Aerial Photo of the Yard

Roundtable Topics and Paragraphs

Roundtable 1: Governmental Information Security

Moderator: MIDN 2/C Annie-Norah Beveridge

In this roundtable we will explore the shifting global paradigm which places an emphasis on the rapid transmission of information through free flowing networks of communication.  We are living in an age of widespread availability when it comes to previously censored material.  It is not uncommon for sensitive information to exceed its boundaries, as was the case this summer when Edward Snowden released a slew of classified intelligence.  Now, more than ever, governments around the world must contend with the ethical implications of clandestine operations and covert missions.  At times, they must weigh the safety of their people against the transparency of their administration.  This roundtable will require delegates to think critically about the actions governments have taken in the interests of national security.  Students will have the opportunity to delve into the topic of governmental information security, and they are encouraged to share perspectives from different countries regarding the individual and its relation to the state, the role of intelligence agencies, military reconnaissance, corporate surveillance, and the media in shaping a security landscape during the Information Age.

Roundtable 2: Digital Currencies for a Digital Age

Moderator: MIDN 1/C Jared Bramble

Brought into the spotlight by tantalizing stories of digital black market busts, wild fluctuations in value, and the promise of radically changing the way we conduct business, digital crypto currencies as a whole have seized our imaginations and curiosity. Behind these sensational headlines, the real stories and topics of discussion are driven by the fundamentals of the Bitcoin, and other crypto currencies like it. Unregulated and anonymous, governments are unable to control the supply, value, and exchange of these digital currencies. While the fundamental attributes of may seem like negatives to any government, the reality is the crypto currencies are cheap to both adopt and exchange. This could lead to developing nations utilizing a currency such as the Bitcoin, in lieu of more traditional options, thus changing the way monetary policy is conducted.  At the other end of the spectrum, the anonymity of these currencies has the potential to enable criminal and terrorist organizations by providing new avenues for funding and financing.  This roundtable will discuss how crypto-currencies can enhance and detract from human security as well as develop a group consensus on the role of digital currencies in the Information Age.

Roundtable 3: Connecting Africa

Moderator: MIDN 2/C Drew Calcagno

Africa is experiencing a paradigm shift from interest in industrialization towards an interest in information technology. Rather than robust infrastructure, many developing nations may have internet access before they have clean running water. We are seeing a common theme: the jump over traditional infrastructure and into technologically catalyzed development. Google’s Project Loon is working on just that: providing 3G-speed internet “for all” via stratospheric balloons flying over previously untapped markets. What are worthwhile projects that may catalyze African – and other developing regions’ – economic growth and stability? Are there long-term development concerns with this skip over job-producing industrialization and towards technologically-based consumerism?

Roundtable 4: Tyrants on Twitter: Building State Legitimacy through the Internet

Moderator: MIDN 1/C David Calderon-Guthe

Authoritarian and totalitarian states are well-known for their use of internet censorship to crack down and suppress dissent, but how do these same states use the internet to build, maintain and reinforce their legitimacy?  In the PRC, bloggers work hand-in-hand with anti-corruption officials to root out corrupt officials.  At the same time, the government uses the media, both traditional and new forms, to fan nationalist flames and maintain popular support. Similarly, cyberspace has become battleground in Syria as pro-government hackers attack opponents to the regime.  The use of the internet and social media has become a huge boon for democracies, but what about authoritarian regimes?  How do they use the internet for propaganda, both official and unofficial?  How do traditional means of control, like censorship and suppression combine with these new tools?  How effective is this method of building popular support in authoritarian regimes?  How do outside groups or internal dissidents attempt to sabotage or manipulate these tools?

Roundtable 5: A Giant Leap for Foreign Policy: Space as an International Domain

Moderator: MIDN 2/C Kyle Cregge

How does the human history of exploration provide a model for the future of spaceflight? Sputnik’s 1957 exodus from the Earth ushered in an era dominated by the United States and Soviet Union voyaging into the cosmos for three decades. In the following three decades there has been a meteoric rise of programs organized by international coalitions, individual governments, and private industry. These numerous participants’ entrance to the solar system has far-reaching implications for economic systems, political associations, military applications and more. There are five international treaties that regulate actions in space and five legal principles which the United Nations General Assembly has adopted for the support of the treaties’ execution. Yet as technological advances allow for resources to be extracted, tourism to boom, and flags to be planted, how will nations and private industry deal with increasingly interconnected and imperialistic possibilities? How can the world avoid an international arms race and the proliferation of WMD’s into outer space? And who is responsible for securing human safety in the final frontier?

