Philosophy and Politics in a CyberSecurity Emergency

Disclaimer: This content is the result of my having survived several emergencies of varying effect sizes. Most of these ideas are rules of thumb, and not canned answers. As in any emergency your best outcome will be if you keep calm, consider many options, and flow from plan to backup plan as required.

As you read this, please keep in mind that my ideas come from being a sophisticated user, trained in logic, math, and algorithms. I have never knowingly hacked another computer or accessed an account that I did not have permission to access. I have reached the conclusions, here, by reverse engineering and deduction based on having been hacked almost continuously for quite some time by some very dedicated hackers or spies whose identities I cannot know.

(I won't even waste my time trying to identify these individuals. History will always frown on people and governments that are not brave enough to politic openly. I won't even waste my time trying to find and eradicate all the world's ridiculous technologies. I will however bring a great deal of compassion to any user who shares a bad user experience with me. I will then help them with the best and most honest/open political solution that I know.)

As strange as it may sound, I believe that I am actually collaborating with these individuals. In a very strange conversation about the limits of current computer operating systems, networks, and the limits of politics. I hope that any of my fellow computer scientists who engage in malicious hacking will leave it aside for more direct politics.

Security is politics. Security is not science. Security is health. Security is about risks, benefit to society, and ways to mitigate risks. It is no surprise that most of the 'cybersecurity' conferences are political or military in nature. It is no surprise that academics restrict their study of 'cybersecurity' to issues that directly effect people they care about.

Please understand that there are no guarantees with cybersecurity, as Turing long ago proved that the halting problem is undecidable, meaning there is no algorithm that can tell you whether an arbitrary computer program will ever stop running. This means that computer code cannot be verified, and that security exists on a continuum in which there are no absolute guarantees. (For the particularly geeky students: Turing's result holds only under the standard logic system that math uses that includes axioms from number theory, etc.)

It is quite possible that world peace is more probable than provable cybersecurity.

We are all responsible for security and politics. Please respect your communities as much as possible. Please respect the communities that you travel through. Please respect the people that you meet who have different cultures from you.

I have had the pleasure of spending time in Russia, Israel, France, South East Asia, and of growing up in the great American West. All of these places share ideals about community, generosity, hospitality, and independence. Some of the most beautiful art that I have seen is in Russia. Some of the most generous people I have met are in South Florida. The most amazing city I've seen is Jerusalem. The first time I heard the call to prayer was in Israel. The students that have taught me the most about hospitality, bravery, and honesty have been Muslim. I have studied Chinese martial arts and meditation for most of my adult life, but did not properly start to appreciate Buddhism until visiting South East Asia.

Some of the most peace-loving people I have ever met are Native Americans or First-Nations people. I have never met another people that gave over so much of their freedom, culture, languages, lives, and health in the attempt to make peace.

Some of the people with the worst health I have seen are in mental hospitals, precisely because their stories about bad user experiences with technologies that they were forced to use were never heard or respected.

It's time the world wakes up and realizes that 'computer security' is another name for politics and community and health. If we want to move forward, we need to start respecting our neighbor's choices about technologies more. We need to let people say no to the technologies that harm their health.

The people of my generation that write most of the computer code that is currently being hacked, we are responsible too. We need to stand up to bad management and say no to impossible projects and ridiculous deadlines. We create technology bubbles when we compromise our engineering and science ethics to satisfy managers that want fast solutions to problems that are provably unsolvable (undecidable) or to problems that are very unlikely to be solvable in a reasonable amount of time (i.e. NP hard problems). We need to say no to managers who want real-time systems to make life and death decisions (the halting problem means we cannot guarantee real time answers from computers).

No wonder we can't export our technologies to the third world. They are smart enough to recognize a good product when they see one, and to not be taken in by our technology bubbles and false promises.

I have never knowingly hacked another computer or accessed an account that I did not have permission to access. As a sophisticated politician and cybersecurity philosopher, you may now recognize that there you can only take my word for that. There is no way you can fact check my statement.

Oddly enough, the internet has few borders for the most determined and knowledgeable hackers. So, as with most politics, the only solution is to make peace with your neighbors.


  1. Cyber war will not be over until we make peace. Find a neighbor whose beliefs you do not understand and have a chat with them where you express genuine interest.
  2. Learn another language, or at least try. Then you'll know how difficult it is for people who immigrate to a new country, particularly older folks.
  3. Take some time to explain theoretical computer science and theoretical guarantees to your boss next time they ask you to solve an impossible problem.
  4. If your boss don't like your assessment about the difficulty of a problem, then suggest that they find an algorithms person who will either provide an efficient algorithm or prove that the problem is hard. We theory people can add that problem to our long list of problems (with higher priority) that we are working on solving.
  5. If you are really adventurous, then take a trip to Russia and talk to a theory or algorithms person who lives and works there. Perhaps you can satisfy several of the homework problems at once (i.e. killing two birds with one stone).
  6. Consider how green computing and limiting power consumption will limit cyber vulnerabilities, improve health, and help with world politics (i.e. killing three birds with one stone!).
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