Those of us responsible for information security don’t face armed combat or the literal prospect of being hanged, but today’s environment of security risks make it necessary for different and competing players to stand united against an organized, motivated enemy out to disrupt, steal or both. The need to work together to protect company data, customer information and corporate brand has never been greater. Business survival depends upon it.
Information security professionals, no matter how big the enterprise they work for, are currently overwhelmingly outgunned by cybercrime. The threat of these criminal enterprises is large and growing and if left unchecked will have a disastrous impact on our economy in the near term. McKinsey & Company estimates that cyber attacks will slow the pace of technology and business innovation over the next few years and cost the economy as much as $3 trillion annually. Data breaches have already taken a heavy toll and costs are on the rise. An IBM-sponsored survey conducted by the Ponemon Institute found that the average cost to the company of a corporate data breach is now $5.9 million. Of this, the cost of lost business from a breach averages $3.2 million. However, this average can be misleading because some of the more widely publicized breaches in recent years have cost the affected companies billions of dollars in revenue and shareholder value.
Cyber criminals run highly organized and collaborative enterprises that operate with troubling and destructive efficiency. Juniper Networks conducted a study that found that global cybercrime takes in larger profits than the illegal drug trade. “The cyber black market has evolved from a varied landscape of discrete, ad hoc individuals into a network of highly organized groups, often connected with traditional crime groups (e.g., drug cartels, mafias, terrorist cells) and nation-states,” the report said. And even when the goals of the attackers are not monetary gain, the costs can be enormous. Though not a penny of its cash was stolen, the attack on Sony last December cost the entertainment company billions of dollars through the release of data. Types of data stolen can include financial data, personal health information (PHI) and associated insurance information.
The disciplined introspection that philosophy affords us, Lebell suggests, also helps us cultivate the uncomfortable luxury of not-knowing and discern wisdom from here information — something even more important in our data-driven age than it was in Epictetus’s time:
The wisest among us appreciate the natural limits of our knowledge and have the mettle to preserve their naiveté. They understand how little all of us really know about anything. There is no such thing as conclusive, once-and-for-all knowledge. The wise do not confuse information or data, however prodigious or cleverly deployed, with comprehensive knowledge or transcendent wisdom. They say things like “Hmmm” or “Is that so!” a lot. Once you realize how little we do know, you are not so easily duped by fast-talkers, splashy gladhanders, and demagogues. Spirited curiosity is an emblem of the flourishing life.
In a remark that calls to mind philosopher Daniel Dennett’s spectacular meditation on the art of making good mistakes, Lebell adds:
Arrogance is the banal mask for cowardice; but far more important, it is the most potent impediment to the flourishing life. Clear thinking and self-importance cannot logically coexist.
The legitimate glow of satisfaction at accomplishing a hard-won worthy goal should not be confused with arrogance, which is characterized by self-preoccupation and lack of interest in the feelings or affairs of others.
The acquisition of wisdom, Lebell argues, is like the acquisition of any skill — we must overcome our instinctive resistance to the unfamiliar and fear of our own incompetence before it begins to get easier, then fluid, then automatic. Eventually, we stop keeping ourselves small by people-pleasing become attuned to that increasingly clear inner voice:
The first steps toward wisdom are the most strenuous, because our weak and stubborn souls dread exertion (without absolute guarantee of reward) and the unfamiliar. As you progress in your efforts, your resolve is fortified and self-improvement progressively comes easier. By and by it actually becomes difficult to work counter to your own best interest.
By the steady but patient commitment to removing unsound beliefs from our souls, we become increasingly adept at seeing through our flimsy fears, our bewilderment in love, and our lack of self control. We stop trying to look good to others. One day, we contentedly realize we’ve stopped playing to the crowd.
In one of her most potent asides, Lebell adds to this notion of playing to the crowd and comments on the trap of popular opinion:
We are only enraged at the foolish because we make idols of those things which such people take from us.
The explosion in extreme tracking is part of a digital revolution in health care led by the tech visionaries who created Apple, Google, Microsoft and Sun Microsystems. Using the chips, database and algorithms that powered the information revolution of the past few decades, these new billionaires now are attempting to rebuild, regenerate and reprogram the human body.
In the aggregate data being gathered by millions of personal tracking devices are patterns that may reveal what in the diet, exercise regimen and environment contributes to disease.
Could physical activity patterns be used to not only track individuals’ cardiac health but also to inform decisions about where to place a public park and improve walkability? Could trackers find cancer clusters or contaminated waterways? A pilot project in Louisville, for example, uses inhalers with special sensors to pinpoint asthma “hot spots” in the city.
“As we have more and more sophisticated wearables that can continuously measure things ranging from your physical activity to your stress levels to your emotional state, we can begin to cross-correlate and understand how each aspect of our life consciously and unconsciously impacts one another,” Vinod Khosla, a co-founder of Sun and investor in mobile health start-ups, said in an interview.
At the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in January, new gizmos on display included a baby bottle that measures nutritional intake, a band that measures how high you jump and “smart” clothing connected to smoke detectors. Google is working on a smart contact lens that can continuously measure a person’s glucose levels in his tears. The Apple Watch has a heart-rate sensor and quantifies when you move, exercise or stand. The company also has filed a patent to upgrade its earbuds to measure blood oxygen and temperature.
In the near future, companies hope to augment those trackers with new ones that will measure from the inside out — using chips that are ingestible or float in the bloodstream.
Some physicians, academics and ethicists criticize the utility of tracking as prime evidence of the narcissism of the technological age — and one that raises serious questions about the accuracy and privacy of the health data collected, who owns it and how it should be used. There are also worries about the implications of the proliferation of devices for broader surveillance by the government, such as what happened with cellphone providers and the National Security Agency.
Because real life in the real world occasionally requires people do things that nobody in their right mind can be massively enthusiastic about, “motivation” runs into the insurmountable obstacle of trying to elicit enthusiasm for things that objectively do not merit it. The only solution besides slackery, then, is to put people out of their right minds. That’s a horrible, and fortunately fallacious, dilemma.
Trying to drum up enthusiasm for fundamentally dull and soul crushing activities is literally a form of deliberate psychological self-harm, a voluntary insanity: “I AM SO PASSIONATE ABOUT THESE SPREADSHEETS, I CAN’T WAIT TO FILL OUT THE EQUATION FOR FUTURE VALUE OF ANNUITY, I LOVE MY JOB SOOO MUCH!”
I do not consider self-inflicted episodes of hypomania the optimal driver of human activity. A thymic compensation via depressive episodes is inevitable, since the human brain will not tolerate abuse indefinitely. There are stops and safety valves. There are hormonal hangovers.
The worst thing that can happen is succeeding at the wrong thing – temporarily. A far superior scenario is retaining sanity, which unfortunately tends to be misinterpreted as moral failure: “I still don’t love my pointless paper-shuffling job, I must be doing something wrong.” “I still prefer cake to brocolli and can’t lose weight, maybe I’m just weak”. “I should buy another book about motivation”. Bullshit. The critical error is even approaching those issus in terms of motivation or lack thereof. The answer is discipline, not motivation.
It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.
– Leonardo da Vinci
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