4. STATE PROFILES – “REAL” & CYBER

All of this creates an overarching and inescapable challenge for the state, the state system, and international relations. The challenge is how to manage the entire security complex given the emergence of unprecedented forms of threat to security (cyber threats) that signal new vulnerabilities (undermining cybersecurity) and – most vexing of all – emanating from unknown sources (a feature which we refer to as the attribution problem). All of this inevitably reinforces the politicization of cyberspace and its salience in emergent policy discourses.

It may well be that changes in one domain -- cyberspace or the international system -- induce changes in the other.  It is unlikely that any change can be attributed entirely to system-specific or endogenous factors. It goes without saying that differences in speed are foundational in any consideration of co-evolution.  This is taken for granted, yet to be developed are methods for measuring the incorporating such differences. We do not anticipate, nor hypothesize mirror-image dynamics across physical and cyber domains, nor can we even consider the possibility of identical adjustments over time. But we posit that temporal differences go a long way in shaping the nature of co-evolution – the leads and lags, the feedback, and other critical systemic features.

The complexities at hand are exacerbated by differences in rates of change: cyberspace is evolving much faster than are the tools the state to regulate it. They both change, but at different rates. Also important is the “nature” of the evolutionary drivers, that is, whether they are endogenous, that is generated by the R&D system or exogenous to the R&D system and even the domain at hand.

4.1 Challenges

This leads us to two questions: first, do state profiles in the cyber domain mirror those in the traditional or “real” world?  Are the observed patterns of change in a state’s location in the “real” profile “space” similar to those in the cyber domain? These questions are now at the core of lateral pressure theory.  This means that cyber-metrics must be developed and, to the extent possible, carry the same “meaning” as in the traditional domain. Once resolved, we can raise the same questions with respect to indices of lateral pressure. Given the recent construction of the cyber domain and the absence of compelling precedents, the matter of metrics will remain with us for some time to come.

The “new normal” in world politics in the cyber age involves the state system, to be sure, as well as wide range of non-state entities – known and unknown – all of whom operate in a highly dynamic and volatile international context.  It is a context that limits the efficacy of traditional notions of deterrence – the concept and the practice. Tradition assumes knowledge of the identity of the adversary. This is seldom the case in at this point.  In short, the “new normal” is hardly consistent with the standard textbook of international politics anchored in a state system that has a monopoly over the use of force, where force is defined in kinetic terms.

This new domain of interaction is a source of vulnerability, a potential threat to national security, and a disturber of the familiar international order. It goes without saying that all of this forces us to re-assess the conventional perspectives on security, as threats to cyber security become more and more salient. But this is only one side of the proverbial coin when seen in an international perspective. The other side of the equally proverbial coin is about cooperation and the challenges associated with international governance, especially governance of cyberspace.

4.2 Matters of Method

In lateral pressure theory, the master variables constitute the basis for identifying the state profile and to calculate a state’s profile type. At each point in time, a state is characterized by one set of “master variables” that define the empirical parameters of the polity and provide the basis for policy agenda as well (Choucri and North: 1987, 205-208)1. Normalization of the selected indicator ensures that the master variables are (1) of same order of magnitude, and (2) independent of their units of measure. This step ensures that lateral pressure profiles of different states are comparable and meaningful. The normalization technique used is the fractional share of a state s in the global aggregate value (“world” total) of the indicator in year t.

Thus we define the master variables as follows:

Starting with the “Real” Lateral Pressure methodology  in the original text by North and Choucri (1975)2 and Choucri, North and Yamakage (1992)3, here we present two alternate methodologies to capture the concept of lateral pressure, namely:

  • Energy-specific Lateral Pressure methodology as an extension of the basic Lateral Pressure methodology.
  • Sustainable Lateral Pressure methodology that focuses on the propensity of a state to expand its activities in a sustainable manner.
  • Cyber lateral pressure, focusing on propensity for expansion in the cyber arena

The following two sources are used in order to standardise the data:

  • World Development Indicators (The World Bank, 2016)4, and
  • World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators database (International Telecommunications Union, 2015)5.

All price data used for calculating master variables are in constant US dollar. Normalization of the selected indicator ensures that the master variables are (1) of same order of magnitude, and (2) independent of their units of measure. This step ensures that lateral pressure profiles of different states are comparable and meaningful. 

4.3 Do states retain their "real" profile type when interacting in the cyber domain?

Table below shows the states that retain their profile; these are states with similar real and cyber profile types.Unfortunately, cyber data are missing for a number of small states as footnoted in the table.

States with similar “Real” (2015) and “Cyber” (2013) state profiles.

The next Table shows the states with different real versus cyber profiles.

States with different “real” (2015) and “cyber” (2013) state profiles.


  1. Choucri, N., & North, R. C. (1987). Roots of War: The Master Variables. In Väyrynen, R., Senghaas, D., & Schmidt, C. (1987). The Quest for peace: Transcending collective violence and war among societies, cultures, and states. Paris: International Social Science Council.
  2. Choucri, N., & North, R. C. (1975). Nations in conflict: National growth and international violence. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman.
  3. Choucri, N., North, R. C., & Yamakage, S. (1992). The challenge of Japan before World War II and after: A study of national growth and expansion. London: Routledge.
  4. World Bank. (2016). World Development Indicators: 2016. (World Bank e-Library.) Washington: World Bank Publications.
  5. International Telecommunication Union. (2015). World telecommunication/ICT indicators database. Geneva, Switzerland: International Telecommunication Union.