Global Data Shock
Strategic Ambiguity, Deception, and Surprise in an Age of Information Overload
Robert Mandel


Contents and Abstracts
chapter abstract

This introduction identifies the study's central puzzles; delimits the scope of the discussion (including its geographical scope, its time frame, and substantive issues covered); explains what makes the analysis unique and provocative; and highlights the linkages between this investigation and broader security questions. The necessary background is provided to clarify why studying global data shock, incorporating the security impact of information overload on strategic ambiguity, deception, and surprise, is such a critical issue now. There is also an explanation of why it is so important to incorporate the perspectives of both manipulation initiators and manipulation targets in this analysis.

1 Global Information Overload
chapter abstract

This chapter summarizes the roots and current nature of globally exploding information overload. It begins by summarizing contrasting reactions to the information explosion, providing a comparative pre-Internet-Age retrospective to demonstrate how much more intense the security impacts have been in recent decades, discussing "big data analysis" promises and perils, and exploring mass public global data shock fears and concerns. The chapter then analyzes in detail the major barriers to information interpretation, including data quantity/quality distortions involving escalating information overload and security information unreliability; receiver processing limitations involving human cognitive frailty and organizational decision inflexibility; and system value heterogeneity involving global cultural diversity and international political anarchy. This chapter sets the stage for the resulting increase in strategic ambiguity, deception, and surprise discussed in the next chapter.

2 Global Strategic Manipulation
chapter abstract

This chapter explores the linkages between information overload and the increasingly evident patterns of strategic manipulation in today's world, involving ambiguity, deception, and surprise. It specifically examines how information overload can intensify and expand the range of strategic manipulation across national boundaries. It then reviews strategic manipulation goals, comparing those of offensive manipulation initiators and those of defensive manipulation responders; the general dynamics of strategic manipulation and the specific dynamics of strategic ambiguity, deception, and surprise; and a comprehensive assessment of strategic manipulation costs and benefits. This chapter completes the picture of why both intelligence analysts and private citizens are currently experiencing global data shock, overwhelmed with data that they cannot properly interpret and cannot find appropriate ways to manage.

3 Global Data Shock Case Studies
chapter abstract

This chapter presents ten global case studies highlighting distinctive security challenges for coping with global data shock, for both initiators using offensive manipulation and targets defending against manipulation under information overload. The cases are organized by theme—whether the primary form of manipulation exhibited by initiators is strategic ambiguity, manipulation, or surprise. Highlighting strategic ambiguity are the 2017 foreign security policy style of American president Donald Trump, the 2016 Brexit vote to leave the European Union, and the 2002-2003 nondiscovery of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Highlighting strategic deception are the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea, the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, and the 2008 Russian invasion of Georgia. Highlighting strategic surprise are the 2007 Israeli destruction of the Syrian al-Kibar nuclear plant, the 2005 Andijan massacre in Uzbekistan, the 2001 al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on the United States, and the 1990 Iraqi attack on Kuwait.

4 Emerging Case Patterns
chapter abstract

This chapter reviews the patterns emerging from the ten global case studies about initiator manipulation facilitation under information overload and target manipulation vulnerability under information overload, including patterns specific to strategic ambiguity, deception, and surprise and patterns specific to manipulation initiators and manipulation targets. Then it summarizes the trend in post-manipulation tensions, eroding trust and predictability among longtime allies. Next, it provides a detailed analysis of under what circumstances (1) information overload most promotes strategic manipulation; (2) initiators' offensive manipulation and targets' defensive response are most effective; (3) strategic manipulation is most legitimate; and (4) strategic manipulation is most dangerous. Finally, the chapter highlights notable general case lessons informing global data shock management, and it explains the countermanipulation conundrum that makes such management so challenging.

5 Managing Global Data Shock
chapter abstract

This chapter suggests ways to help to manage information overload and to assist both initiators and targets to manage strategic ambiguity, deception, and surprise. Creative thinking is vital to cope with foreign data interpretation and strategic manipulation, including combining fluid, innovative, and responsive measures, avoiding "stick-in-the-mud" repetitive use; discovering or creating new information and communication channels; and engaging in more systematic advanced contingency planning. The first step is to avoid the many forms of global data shock mismanagement, which are chronicled in detail regarding information overload, initiator offensive manipulation, and target defensive responses. Then the chapter provides a probing comparative prioritization of general management strategies, showing decisive advantages for some approaches over others. Next it provides specific policy recommendations for improving offensive manipulation and defensive responses under information overload, followed by specific advice for specifically addressing strategic ambiguity, manipulation, and surprise.

chapter abstract

This conclusion wraps up the book by identifying how global data shock stymies the universal search for meaning; how the rise of informal influence in international relations connects to the growth of strategic manipulation; how ethical concerns arise from the international use of strategic manipulation; how a paradox surrounds the desirability of information transparency on a global scale; how ominous dangers surround future global data shock trends; and how better human-computer, state-to-state, and citizen-government collaboration is needed to cope with global data shock. The emphasis is on taking responsibility to address this seemingly intractable problem rather than avoiding confronting it or fatalistically accepting it.