.

Two other provocative conversations ensued when Dr. Lowenstein kindly introduced me to both Dr. Robert E. Palazzo, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at University of Alabama and Chair of ASTRA’s Board of Directors, and the Honorable U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX 18th District). Dr. Palazzo and I had a very good discussion about solutions to cybersecurity threats where the notion of “digital certification” was raised – a system where as Milan Maric tells us, an IP address, namely, a “virtual mailing address,” would allow analysts to isolate and identify an Internet Service Provider ISP) with potential to reveal individual user identity (Identification of Potential Terrorists and Adversary Planning: Emerging Technologies and New Counterterror Strategies http://researchgate.net/) This led to our thinking about advantages and disadvantages of “gated communities,” through “virtual commons” that are essentially gated, much like communities found in many contemporary urban and rural landscapes. While Dr. Palazzo and I only had a few moments to exchange ideas, the notion of some form of “hybrid” system with a “gated community” for more sensitive issue areas and stakeholders, coupled with open “commons” for most users and issues was bandied about. Many of these issues are covered in my latest book, Corporate Security Crossroads: Responding to Terrorism, Cyberthreats and Other Hazards in the Global Business Community (ABC-CLIO; Praeger Publishers, 2017).

Dr. Robert Palazzo, Chair of ASTRA’s Board of Directors, and Dr. Robert Chasdi, scholar of terrorism and cyber security and professor at GWU, discussing current and future threats of society’s evolving cybercivilization, along with a range of policies and innovations needed to ensure our national security.

It was also an honor and privilege to have the opportunity to converse with Representative Sheila Jackson Lee who currently serves on two committees whose work dovetails well the mission of ASTRA and with my own professional interests: The Committee on the Judiciary with its Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security and The Committee on Homeland Security, with its Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies, and the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence. I was excited to learn how aligned her visions are to one of the issue areas and project I am working on: “SMART Cities, characterized by interactive technologies such as biometrics, brain computer interface, and robotics, can be developed around the country to enhance quality of life for citizens while simultaneously securing their safety from terrorist and cyber intrusions.

Dr. Ronnie Lowenstein, ASTRA’s Futurist, introduced the Featured Speaker, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who inspired attendees with her deep appreciation of STEM as foundational to society and her passionate commitment to provide federal support to strengthen America’s capacity to innovate . Her current-legislative committee work focuses on Cybersecurity, Terrorism and Homeland Security.

I so appreciate ASTRA’s leadership in convening STEM on the Hill. All of the discussions I had fueled my commitment to further dialogue with national leaders from government, like Representative Jackson Lee, private sector, academia and community based groups, and explore synergies that will enable us to collaboratively conduct research and design innovative policies needed to realize Dr. Martin Luther King’s notion of a “cybernation,” with the cybersecurity measures required to protect it.

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