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Preliminary Report

In our Preliminary Report, our group addressed cybersecurity and some growing trends. We mentioned concerns with consumer data privacy and its related legislation, cyber warfare, and national security. We felt this was a concrete start to the project. While we hold that true, we also recognized a need to make changes. During our conference with Professor Shannon, he noted that while the Report met expectations, we needed to expand further. Our work revolved more around the current state of the trends rather than their respective futures. While reflecting on our work, we also saw that we could improve the organization and the breadth of our project’s content.

Our group addressed the feedback by making some revisions and expansions. First, we restructured our project’s outline. We rearranged cybercrime, cyber warfare, and consumer data privacy under the umbrella of cybersecurity, recognizing that each topic was a part of an overarching cybersecurity ecosystem. Additionally, we added two further areas of research: antitrust and political radicalization. Expanding our range of topics will allow us to spot interconnected, larger trends across multiple areas of development and provide variety within our project. Having a clearer idea of how we would execute our project, we began to dive deeper into each topic.

We made several developments in our work in cybersecurity. Cybersecurity as a whole is a growing industry. As we, the public, become increasingly dependent on the internet, the dangers of cyberattacks become both more likely and more devastating. We have started to see more attacks on a larger range of targets. The academic and healthcare sectors have been targeted more than the financial sector this year. Another growing target is supply chains. IBM notes that in recent years, it has become the most attacked industry. We expect these trends to continue well into the future. More concerning, however, are the implications of AI and cyberattacks. While most attacks have been carried out by individuals who write and execute code, increasing developments in AI may provide a newer, cheaper, and stronger way to engage targets. AI could be programmed to learn how to hack, finding the most efficient ways to infiltrate secure sets of data. AI requires little guidance or oversight, allowing individuals to just execute a program and let the machine do the legwork. An executive at the Future Laboratory predicts that by 2040, AI will carry out more cyberattacks than people will. The White House has begun to act on cybersecurity concerns in government, aiming to improve cybersecurity around critical infrastructure and strengthening cybersecurity requirements. The use of cyberwarfare has expanded significantly over time, as the journal National Security and the Future notes a “great expansion of the fifth combat space (cyberspace), which knows no borders, fences, social or cultural barriers.”

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Political radicalization has become an increasingly alarming trend. As of August, more than 40% of Americans think civil war could occur within a decade. Continued denial of the 2020 election and the attempted insurrection on January 6th provide key evidence that the worst is yet to come. The January 6th Committee continues to investigate the attack on the Capitol, now calling on President Trump to testify. In addition to the committee’s investigations, investigations by prosecutors in Georgia and New York have started gaining traction. President Trump has already proved to be a polarizing figure with a great influence on the American population. As conflicts continue, we anticipate an increase in controversy leading to judicial and constitutional instability, protests, and political violence, especially as we near election season. Leading up to the 2018 midterm, 16 mail bombs were sent to figures within the Democratic Party, alongside a shocking increase in politically- and racially-motivated shootings. We continue to investigate the implications domestically and abroad.

We are yet to make deep progress within antitrust but have picked up on key areas to investigate. The implications of monopolies and a lack of antitrust enforcement regarding net and cloud neutrality, big tech, healthcare, and retail have provided us with many opportunities to expand our research. We look forward to providing more information on the topic and expanding on the others in our next interim report.