The Promises and Perils of Speed | Web version

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May 4, 2018

National Security

The Promises and Perils of Speed

Abstract map of earth with futuristic, technological details, image by monsitj/Getty Images; logo by Pete Soriano/RAND Corporation

Across the world, there is a profound sense that life is speeding up, and the faster life gets, the more we have to adjust our norms to keep pace. This ramped-up pace and how we react to it have the potential to fundamentally rework how we interact, think, and create.

This RAND Perspective suggests that technological developments and social dynamics are working in tandem to accelerate the pace of society, which can usher in unprecedented security concerns. Despite the potential for increased speed as 2040 nears, this research asserts that this phase of acceleration is neither uniform nor deterministic. Without knowing the future, it is still possible to have the foresight to prepare for security in the age of increasing speed and find value in having collaborative discussions about the role of speed as a catalyst within future global risk and security.

This research developed four points to consider that can help develop a framework for discussions on a faster future.

  1. Speed can create security concerns at an unprecedented rate. Faster technologies can improve many aspects of life and enhance security, such as faster distribution of resources following a natural disaster. On the other hand, technologies of speed are turning the concept of dual-use into multi-use, in turn connecting more people – including our adversaries and non-state actors – to each other and to powerful tools. Given the speed with which such troublesome technologies are rolled out, policymakers must brace themselves for the ethical and security dilemmas looming around them.
  2. Modulating speed requires multidimensional, agile systems thinking. The differing values and impacts of speed present a recognizable problem for policymakers: How do they justly govern across different sociocultural, geographic, and structural goals and objectives? Where do norms of technology (and its harms) differ, and how much risk are certain nations and actors willing to take on to experiment or implement more speed? A consensus among policymakers and leaders is needed to establish the boundaries of safe uses of technologies of speed.
  3. Design a future to solve problems, not simply to create more speed. Understanding local needs and desires, and then designing technology to meet those needs, could help solve the concerns of many Americans. Innovators should be in constant dialogue with policymakers and the public to avoid pitfalls and missed opportunities, and to ensure equitable access and diffusion of costs of new technologies.
  4. Democratic systems need to remain alert and resilient. Speed enables novel ways for actors within a network society to disrupt the functioning of democracies. Speed also compresses the reaction time available for leaders to respond to potential threats. Policymakers and the public alike must accept that our current systems of governance could face serious deficiencies if the notion of speed is not embedded within planning and decision-making going forward.

This Perspective is the second in a series of RAND’s Security 2040 initiative, a self-funded project that explores future threats and opportunities that policymakers and others might encounter in coming decades.

Read the full Perspective»

Read the digtial article »

For questions or to discuss this work, please contact Kurt Card.

RAND Congressional Resources Staff

Jayme Fuglesten
Director, Office of Congressional Relations

Kurt Card
Legislative Analyst

RAND Office of Congressional Relations
(703) 413-1100, ext. 5643


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