There is considerable expectation that an Executive Order will soon try to pick up the pieces from a failed effort at cybersecurity legislation. You can read more at CNET, Wall Street Journal, or The Hill (for three very different angles on reality).
Technical challenges, political problems, and real philosophical differences complicated the legislative process. I already gave attention to many of these issues in a February post. Whatever the text of the Executive Order these complications will persist.
Many of the most vexing problems are not particular to cyber. Similar issues are encountered in regard to strategy, policy, regulation, innovation, security, resilience, and competition in domains seemingly as diverse as eCommerce, supply chains, and the global financial system.
Sunday there was a brief two-page essay in the New York Times Magazine that focuses on how the Internet was created. Following are a few key paragraphs. As you read cut-and-paste your preferred networked-entity over the word Internet. When I do that, the author’s explanation still holds.
Like many of the bedrock technologies that have come to define the digital age, the Internet was created by — and continues to be shaped by — decentralized groups of scientists and programmers and hobbyists (and more than a few entrepreneurs) freely sharing the fruits of their intellectual labor with the entire world. Yes, government financing supported much of the early research, and private corporations enhanced and commercialized the platforms. But the institutions responsible for the technology itself were neither governments nor private start-ups. They were much closer to the loose, collaborative organizations of academic research. They were networks of peers.
Peer networks break from the conventions of states and corporations in several crucial respects. They lack the traditional economic incentives of the private sector: almost all of the key technology standards are not owned by any one individual or organization, and a vast majority of contributors to open-source projects do not receive direct compensation for their work. (The Harvard legal scholar Yochai Benkler has called this phenomenon “commons-based peer production.”) And yet because peer networks are decentralized, they don’t suffer from the sclerosis of government bureaucracies. Peer networks are great innovators, not because they’re driven by the promise of commercial reward but rather because their open architecture allows others to build more easily on top of existing ideas, just as Berners-Lee built the Web on top of the Internet, and a host of subsequent contributors improved on Berners-Lee’s vision of the Web…
It’s not enough to say that peer networks are an interesting alternative to states and markets. The state and the market are now fundamentally dependent on peer networks in ways that would have been unthinkable just 20 years ago…
When we talk about change being driven by mass collaboration, it’s often in the form of protest movements: civil rights or marriage equality. That’s a tradition worth celebrating, but it’s only part of the story. The Internet (and all the other achievements of peer networks) is not a story about changing people’s attitudes or widening the range of human tolerance. It’s a story, instead, about a different kind of organization, neither state nor market, that actually builds things, creating new tools that in turn enhance the way states and markets work.
Legislation, regulation, many theories of management and the practice of most managers assume someone is in charge of something. Someone is accountable for discreet action that leads to reasonably foreseeable consequences. There are intentional practices to regulate, systematize, and evaluate. Certainly this is part of reality, but only part and its proportion of the whole seems to be decreasing. In homeland security I expect most of our reality cannot be accurately described in these traditional “Newtonian” terms.
When I have most seriously failed it has been because I have very reasonably, diligently, and intelligently applied the lessons learned in one corner of reality to another corner of reality without recognizing the two realities are almost totally different.