Microsoft Keynote at CES 2021 Reminds Us of the Lesson “War Games” Taught Us About Cyber Security and the Need for Global Collaboration

Many people today try to characterize technology as an evil force. They think that between big data, AI, and robotics, that we are becoming slaves to the matrix. The fear of technology is not new. People often fear that which they do not understand and many also fear change.

However, technology is neither good nor evil. Technology is a tool and like all tools, it’s up to the users to determine if they will use it for good or evil purposes. For example, big data can be used to manipulate and exploit consumers or it can be used to increase efficiency and reduce waste by manufacturers. It is in its application that we can either do harm or better our world.

And taking ownership of how are use technology. We have to take steps to ensure that we remain in control of the key decisions that are made. At this year‘s CES, Microsoft CEO talked at length about how important it was to make sure that corporations are fully engaged and that they are responsible stewards of their technology infrastructure.

War Games Taught us the importance of maintaining control over what we create.

When former President Ronald Reagan saw the movie, War Games, a movie in which the US is almost brought into a nuclear war because of a hacker, it freaked him out.

Former President, Ronald Reagan (Photo by Mark Reinstein / Shutterstock)
High school student David Lightman (Matthew Broderick) unwittingly hacks into a military supercomputer while searching for new video games. After starting a game of Global Thermonuclear War, Lightman leads the supercomputer to activate the nation’s nuclear arsenal in response to his simulated threat as the Soviet Union. Once the clueless hacker comes to his senses, Lightman, with help from his girlfriend (Ally Sheedy), must find a way to alert the authorities to stop the onset of World War III.

As described by Fred Kaplan described in his book Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber War:

The magnitude of the event that it portrayed was such that no one knew what to say. And finally, Mrs. Reagan said, “Well, could that really happen?” This was at the height of the time that President Reagan was working hard with Mikhail Gorbachev to reduce nuclear weapons, which he thought threatened the very existence of mankind. The following Wednesday, there was a big meeting to discuss a new nuclear missile and some arms talks with the Russians. And in the middle, Ronald Reagan puts down his index cards and he says, “Has anyone seen this movie War Games?” – Fred Kaplan (12:05):

And then he turns to General John Vessey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and says, “General, could something like this really happen? Could just anybody hack into our most secure computer?” And he says, “Mr. President, the problem is much worse than you think.” This led to the first national security decision directive on computer security. – Fred Kaplan (12:39):

We have to think as well about the new guard rails that we need to create so that humanity remains in control of our technology.

Brad Smith, President of Microsoft

What we absolutely need is global cooperation to be secure.

How do ensure technology is used wisely?

“If we come together and do work well, it can be a road that leads to a brighter future,” he said. “We will decide whether technology is used for good or for ill. That is our opportunity. That is our challenge. More than that, that is our responsibility to ensure that the technology we create serves the world.”

Find Out More About What Microsoft is doing:

How can technology best meet the needs of people and organizations today? Microsoft President Brad Smith will examine the dual use of technology, which can be both an extraordinary tool that powers economies and communities and a formidable weapon that can undermine democracy and fundamental human rights. Join Smith as he takes you on a journey examining the role of technology in security, privacy, and sustainability, the greater responsibility that tech companies and governments must bear, and how technology can help the world respond, rebuild and reimagine our collective future.