The Emerging Risk of Virtual Societal Warfare: Social Manipulation in a Changing Information Environment

The Emerging Risk of Virtual Societal Warfare: Social Manipulation in a Changing Information Environment. RAND Corporation.  Michael J. Mazarr et al. October 9, 2019.

The evolution of advanced information environments is rapidly creating a new category of possible cyberaggression that involves efforts to manipulate or disrupt the information foundations of the effective functioning of economic and social systems. RAND researchers are calling this growing threat virtual societal warfare in an analysis of its characteristics and implications for the future.

To understand the risk of virtual societal warfare, the authors surveyed evidence in a range of categories to sketch out some initial contours of how these techniques might evolve in the future. They grounded the assessment in (1) detailed research on trends in the changing character of the information environment in the United States and other advanced democracies; (2) the insights of social science research on attitudes and beliefs; and (3) developments in relevant emerging technologies that bear on the practices of hostile social manipulation and its more elaborate and dangerous cousin, virtual societal warfare. The authors then provide three scenarios for how social manipulation could affect advanced societies over the next decade. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 215 pages].

Ethics in Scientific Research: An Examination of Ethical Principles and Emerging Topics

Ethics in Scientific Research: An Examination of Ethical Principles and Emerging Topics. RAND Corporation. Cortney Weinbaum et al. June 5, 2019.

Scientific research ethics vary by discipline and by country, and this analysis sought to understand those variations. The goal of this project was to provide researchers, government officials, and others who create, modify, and enforce ethics in scientific research around the world with an understanding of how ethics are created, monitored, and enforced across scientific disciplines and across international borders. The authors reviewed literature from across scientific disciplines and conducted interviews with experts in the United States, Europe, and China. The research had two motivations: (1) to inform researchers and sponsors who engage in research in emerging scientific disciplines and who may face new ethical challenges, and (2) to inform research sponsors — including government officials — who wish to encourage ethical research without unintentionally encouraging researchers to pursue their research in other jurisdictions.

This analysis led to an understanding of which ethics are common across disciplines, how these ethics might vary geographically, and how emerging topics are shaping future ethics. The authors focused on the ethics of scientific research and how the research is conducted, rather than on how the research is applied. This distinction excluded from this research an analysis of so-called “dual-use” applications for military purposes. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 118 pages].