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Leadership and Foreign Policy Decision-Making in the Next Innovation Wave

Abstract

The evolution of digital technologies rooted in the transformation of the world into a holistic quantifiable system brings about foundational shifts in how an individuals interact with information. Current technological progress is cyclical in nature: emerging capabilities create different environment with new threats that prompt further search for technological solutions to address them, and occurs \on two interwoven tracks: the increasing sophistication of the information system itself (better ways to collect, store and analyze data) and better means of human interaction with it (search engines, faster connection, more seamless interface with devices). Similar in scope to the spread of printed books, the digital transformation is still at its nascency: the “printing press” has been invented, but the humanity is yet to perfect it and experience the full array of social and political changes it is bound to incur. This article is an attempt to peek into such “digital future”. Taking stock of the observable trends it charts the course of major shifts in approaches to foreign policy and maps out possible impediments for effective leadership in the new era. The conceptualization of the transformations is picking up speed, yet main IR schools tackling dispersed aspects, such as the impact of digital technologies on the balance of power (realism), on the nature of government and international environment (liberalism) and on the interpretation of the emerging processes (constructivism), do not offer a comprehensive approach. At the same time despite the growing analyzability and, hence, rationality of the world the studies of the decision-making process still struggle to account for the “human nature” of state leadership. The futility of the attempts to measure irrationality underlines the core argument of the article – with the overall trend for deeper convergence between an information system and a human the emerging digital future will be determined by individuals, who will remain the ultimate stewards of international relations. As a result, the efficiency of leadership, including smart utilization of technological advances, will depend on the quality of “human capital” of elites. On the one hand, accessibility of information, faster data travel and the absence of physical boundaries in the digital space enhance analytical abilities of individuals and improve the quality of decisionmaking. On the other hand, the increasing effortlessness of retrieving, storing and disseminating information results in the shift of perspective: laborious process of developing a solution is substituted by search for the most acceptable alternative, solving a crisis is replaced with manipulating the perception of it, and the quality of decisions is judged not by long-term consequences but by immediate movements in opinion polls.

Keywords:

technology, innovation wave, theory of international relations, foreign policy, decision-making process, rationality in decision-making, leadership, post-truth, political symbols.


Authors: Maksim Suchkov, Olga Rebro, Andrey Sushentsov, Andrey Baykov

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