Cyber Insecurity: Endless Breaches

Context: New Data Breach Has Exposed Millions Of Fingerprint And Facial Recognition Records: Report

There is an enigma here, far beyond the rank foolishness of keeping vast quantities of such sensitive data in an unencrypted format (see the linked article), there is a deeper problem. The more valuable any data is, the more incentive there is for it to be accessed illegitimately and it is a matter of recursive significance that secure biometrics are themselves the subject of this particular breach. As a matter of logical necessity and technical inevitability, security is only ever contingent and must always be remediated, reformed, amended and upgraded.

Observe a psychological (as much as an administrative, hierarchical) investment in an aspiration to completeness and closure of projects, products and systems which more closely resembles a fantasy of control than it does any approximation to the actual and intransigent complexity and implicit openness and systemic extensibility of material, technical, mathematical and logical reality.

Rethinking security and data protection is a matter of holistic, systemic reform which will likely prove anathema to the business models and conventions of governance within which it is currently addressed. This issue is symptomatic of a much larger organisational problem but it is in security that this pain of intractable systemic entropy is most acutely experienced.


…and this logic of self-inflection and self-replication is more than just a symbol. At the foundations of logic, mathematics and physics we find the topological and enigmatic equivalent of this entity. It infuses all of life through the rich diversity of methods and strategies by which living matter self-replicates and organises itself by a mischievous tactical manouevre of logical self-containment.

This is the aperture of creative opportunity by and through which living systems grow and acquire or cultivate complexity and it is also, fundamentally, how we each live, love and learn as we, ourselves, and our material, technological and cultural artefacts are the transmission medium through which this paradoxically self-propagating logical shockwave, born some 13.8 billion years ago, continues to flow.

The logical necessity of recursively enigmatic self-propagation remains mysterious and somehow also essential for life and sentient experience.

Art by E. C. Escher

The Creativity of Cultural Erasure

The subtle or substantive subtext of this image (above), implicit and unspoken, is that of negation, deletion, erasure. What depths might dwell in acknowledgement of the fact that every creative act is simultaneously an addition and a subtraction, a multiplication and a division, an exponentiation and a recombinatory partition?

Every creative gesture, thought, action and symbolic or linguistic frame of reference is always, and indelibly so, both assembly and dissasembly. We recombine artefacts, concepts, words, referential or semantic systems and entities into new or information-laden (a.k.a. novel and new or unexpected and surprising) configurations and iterative, recursive reconstellations. This represents the hyper-inflation of thhe evolving metamorphosis of material culture and cognitive or conceptual vocabularies; this is the amplification and accumulative side of this equation.

On the other side of this is a necessary function of negation and erasure: every extension of a (logical) system of reference, representation and meaning is also that foundational and recursive, self-referential extensibility through which all material, mathematical and living systems expand their scope, presence and internal complexity. Each assertion of novelty is an extension, structiral challenge and logical negation of the preexisting matrix and methods of cognition and of ways of being.

A systemic extension of art and creativity is a logical inflection and erasure of the assumptions upon which previous cognitive and ideological methods have been cultivated. There is no end to this recursive logical erasure; it is how we all grow and live and it is how the Universe autonomously processes information and energy through the self-propagating shockwave passing through a transmission medium of material artefacts, cultures and minds.

Viewed from a holistic perspective, all novelty and procedural or developmental creativity represents logical inflection, systemic insight and, at paradigm-transforming moments, processes of axiomatic reconfiguration. At a holistic level of analysis, in fact, the process of logical negation being described here and that is implicit in all creativity is that mischievously self-inflected replication of an entire system of cultural, cognitive or material artefacts within itself. Systemic extensibility is implicit, endemic, distributed and recursively self-similar.

