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International Relations in the Cyber Age: The Co-Evolution Dilemma

Professor Nazli Choucri, MIT, Board Member of the Boston Global Forum and Michael Dukakis Institute for Leadership and Innovation, also a very active member of AIWS Standards and Practice Committee, has launched a new book:” International Relations in the Cyber Age “.

“The international system of sovereign states has evolved slowly since the seventeenth century, but the transnational global cyber system has grown rapidly in just a few decades. Two respected scholars – a computer scientist and a political scientist-have joined their complementary talents in a bold and important exploration of this crucial co-evolution.”

– Joseph S. Nye, Harvard Kennedy School and author of The Future of Power

“Many have observed that the explosive growth of the Internet and digital technology have reshaped longstanding global structures of governance and cooperation. International Relations in the Cyber Age astutely recasts that unilateral narrative into one of co-evolution, exploring the mutually transformational relationship between international relations and cyberspace.”

– Jonathan Zittrain, George Bemis Professor of International Law and Professor of Computer Science, Harvard University

“Cyber architecture is now a proxy for political power. A leading political scientist and pioneering Internet designer masterfully explain how ‘high politics’ intertwine with Internet control points that lack any natural correspondence to the State. This book is a wake-up call about the collision and now indistinguishability between two worlds.”

– Laura Denardis, Professor. American University and author, The Global War for Internet Governance

“This book uniquely combines the perspectives of an Internet pioneer (Clark) and a leading political scientist with expertise in cybersecurity (Choucri) to produce a very rich account of how cyberspace impacts international relations, and vice versa. It is a valuable contribution to our understanding of Internet governance.”

– Jack Goldsmith, Henry Shattuck Professor, Harvard Law School


About this book

A foundational analysis of the co-evolution of the internet and international relations, examining resultant challenges for individuals, organizations, firms, and states.

In our increasingly digital world, data flows define the international landscape as much as the flow of materials and people. How is cyberspace shaping international relations, and how are international relations shaping cyberspace? In this book, Nazli Choucri and David D. Clark offer a foundational analysis of the co-evolution of cyberspace (with the internet as its core) and international relations, examining resultant challenges for individuals, organizations, and states.

The authors examine the pervasiveness of power and politics in the digital realm, finding that the internet is evolving much faster than the tools for regulating it. This creates a “co-evolution dilemma”—a new reality in which digital interactions have enabled weaker actors to influence or threaten stronger actors, including the traditional state powers. Choucri and Clark develop new methods of analysis. For example, one method is about control in the internet age, “control point analysis,” and apply it to a variety of situations, including major actors in the international and digital realms: the United States, China, and Google.  Another is about network analysis of international law for cyber operations. A third method is to measure the propensity of states to expand their influence in the “real” world compared to expansion in the cyber domain. In so doing so they lay the groundwork for a new international relations theory that reflects the reality in which we live—one in which the international and digital realms are inextricably linked and evolving together.


Nazli Choucri

Nazli Choucri is Professor of Political Science at MIT, Faculty Affiliate at the MIT institute for Data Science and Society, Director of the Global System for Sustainable Development (GSSD), and the author of Cyberpolitics in International Relations (MIT Press).

David D. Clark

David D. Clark is a Senior Research Scientist at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab and a leader in the design of the Internet since the 1970s.