Roundtable 6: “Live!  From the Front Line to your Front Door: Foreign Policy and Civil-Military Relations in the Information Age

Moderator: MIDN 2/C Lauren Hickey

The physical battlefield, once separated from civilians and political leaders by thousands of miles, is now accessible instantaneously through real time video transmitted via satellites (coined as the “CNN effect”). Since its expansion in conflicts in the early 1990s, technology brought the battlefield and humanitarian efforts closer to the global public than ever imagined.  While there are many benefits to enhanced oversight via cheap and effective technology, it also poses great strains on civilian-military relations and the conduct of foreign policy. Fear of micromanagement from political and civilian officials is a major concern many military commanders hold about the role of technology in the battlefield. Additionally, military campaigns and humanitarian efforts are broadcasted throughout the world, placing the actions of the United States military and other global armed forces in a global spotlight. Does the military have the authority to limit monitoring technology accessible to civilian and military leaders?  How will civil-military relations evolve as technology continues to bring civil and military institutions closer than ever? How will foreign policy evolve as technology places the actions and conduct of the military and humanitarian efforts in a global spotlight? How have social media and the internet contributed to the “CNN effect” on a more personal level?

Roundtable 7: Unveiling the Truth: Arab Personalities in the Information Age

Moderator: MIDN 2/C Andrea Howard

On the streets in the Middle East-North Africa (MENA) region, men clad in dishdasha and women masked in niqab preserve traditional Arab imagery, but hidden beneath this clothing, cellular technology acts as a gateway for MENA inhabitants to share their progressive, masked personalities. Young men and women—forbidden to interact in public—communicate via WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter and encounter disparate Western cultures. While these actions may seem harmless, the Arab Spring underscored the potency of the Information Age in MENA. One week before Hosni Mubarak’s resignation, the number of tweets discussing politics in Egypt skyrocketed from 2,300 a day to 230,000, and consistently through the first months of protest, neighboring countries published an average of 4,600 tweets per day about Egyptian and Tunisian politics. This roundtable will discuss the power of the Information Age in MENA in a three-part chronological structure: (1) the history of information technology’s assimilation into the identity of the individual Arab; (2) the changing relationship between the individual and state in complex social networks during the Arab Spring; and (3) the future impact of information technology on a state’s economic, political, and human security in the oil-dependent region.

Roundtable 8: Cyber Attack Prevention and Response at an International Scale

Moderator: MIDN 3/C John Mellgard

The Information Age has given states, non-state actors, and even individuals access to increasingly sophisticated cyber weapons which easily strike across international borders. While states have publicly condemned any sort of hacking, recent events prove that many hack each other covertly. To complicate things further, amidst daily reports of cyber attacks carried out with impunity, some corporations have begun privately “hacking back” at their attackers. What international policies could deter and facilitate protection against cyber attacks? Under what conditions, if any, should private actors and states be allowed to launch retaliatory cyber attacks? Is it possible for states to cooperate to arrest and punish foreign cyber criminals? And how can private, judiciary, and military responsibilities in the cyber domain be balanced?

Roundtable 9: Theft, Espionage, and Finger Pointing: Could US-China Cyber Issues Lead to International Regulations in the Cyber Domain?

Moderator: MIDN 1/C Nick Moilanen

Under an umbrella one rainy afternoon, Chris Inglis, Former Deputy Director of the NSA, mentioned to me that America is “leaning towards China, and they are leaning back.”  He was specifically talking about the cyber issue, a recent friction point in US-China bilateral relations. This left me with some questions: to what extent are both parties leaning, and could this leaning result in a tangible policy change?  Hearing words like “cyber war,” “cyber-Pearl Harbor,” and “cyber-terrorism” in my research left me wondering how America could combat the Chinese. However, once listening to Mr. Inglis my focus has changed. Now I’m wondering to what extent both sides would compromise on the cyber issue. This roundtable, after careful study of the history of US-China cyber relations, will cover a multitude of topics, including: the legality of commercial IP theft and state-on-state espionage, the probability of bilateral cyber regulations between America and China and its affect globally, as well as the methods of regulation.  To quote my roommate, “It’s not about cyber war, it’s about cyber cooperation.”

Roundtable 10: The Fading Line: What Separates Man from Machine?

Moderator: MIDN 3/C Marc Prather

The advent of new technology has propelled the world into a transformative age of robotic machines and artificial intelligence. These new systems now threaten the four thousand year-old human monopoly over many facets of our everyday life. Whether redefining educational models, promoting robotic warfare, or expanding the gathering of national intelligence, technology appears to be exceeding our humanity. It is important now, more than ever, to question the role of this emerging technology and ask ourselves what separates man from machine. Can the human person ever be completely replaced by a machine? How does this affect the concept of citizenship? In today’s world, the importance of the individual person is declining at an exponential rate in major sectors such as retail, education, manufacturing and warfare. How will governments manage large groups whose livelihoods may become obsolete? Consider the potential challenges presented by instability in populations, such as the large percentages of unemployed and unmarried young males in places like China, Europe or the Middle East. Will governments restrict these technologies for the sake of jobs and stability or will they invest in advanced technology to remain competitive politically, economically and militarily? Will they fall behind if they don’t?

