"Cyberspace is likely to be a key battleground for states in the 21st century but recruiting those with the technical skills to fight there and retaining their loyalty will be a tough task."
"If they go rogue in some way, that's most unfortunate," said Bassett. "You can't rule it out... The central factor in all of this... is the human factor... Part of managing them is that these are going to be slightly edgy people."
"Russia and China are already believed to have outsourced much of their cyber capability to semi-independent "patriotic hackers" encouraged to scour foreign computers for information and occasionally mount attacks such as those against Estonia in 2007 and Georgia in 2008."
"Given the nature of hackers, it's going to be like herding cats," said Bassett. "You might be able to give them some money or tools which they would find interesting and keep them pointing in a certain direction for a certain period of time. But whether that would then give them any residual loyalty is a very open question."
It is no secret that the world is becoming more uncertain and the power of individuals and nonstate actors is increasing. Some of these individuals will be hackers, and some of these hackers will be the unseen autocrats of a world where connectivity will be pervasive.
We don't always know who they are, and we definitely won't know who the next generation of proto-hackers will be. They will be teenagers, patriots, scientists, and philosophers. The one trait they will share is that - barring the small proportion of true sociopaths - they will be people.
I wrote this in February 2010: "We would do well in the US to consider how to manage the inevitable devolution of power in a stable and strategic way. Decline of nation power doesn't necessarily need to mean decline of the power of our values." There are myriad reasons for the United States to abide by its own values, many of them moral, but this is strategy. America has a cultural advantage that largely goes unrecognized or at least overly romanticized - our values, even when we betray them, are fundamentally about unlocking the potential and meaning of the individual life. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Whether you agree or disagree with this individualistic bent, it is attractive enough vis-à-vis other value sets to bring flocks of foreign graduate students to our shores. In a transparent world with widely distributed power, the power of pull will be - to an increasing degree - all that remains. How will we pull in the inventors, the students, the philanthropists, the activists, and yes, the hackers?