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Friday, January 21, 2011

Philosophical musings on cyber privateering

In yesterday's post wherein I considered an alternate hypothesis about Russian involvement in Stuxnet, I tried to put my own motives into context. Longshoreman/philosopher Eric Hoffer did a better job in The True Believer (NAL edition, 1951, p. 128]:
The genuine man of words himself can get along without faith in absolutes. He values the search for truth as much as truth itself. He delights in the clash of thought and in the give-and-take of controversy. If he formulates a philosophy and a doctrine, they are more an exhibition of brilliance and an exercise in dialectics than a program of action and the tenets of a faith. His vanity, it is true, often prompts him to defend his speculations with savagery and even venom; but his appeal is usually to reason and not to faith. The fanatics and the faith-hungry masses, however, are likely to invest such speculations with the certitude of holy writ, and make them the fountainhead of a new faith. Jesus was not a Christian, nor was Marx a Marxist.
I began my infatuation with cyber privateering (my solution to cyber crime and cyber war threats) as a throw-away plot element in a novel. Somewhere along the way, I started to think (perhaps arrogantly) that my little idea had some legs. So evidently do a growing number of readers. But as I tell myself that this is a pretty good idea, the words of Eric Hoffer have more than once sprang back into my mind, as if echoing my mother's advice not to take myself so seriously. This is advice I often gave to my clients; "Don't believe your own press clippings."

With regard to the "man of words" who brings about new ideas, Hoffer goes on to chronicle his fate. Simply, as soon as a movement reaches critical mass, the ruling class must figure out a way to get rid of the founding father. They hung Jesus on a cross, and modern-day revolutionaries tend to get a bullet in the brain for their troubles. Thought-leaders and innovators tend to be a royal pain, maybe a little too quick to point out the flaws of the management team who has been tasked with executing their bright ideas. Bureaucrats absolutely hate leaders. And as I've said before, managers get letters of commendation from the home office while leaders get letters of reprimand.

On the plus side—and as a method of self preservation, should cyber privateering ever get off the ground in reality—I have envisioned three mechanisms whereby the "purity" of my idea can be built into the DNA of the program:

  1. My Cyber Privateer Code is a decent foundation for equity and self-sustaining/self-policing processes.
  2. The Perfect Virus is a piece of unique technology that a benevolent and possibly non-profit organization could not only license to bonded cyber privateers but also use to keep them in line. They could essentially say, "Honor the Cyber Privateer Code or we'll take you out of the picture forever." Or as Mel Brooks penned it, "It's good to be king." Well, as long as the king is more like Arthur and less like Hati's Papa Doc Duvalier or Russia's Joseph Stalin.
  3. Finally, if we ever did get a Joseph Stalin or Papa Doc Duvalier in charge of privateer oversight, I've got to have faith that somewhere, someone will be smart enough to come up with a more-perfect virus and bring down the despot. The framers of the US Constitution envisioned a similar recourse, should the system ever become too corrupted.
Jeff Walker, one of my Cyber Privateer Fantasy League nominees, is a master of building self-managing processes into organizations. Years after he left Oracle, most believed that he still ran the Oracle Applications Division just because his processes kept the organization on track. Hopefully, my Cyber Privateer Code will achieve the same results, should this little exercise in fiction rear its newborn head in reality.

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Implementation suggestions for THE MORGAN DOCTRINE are most welcome. What are the "Got'chas!"? What questions would some future Cyber Privateering Czar have to answer about this in a Senate confirmation hearing?