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The Five Futures of Cyber Conflict

In this article, Jason Healey, the head of the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative, projects five scenarios that could define the world’s cyber future. Based on the assumption that the cyber world is dynamic, he projects that the future could exist in one of five states: ‘Status Quo,’ ‘Conflict Domain,’ ‘Balkanization,’ ‘Paradise,’ or ‘Cybergeddon.’ These five futures are differentiated by the choices of governments and private entities in response to cyber conflict and how those choices change cyberspace itself. For example, in response to cyber conflict, states could use attempt to partition cyberspace so that the boundaries of cyberspace correspond with national boundaries. Healey calls this future, ‘Balkanization.’ Similarly, Healey argues that the most likely cyber future is ‘Conflict Domain’ in which cyberspace becomes a militarized domain, much like the air, land, sea, and space of conventional warfare. Finally, Healey argues that the most desirable, but unlikely, future is ‘Paradise’ in which technological advancement facilitates the establishment of a defensive bias, thus reducing the number of conflicts. The crux of this paper is that states must define which world they are working towards and craft policy responses to cyber conflict with that future in mind. Keywords: cyber conflict, cyber grand strategy, cyber policy,
Jason Healey
Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative
Industry Focus: 
Information & Telecommunication
Internet & Cyberspace
United States