For Your Consideration: Exercise, Insecurity, and Cyberwar

I hope that you’ll read these articles if the snippets catch your eye and that you’ll learn as much as I did. Please email me questions, feedback or raise issues for discussion. Better yet, if you know of something on a related topic, or of interest, please pass it along. And as always, if one of these links comes to mean something to you, recommend it to someone else.

1. Is Cyberwar Turning Out to Be Very Different From What We Thought?

The potential weapons are here, the bad guys are here, and the vulnerabilities are certainly here.

Furthermore, the weapons of war might change. This happens fairly regularly. New tools and concepts are invented and then come online, from gunpowder and cavalry to blitzkrieg, aircraft carriers and drones. As George Orwell noted, “the history of civilization is largely the history of weapons.” Cyber may follow the path of so many other weapons platforms, such as the scout, the airplane and the drone—what started out as a reconnaissance platform eventually was weaponized. The question is, when and why will cyber truly be weaponized?

The combatants would certainly do that. This might be no more complicated than flipping a switch, or toggling a function between “monitor” and “destroy.” In his speech, Panetta said “we know that foreign cyber actors are probing America’s critical infrastructure networks. They are targeting the computer control systems that operate chemical, electricity and water plants and those that guide transportation throughout this country. … We also know that they are seeking to create advanced tools to attack these systems and cause panic and destruction and even the loss of life.”

Yet even now, we’re prone to hyperbole—every ATM hack is cyberterrorism, if you believe some media outlets and politicians. The infrastructure is rife with technical vulnerabilities—headlines remind us of this daily. But perhaps the greatest vulnerability we face, in preventing dark futures of cyberwars, is the fragility and scarcity of precious resources. Wars often originate from avarice over something precious—land, mineral resources, beliefs in God, Helen of Troy, etc.

But another resource precious to cyberspace, and one that could launch a conflict, is trust—a resource that underpins democratic societies, critical infrastructure and peace among nations every bit as much as mineral resources or land.

2. How Your Insecurity is Bought and Sold

Through Freud, Bernays understood something nobody else in business ever understood before him: that if you can tap into people’s insecurities — if you can needle at their deepest feelings of inadequacy — then they will buy just about any damn thing you tell them to.

This form of marketing became the blueprint of all future advertising. Trucks are marketed to men as ways to assert strength and reliability. Makeup is marketed to women as a way to be more loved and garner more attention. Beer is marketed as a way to have fun and be the center of attention at the party.

The only real long-term solution is for people to develop enough self-awareness to understand when mass media is prodding at their weaknesses and vulnerabilities and to make conscious decisions in the face of those fears. The success of our free markets has burdened us with the responsibility of exercising our freedom to choose. And that responsibility is far heavier than we often realize.

3. How Exercise Shapes You, Far Beyond the Gym

When I first started training for marathons a little over ten years ago, my coach told me something I’ve never forgotten: that I would need to learn how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. I didn’t know it at the time, but that skill, cultivated through running, would help me as much, if not more, off the road as it would on it.

It’s not just me, and it’s not just running. Ask anyone whose day regularly includes a hard bike ride, sprints in the pool, a complex problem on the climbing wall, or a progressive powerlifting circuit, and they’ll likely tell you the same: A difficult conversation just doesn’t seem so difficult anymore. A tight deadline not so intimidating. Relationship problems not so problematic.

Maybe it’s that if you’re regularly working out, you’re simply too tired to care. But that’s probably not the case. Research shows that, if anything, physical activity boosts short-term brain function and heightens awareness. And even on days they don’t train — which rules out fatigue as a factor — those who habitually push their bodies tend to confront daily stressors with a stoic demeanor. While the traditional benefits of vigorous exercise — like prevention and treatment of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, and osteoporosis — are well known and often reported, the most powerful benefit might be the lesson that my coach imparted to me: In a world where comfort is king, arduous physical activity provides a rare opportunity to practice suffering.

A Quote I Love:

 

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder … he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.”

—Rachel Carson

Tip of the week:

One trick you may or may not have picked up about Gmail is that you can add in periods anywhere in the front part of your address and it makes no difference whatsoever: john.smith@gmail.com works just the same as johnsmith@gmail.com. What’s more, you can add a plus sign and any word before the @ sign (e.g. johnsmith+hello@gmail.com) and messages will still reach you. If these tweaks make no difference, then why use them? One major reason: filters.

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