On the Presence of Absence

Sometimes the most profound truths (or at the very least – facts) emerge not from what exists, but from what does not. This lies on many layers. As a starting point – consider the very many ways in which we are all tracked, observed, recorded, evaluated and (let’s face it – exploited) by the semi-autonomous mechanisms of commercially-driven economic systems. The commercial dimension of all of this is not new and may be an inevitable light to the accompanying shadow of endemic exploitation across a broad ethical spectrum, but it is for better and for worse a matter of fact that large corporations (as much as anyone else who can get in this game) are farming our identities. Just existing in an information age is to already be a caged battery-hen of data and information production, information and data that we are all more than happy to produce because it is precisely in the generation and consumption of information, symbols and strings of data that we have always self-reflexively defined ourselves and for many thousands of years before computers or the internet arrived.

A spontaneously defensive psychological reflex to all of this is for some individuals to seek to fly below the radar, to “opt-out” and to delete, destroy or obfuscate the digital tendrils and querying tentacles that reach out from (and back into) the essential fact of their presence in the world and which form the vectors and vulnerabilities of exploitation for the roving algorithms and the (now, ascending) juggernaut of distributed Artificial Intelligence. It is an admirable aspiration to attempt to extract one’s self from intrusion and commodification in this way but unless you were born anonymously in some backwater shotgun shack, abandoned at birth and left to fend for yourself and never, ever, registered by any other organic, cognitive, administrative or mechanical perception – it will not actually work and you will spend your life utterly introverted from the facts of the world in ways which so thoroughly still define you by those facts that you are as imprisoned by them as much (or even more) than if you had faced them head-on.

So much for any comprehensive fortress of non-existence as escape from this, the tidal swell, maelstrom and effective “bitstorm” of information (and communications technology) apocalypse. Partial solutions exist but these are of limited effect. There are various methods, for instance, by which application and (generally – mobile) device configuration can drop you off the overt layers of information tracking from major players such as Google or Facebook. To attempt to identify the specific tools or methods here is quite futile as there are many thousands of such specifications freely available online and the context and complexity of an information environment undergoing incessant metamorphosis and logical hyper-inflation is such that any reference or link is rapidly outdated and (often enough, also) invalidated, superseded.

What happens to your digital identity if you do attempt to drop off the radar? It is an interesting, and at first encounter – entirely unexpected, fact that when a person seeks to leave the web of interdependent information systems within which they exist, they become quite literally conspicuous by their absence. There is a now prominent void where once there was a person, or at least, the description and definition or measurement of a person. When you (however contingently) aspire to leave the information environment, there then continues to exist a persistent and self-propagating multi(-information-)dimensional shadow in your wake. All of those places where you manifested extension and presence in social, cognitive and information systems – these still exist and your digital, electronic footprints have left their mark and influence on the unfolding turbulence and emergent complexity of the world.

In an integrated and massively interconnected information environment, these absences can actually be fairly precisely determined and mathematically (i.e. logically) and computationally tracked, measured and evaluated. Companies (and organisations) that possess adequate computational resources are already well-equipped to exploit these facts and it is a thing which is already occurring: if you switch off the overt tracking features in an android device, Google (and anyone else with sufficient resources and interest) will follow you by the shadow cast by the relative informational blind-spot you inhabit. We find ourselves imprisoned and wandering an all-consuming and omnipresent digital information labyrinth devoid of either entry or exit points. The only true absence here is the impossibility of escape.

(Unravelling causal connections and discerning the prefigurative or forensic facts is in many cases a complicated matter of retrospective mathematical and computational probability-shuffling; i.e. it is a difficult problem to solve – not an impossible one. Beyond the implicit limits imposed by thermodynamics and entropy, quite a lot of information can be discerned by running models and simulations of currently-defined, observed or measured information spaces inversely to determine significant, conspicuous absences or attribute unknown causal factors).

Conspicuous absences are surprising, that is –
they carry implicit information content.

