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In this Perspective, the authors urge strategists to consider a new concept for adapting U.S. grand strategy to the information age—noopolitik, which favors the use of "soft power"—as a successor to realpolitik, with its emphasis on "hard power." The authors illuminate how U.S. adversaries are already deploying dark forms of noopolitik—e.g., weaponized narratives, strategic deception, epistemic attacks. The authors propose new ways to fight back and discuss how the future of noopolitik might depend on what happens to the global commons—i.e., the parts of the Earth and space that fall outside national jurisdictions and to which all nations are supposed to have access.

The authors expand on many of the ideas they first proposed in a 1999 RAND Corporation report titled The Emergence of Noopolitik: Toward an American Information Strategy, in which they describe the emergence of a new globe-circling realm: the noosphere. The authors explain that Earth first developed a geosphere, a geological mantle, and then a biosphere, consisting of plant and animal life. Third to develop will be the noosphere, a global "thinking circuit" and "realm of the mind"—a collective form of intelligence enabled by the digital information revolution. As the noosphere expands, it will profoundly affect statecraft; the conditions favoring traditional realpolitik strategies will erode, and the prospects for noopolitik strategies will grow. Thus, the decisive factor in today's and tomorrow's wars of ideas is bound to be "whose story wins"—the essence of noopolitik. To improve prospects for the noosphere and noopolitik, U.S. policy and strategy should, among other initiatives, treat the global commons as a pivotal issue area, uphold "guarded openness" as a guiding principle, and institute a requirement for periodic reviews of America's "information posture."

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Looking Back, Looking Ahead: America's Conceptual Arsenal

  • Chapter Two

    Origins and Attributes of the Noosphere Concept

  • Chapter Three

    Propagation of the Noosphere Concept in Recent Decades

  • Chapter Four

    From Rethinking the Noosphere to Rethinking Noopolitik

  • Chapter Five

    Contrasting Paradigms: Evolving from Realpolitik to Noopolitik

  • Chapter Six

    A Pessimistic Appraisal of Today's Turmoil for the Noosphere and Noopolitik

  • Chapter Seven

    Hope for the Noosphere and Noopolitik: The Global Commons

  • Chapter Eight

    Getting Back on Track Through Noopolitik

Funding for this research was provided by gifts from RAND supporters and income from operations. The research was conducted within the International Security and Defense Policy Center of the RAND National Security Research Division.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation perspective series. RAND perspectives present informed perspective on a timely topic that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND perspectives undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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