This was the cover feature in the May/June issue of Asia Pacific Security Magazine
Welcome to the Future
By Anthony C Caputo
A “boundary” can be defined as a line that marks the limits of an area; a dividing line, real or imaginary, separating a subject or sphere of activity. The keyword here is “imaginary.” Laws and rules (both man-made and by physics) were/are designed to create those imaginary lines, much like the sides of good versus evil, but humanity doesn’t follow laws and rules in black-and-white, especially now that there’s 256 shades of pixel grays. Human beings are too self-indulgent, self-possessed with needs and desires. Many of them twisted by a bombardment of media overload. A friend would give us a copy of a song or movie, first on tape, then CD/DVD, then emailed instantly. These new generations copy movies, games, books, and pass them along, creating gray areas to serve our selfish purposes. The digital invasion just made it all easier, leaving a disruptive path along the way.
As organic machines, human beings are fed higher education’s left-brained logic and mathematical view of the world, neglecting the right-brain’s thirst for creativity, music, love, compassion and beauty – the very things that make us unique not only in the world of animals, but in anything of our own creation. Sure, we can create pretty Smartphone’s that empowers our creativity, plays our favorite music and connects us to our loved ones, but is the technology empathetic, compassionate and protective? Can the Smartphone itself protect you and your digital assets and information? Of course not, because it really isn’t that smart – still needs your fingerprint, pass code and/or online ID.
Our continued thirst, first for survival (after all, the Internet was designed to survive a nuclear attack), then individualistic empowerment, marketing, entertainment, and for monetary gain to feed the capitalistic juggernaut inadvertently created a virtual universe of digital data, further deteriorating our own importance in the overall logistical corporeal world. This invasion of the digital universe destroyed all imaginary and physical boundaries, creating a level playing field for everyone and everything, from the convicted murderer researching legal loopholes, to the innocent school girl, desperate for a copy of her favorite boy-band’s album to the Uber driver and the monolithic Yellow Cab Company. Unfortunately, in order to keep up with the ever growing, rapid dissemination of data, and metamorphosis, through a myriad of new intuitive person-to-machine interface devices, we create even more data –much faster and better.
If God truly created Man in his own image, than is God also an organic machine, or a version of our own image that resides in an alternative universe that moves so fast there is no yesterday or tomorrow and everything happens at once? Alternatively, like God with Adam and Eve, did we also see our own creations molded into something extraordinary, pure and righteous, but then, much like ourselves, our creations ran amok throughout human society, and evolved into the monstrosities we now see every day on the news?
These new digital generations have blurred the physical boundaries, escaping into a virtual existent while driving in the real world, causing 25% of all the automobile accidents and even the National Highway & Transportation Administration (NHTSA) has determined that texting while driving is equivalent to drinking four beers before getting behind the wheel, calling it “another potentially lethal distraction.” On the other hand, Apple’s new Campus was design without door thresholds so that engineers had less chance of getting distracted from their work as they walked.
I’ve seen (as I’m sure you have) how this digital invasion has affected all aspects of human existence. Several months ago, working alongside a small crew helping renovate my “fixer-upper, “were a man and a woman who were glued to their Smartphones. They were texting, which is not completely unusual in today’s youth, but it became quite frenzied. They were warned, which only stopped them momentarily, until the woman began to sob (not because we fired them). Unbeknownst to everyone around them, they were “a couple” and were having a lover’s quarrel, while working together, through text.
It’s 2017, and I’ve realized that the digital invasion has succeeded, and humanity, as it once was, has fallen. The physical world is (or was) different. There used to be clear boundaries. There used to be barriers erected for structure and cohesion, for productivity and serenity. Limitations created by physics for the easy absorption of information and knowledge. In my youth, a single business letter, with a physical buffer for the time allotted for its creation, mailing and arrival, alongside the patience for its forthcoming reply was accepted as the reality. It was slow, deliberate, and concise and even though at the time I was frustrated that it was such a slow process, there was no alternative. Even then, there were the signs of how the digital universe was disrupting our own individual creativity as is was only several decades prior to word processing software that we created wonderful letters using calligraphy.
Little did I know that I would mutate within the next twenty-five years, developing hyper speed superpowers, just to be able to mentally, physically and emotionally receive, respond and send up to a hundred emails a day.
The building blocks of society, the boundaries setup by commerce, religion, physics, rules and laws have broken down. We blindly moved our existence into the digital universe, believing still in our imaginary boundaries, even though there was no one there to serve and protect.
There is no such thing as 100% digital security –only real-time intrusion detection, and 100% high availability and fault tolerance. There are even cyber guards who identify an intruder and direct them to a “safe house” within this digital universe for further interrogation and deciphering. We still need to continue to feed the delusion of imaginary lines and without our virtual deadbolts, chains, guards and alarms; we are naked and vulnerable in this new world. Cryptography only tries to keep up with processor speeds – our own treacherous machines that could calculate trillions of computations per second, surpassing the human mind completely. Most of us didn’t even know our front door was wide open, until it was too late, and so millions fall victim to identity theft, electronic robbery, privacy invasion, and life threatening cyber crimes.
We never need be concerned about invaders from the other side of the world when we were just a small dot on a physical map. Now, we’re in the same bits and bytes neighborhood, mere nanoseconds away. The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution cannot even protect us as this alternative universe does not follow the same rules as our physical world. Its attacks may come in a blink of an eye – silent, intrusive, destructive.
If you cannot protect what you own, you don't own anything.
In 2000, I collaborated on a book on networked media with an executive from Hollywood. He had the foresight to envision this new world and was correct on every speculation, but one; the ferocious speed and depth of the change and disruption that lay ahead for humanity.
We live in an age where businesses have a Facebook page; where you can learn anything from the palm of your hand; where you can deposit a physical check into your bank account without a physical check; Smartphone video clips of cats getting tens of millions of viewers; hostages sending silent texts and videos of their captors; and police officers who would rather use their Smartphone at a crime scene than their police radio.
A friend of mine in law enforcement once told me that if he left for work in the morning and forgot his gun – not a problem, but if he left for work in the morning without his Smartphone, he’d have to turn around and go back to get it. We’ve all done that, haven’t we? It’s not about forgetting our phone. There’s a phone we can use in the office, isn’t there?
It’s all about The Data.
In 1990, before the Internet was a glimmer in anyone’s eye, Roger Fidler coined the phrase “Mediamorphosis,” which refers to the transformation of communication and media spearheaded by perceived needs, social and technological innovations. About the same time, after reviewing centuries of research data, Stanford professor and Futurist Paul Saffo suggested it takes 30 years for a new idea to seep into the culture.
Well, its 2017, and if you do not have a Digital Strategy (e.g. Data Governance, Data Management, Data Mobility, Data Protection, and Data Analytics) for digital transformation – and I’m not talking about your company – I’m talking about you; you’re almost three decades behind.
Unless you succumb completely to the digital universe and follow the latest calculation of the real world vs. the Internet calendar – then you’re about 120 years behind.
Welcome to the Future. There really is no escape. We truly have all been assimilated.