Science, Philosophy and Human Fallibility

Context: Einstein got it – philosophy and science do go hand in hand

A nice, if surprisingly concise, opinion piece. I agree, concerning not merely the significance of philosophy but also of the importance of a thinker (from any field of endeavour) being able and willing to reassess their foundational assumptions and question the conceptual framework within which they work.

One of the things that may have alienated large swathes of people from science and the scientific method is its parochial claim to a superior and objective neutrality. Facts may remain factual and truths may remain true but it is utterly implausible to entirely extricate scientific practice and interpretation from the value-laden cultural and historical moment(s) within which it exists.

A (perceived) ethical void in the bare-metal mechanisms of pure mathematical and statistical Reason generates that ideological and cultural reflex we see all around us as intransigent denial of demonstrable and provable facts. Is it that our world has become so partisan and siloed that a self-conscious acknowledgement of human fallibility is inadmissible into the domain of pure facts when it itself is surely the very first fact of all ?


Conflict as mandatory error of social self-replication

At a global systems-theoretical level, conflict may be (among other things) an instance of an intrinsic or mandatory error or discontinuity in social systems self-propagation and pattern of functional self-replication; i.e. – as material consequences of underlying logical and material biases in complex systems. Organic systems (and particularly – en masse) are well-suited to exploiting existing resources and a critical material, logical or social-systemic fault may long ago have been encoded into human behavioural and communications systems as a resource (in conflict) from which “useful” entropy may be derived. The extraction of value from systemic turbulence is common enough as to be unsurprising but may also indicate deeper abstractions, regularities and logical patterns or theorems of culture and conflict.

Entropy and turbulence in self-propagating material patterns or information processing systems may for a variety of reasons be unavoidable. The recursive self-replication of sociological systems occurs at an integrated and gestalt level of systems abstraction. As a result, predictive (and interdictive) measures utilising information-systemic or statistical and probabilistic introspection would do well to also analyse the underlying logic and rationale of whole (i.e. holistic) self-propagating systems undergoing self-replication.


Emergent Complexity as Logical and Material Inevitability

Emergent complexity, such as the billowing patterns of a swallow murmuration or spontaneously arising hexagonal cells which can occur in boiling water, represent the lowest (i.e. most efficient) energy state of a dynamical system. Information processing systems such as brains (or civilisations) tend towards forming autonomous, self-propagating patterns and these structural relationships seek out the lowest energy and most efficient form (i.e. morphology, phenotype). System state exploration is of a volatile (i.e. stochastic) information and (free) energy space through non-volitional, non-agency experiment, exploration or testing and evolution; incorporating human agency or social and cultural contexts, we might recognise this exploratory process as innovation or directed (i.e. useful) creativity. Low-energy dynamical system states are also the most efficient information storage systems in that the minimally complex description of an emergent patterned or structured dynamical system is of significantly less descriptive magnitude than is the sum description of all component parts and their properties.

The existence of non-organic patterns (as codes, genetic structure, grammars, logic) demonstrates that, while life and sentience may be deeply saturated with the self-propagating potentials written into physics and biological complexity, the structures and patterns are themselves and to some extent independent entities. Assertions regarding the primacy of mathematics (and by extension – physics) as the symbolic language of choice for the explanation of the emergence of complexity are powerful but do not sufficiently explain the arrival or emergence of symbolic languages and similarly structured logical or linguistic systems which reflect the structural depth of the world. Why should the world exhibit mathematical (or logical) regularity and possess such deep structural and systemic complexity at all ?

The emergence of structured and patterned complexity may just be an inevitable consequence of a Cosmos in which the self-replicating, iterating logical process of self-replication itself represents the simplest, low-energy (and minimal algorithmic information complexity) state of any dynamical process. The often misconstrued degeneration or disassembly of order into entropy is that process or aperture of opportunity by which the logic of self-replication (and the self-replication of a dynamical logic) autonomously or algorithmically seeks to find instantiation and continuity through sustainable low-energy patterns and regularities of dynamical systems or network configuration.