Archive for February, 2010

I recently had an opportunity to talk with a colleague who asked about my aversion to routers-filters that create an automatic rather than personal “portcullis” to the Keep housing the information needed from a particular community or resource. The fortress defense of servers creates a way for the administrators to make it very difficult to set up the professional version of the increasingly popular open and accountable social communities of Web 2.0

I believe that the Internet creates a different paradigm for information than that information distribution system we currently know. In the book Avatars of the Word by James O’Donnell, the author makes the point that when printing was invented it destroyed the control the monks of the scriptorium had on knowledge. Now everyone could say anything and the Reformation, the Renaissance and the Enlightenment broke out giving us democracy and terrorism! He makes the point that the Internet is doing the same thing to the printed word in all its current form.

This means to me that Knowledge Management–centralizing all data–as well as Information Assurance–reviewing all content–is the same as the service provided by the monks that wasn’t done by Gutenberg! What had to happen is that the author not the publisher became responsible for their words and governments sprang up to make those right basic–as we did in the Bill of Rights Article One. But an unexpected outcomes was that all the people who wrote the new ideas and all the princes who now had limited power found that there was no over-arching control to keep their ideas and fortunes safe. This led to the Peace of Westphalia. This treaty said that one country/principality couldn’t fight another country/principality over religion but had to respect the sovereignty of that other country/principality’s right to self-determination. This is the basis of all nations in place today. However, terrorists (and in our own country–state’s rights folks who banded together to make the Confederacy) disagree with national sovereignty. So they attack other countries, not from another country (which be in violation of the Peace of Westphalia or entangle that country by its association with terrorism), but from an organizational framework. We’ve been pulled into the conflict by 9/ll even though we said we wouldn’t negotiate with terrorists. We’re not embroiled in dealing with Hezbollah, Taliban and Al Qaeda as if they were countries…

This comes to cyberspace when we don’t consider the author of content as sovereign but hold the ISP liable (for the network) or the server farm (for the storage). But the Internet was created to allow maximum freedom due to its founder’s belief that no one could know now who would be alive after a nuclear exchange. Because half of the people on the ARPANET were academics, they treasured authored and peer-reviewed content since it would be the best answer to the questions of the military on how to secure life after nuclear attack.

Today, we are beset by cyber agents–both bots and hackers–who wish to overthrow the Peace of Westphalia’s view of privacy and security in cyberspace. This is why cyberspace is a domain now of warfare rather than just a system of communication. If it is a “place” then it can have criminals and warriors. So does this verify our need for security against all visitor’s to our server?

If we protect our data in a fortress’ “keep”–our network’s server–we have at least two choices for its protection. Consider everyone a “bad” guy and create a “portcullis” in our wall that checks who can come in–slowing everyone down, making everyone angry who’s our friend and making our enemies more sneaky and tricky. But if we give everyone access to the information, like we do with currency or television, we can increase information and wealth transfer. With person-based tracking–like credit cards and cable television–we can record everyone’s transactions.

I would suggest that “information wants to be free” and that it is now as impossible to control it anymore than it has been possible for books to be banned successfully. We must instead make people accountable for their own actions and words rather than holding other’s responsible for their customer’s actions. The military can be more feudal for information due to national security issues but it gets most of its tactical information from open source and increasingly must operate in that open environment when it supports disaster response and humanitarian support…

So–if we’re to succeed in Irregular Warfare, interact with our citizens, “establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare and secure the Blessing of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity” as the Declaration of Independence promises we must remember the individual rather than the organization…or we will fall prey to tyranny.

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