Roundtable 11: Following the Money Trail: Terrorist Financing in the Information Age

Moderator: MIDN 2/C Kisshan Sankar

On September 13, 2001 Hillary Clinton said, “Every nation has to either be with us, or against us. Those who harbor terrorists, or who finance them, are going to pay a price.” As the Information Age has evolved over the last decade, so have methods of terrorism, and the ways to finance them. This roundtable will discuss questions such as: How deep of an impact has the Information Age had on the pockets of terrorists around the world? And how can terrorists use computer-based operations in industries, to carry out their agendas? The recent development of Bitcoin Technology has eased the financing of transcontinental illegal activity. Such illegal acts have forced countries like Thailand and India to threaten to aggressively hound and potentially restrict Bitcoin access due to its appeal towards illegal money laundering, unregulated monetary transactions, and terrorist financing. Is such a stance counter-productive to developing economies?  And how far should governments and businesses go to prosecute terrorist financing and protect their economic interests, particularly if threats lie outside their borders?

Roundtable 12: Propaganda and Psychological Warfare through Social Media

Moderator: MIDN 3/C Ian Shaw

From California to Kabul, and Buenos Aires to Helsinki, social media connects our world. There are 1.11 billion people on Facebook, 645 million on Twitter, 150 million on Instagram, and each expands by the hundreds of thousands of users daily. Can social media be used for propaganda and psychological warfare?  Is the individual empowered by social media? The potential for influence by small capable groups was exemplified with the organizing of revolutionaries in the Libyan civil war or large scale attacks by hacker groups such as Anonymous. Will these forces further capitalize upon the massive user base of social media?  To what extent can this platform be used to disseminate information that pushes a hidden agenda? To what degree does this level the playing field for combatants that are conventionally out matched? Consider historical examples such as propaganda use by Nazi Germany or media coverage during the Vietnam War which mobilized a population for better or for worse. Will the power states of old adapt to mass social media? Or can the aforementioned effects be amplified and more effectively harnessed by small state powers or even non-state actors across social media platforms?  

Roundtable 13: Russia, Individuals, and the Cyber Realm

Moderator: MIDN 2/C William Trettin

In 2007 and 2008, Russian disagreements with Estonia and outright war in Georgia both solicited separate, sophisticated cyber-attacks on both Estonia and Georgia. However, in both scenarios the Russian state did not claim direct responsibility for the attacks. Instead, experts believe hackers—only loosely associated with the federal government—used botnets to conduct DDoS attacks.  These case studies both raise serious questions about the dynamic political and diplomatic effects of cyber warfare, several of which will be discussed in this roundtable. Focusing on the Russian example, this roundtable will ask questions about the freedoms of individuals to wage cyber-attacks, the nature of state-to-individual relations in cyber warfare, and the inter-state and diplomatic effects of these innovations.  Among many questions and issues, this roundtable will analyze the role of non-state-actors in cyber warfare—their liberties, restrictions, and capabilities.  Similarly, what role will the Russian government play in policing these actors, and how will nations be held accountable for attacks emanating from their territory? To what extent will cyber operations affect overall inter-state relations? Should the U.S. respond to a critical cyber-attack on a NATO ally or American infrastructure stemming from non-state-actors?  Finally, what role should international agencies play in controlling rogue citizens with considerable power in the cyber realm?

Roundtable 14: Human Trafficking and the Internet: Slavery in the Information Age

Moderator: MIDN 1/C Jen Underhill

The dawn of the Information Age has undoubtedly increased global interconnectivity in many ways. Millions of individuals from all over the world now share ideas, goods, and services on the internet on a daily basis. However, this international network has also created a new channel for the exploitation of men, women, and children through human trafficking. Traditionally, trafficking victims were physically kidnapped or coerced into prostitution or labor. Now, false job offers, social sites, and internet marketplaces have become the new norm in human trafficking. Websites such as Eros, Backpage, and Craigslist have entire databases devoted to “erotic services,” with no way of verifying the age or status of the individual in question. Has the advent of the Information Age, rather than bringing light to this atrocity, created an unsafe environment for potential trafficking victims? This table will explore how the internet is used as a tool to exploit victims of human trafficking by examining case studies, victim testimony, and international research. We will also address how groups such as the Polaris Project, Interpol, and other international entities are combating these electronic crimes.

Roundtable 15: Artificial Intelligence and Intelligence Augmentation

Moderator: MIDN 2/C Kyle Waldorf

Software intended to make decisions independent of humans has been developing for several decades.  Today, people around the world use Google without thinking about the complex algorithm that goes into its affinity matrix—and there are far more capable intelligence algorithms being developed.  When the United States learned that Russia had successfully launched a satellite into space, there sparked a technological race between these countries to ensure that neither held enormous advantage over the other.  When the world becomes aware of artificial intelligence programs, a similar technological “race” could occur on a global scale—with greater military implications.  Will we see armies around the world sending robots into battle and deciding life or death?  The dynamic of war and the balance of power projection may very well be re-written with the advent of such artificial intelligence.  And yet, there may be even greater implications than a shift in strategy towards war.  Perhaps more significant is the advancement of intelligence augmentation, which may one day become coupled with our own cerebral processes.  Imagine not having to read data from a screen but having an instantaneous neural upload of information and communication networks.  Will this disruptive change empower the individual or enable state control over the individual?  Will humans become safer or more vulnerable?  What are the implications of different levels of technological integration from state to state? 

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