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.

An Organisational Uncanny Valley

The Uncanny Valley is a well-known description of the problematic relationship we (all) have with realistic images and simulations or embodied approximations of human beings; most notably in regards to robots, androids and other technologically-mediated replicas. Might we also speak of an “uncanny valley” and cognitive dissonance as manifest in (or as) the cultural, organisational and technological systems we inhabit and through which we endlessly seek to reflexively define and validate ourselves? The entities and artefacts we make “in our own image” include the abstractions and patterns through which we understand and organise the world and ourselves.

There most certainly is a disconnect and discontinuity between the world we perceive and the world as we would choose it to be. In many ways, the key dissonance is an embodiment of a false attribution of epistemological closure and certainty regarding ourselves and the world.

This gap or necessary logical inconsistency and incompleteness itself becomes a self-propagating morass of neuroses and ideological or methodological narcissism. We find ourselves inhabiting and validating the organisational meat grinders of “best practice” and conventional wisdom, generating the turbulence and complexity to which those methodologies are themselves best-suited as solutions.

In seeking control and certainty, we become trapped in spirals of conceptual poverty, a visceral uncanny valley of cyborg is a symptom of a deeper existential malaise.

The Uncanny Valley of Humanoid Simulacra

Cumulative Cultural Evolution

Context: Cumulative Cultural Evolution II

Cultures are self-propagating solitons that adapt to and reshape the internal systemic and external environmental conditions that select for their own most probable continuity. Information transfer is “sticky” and contagious, just as is entropy and (it’s qualitative corollary of) ignorance, so it becomes a delicate matter of filtering-out and allowing-in (both external and internal) novelty or surprise as new information.

Academic events are subject to this, in microcosm: a focus on cultivating the conditions which encourage novelty (as information) within a context of maximal conceptual, logical and social self-propagation while minimising entropy; all subject to grammars and conventions of self-validation and organisational coherence.

Observe: recombinatory inflection, distributed computation and recursive self-gravitation. What in one view is the autonomously emergent exploration of optimal paths of concise algorithmic complexity (as methods of cultural, conceptual self-propagation) is, simultaneously, the aggregation and (abstract) self-gravitation of material artefacts, organisational pattern (or symmetry) and cognitive practices in a hyper-inflating, accelerating logical or referential possibility-space.

Climate Change and Global Organisational Neurosis

In aspiring to address and remediate climate change, we are attempting to negotiate with a recalcitrant organisational neurosis. Neuroses are patterns of psychological (self-) organisation that were once appropriate partial solutions to a context, i.e. that conveyed survival or adaptive advantage, but have now become ossified and persistent without any benefit beyond an orientation towards reproducing the circumstances that validate or ensure their own self-propagation.

Psychological inhibition against successful adaptation to changing circumstances underlies institutional and organisational resistance to plausible axiomatic change. Ironically, a projected acceleration of climate-related disasters will likely lead to a further hardening of ideological and organisational neuroses as a reflexive response to insecurity; neuroses as an unhealthy fact of human experience and behaviour are initially incurred by insecurity – as a mechanism for assuring continuity in response to stressful change.

Global organisational neuroses as inhibiting factor in addressing climate change? An effective and unmedicated response to an individual’s neuroses might be a course of mindfulness meditation, or similar. In terms of global organisational systemic remediation, I am not certain that the individual and tribally self-replicating inconsistencies of our world are yet quite mature enough to surrender an attachment to their own self-validating obsessions and rank narcissistic fascination(s).

Optimism is useful, but the median and predictable concepts that generally filter up through our popular and commercial media systems are rarely more than replication with uninteresting, insignificant or inconsequential variation. Significant and sophisticated axiomatic amendments are likely required, and urgently, but the broken record and effective ideological apothecary of conventional wisdom just keeps playing, faster and louder… it is truly exasperating.

Yes – it is an evocative, emotional image…

Blind Chance

It is quite possible that a majority of that which we attribute to intelligence, planning and insight is in fact the retrospective projection of an intelligible, patterned order upon what amounts to random walks in a possibility space. Good fortune or success may be more often a matter of statistical probability than of human intention or intervention.

This is not to say that one should not attempt to “make their own luck”. Risks, costs and benefits both can and should be rationally assessed but the essence of narrative experience, psychology and communication lies in the many ways we seek in hindsight to attribute certainties to what are really only weighted probabilities.

In this way we might aspire to persuade ourselves (or others) of the intrinsic significance or self-evidence of an interpretation, explanatory framework or ideological stance concerning a specific configuration of entities in the world when the actual cause for a particular constellation of historical facts is almost always entirely due to blind chance. We may interrogate the past by speculative palpation of the facts via the data with which we find ourselves presented but, beyond the most general or lucky (!) aspirations to psychological control and self-enlightened advantage-seeking, there is in fact far less certainty concerning our ability to positively influence the future than we generally attribute.

Enigmas of Ecological Problem-Solving

Context: The Rapid Decline Of The Natural World Is A Crisis Even Bigger Than Climate Change

Differentiating Climate Change from the broader facts of human-induced environmental-systems disassembly in the title of the article (referenced above) is a rhetorical tool which (both) entirely misses the point and succinctly characterises the core epistemological enigma of this issue. Climate Change is only one dimension of the legitimately “wicked” and quite literally multi-dimensional existential problem of environmental and ecological complexity with which we are now faced. In any problem-space of deeply interdependent complexity such as this, it may be an elementary psychological error to attribute an ontological rank or priority to the nodal components of explanation.

We are generally educated by collective wisdom or social and cultural conventions to understand, communicate, model and seek to effect change in our world through the narrative and cognitive methods of a narrow-view, “mechanistic” or hierarchical linear analysis. The distributed and non-linearly holistic problem-spaces that we currently face, and that have arguably (and perhaps ironically) been incurred by an over-investment in a simplistic and linear cognitive and organisational practise, require new methods of thinking, of understanding and of acting.

The kernel of this enigma is that the distributed, non-hierachical cognitive methods and intellectual innovations necessary to disentangle the Gordian Knot of unfolding environmental catastrophe are complete anathema to the forms of governance, organisation (and even) psychological or social and cultural methods with which we have become accustomed to solve problems. The non-linear cognitive flexibility and diverse conceptual vocabulary required to describe this problem-space is also the heuristic practise with which we might seek to successfully address it.

Infallible Machines and Inflexible Organisations

“If a machine is expected to be infallible, it cannot also be intelligent.” – Alan Turing

If a non-trivially complex organisational system of any kind or scale is to be considered (even notionally) as complete or entirely self-consistent, it can not also be adaptive, flexible and resilient. Complicated versus complex, closed-systems versus open-systems, command and control versus distributed decision-making/processing, and linear (mechanistic) forecasting versus statistical (indeed – organic) probabilities. The antinomy of Turing’s recursive proof of undecidability (i.e. the Halting Problem) provides much food for thought.