I’ve watched as the cyber v. electronic warfare fight rages. The dollars, power, esteem, and leadership within the government drive forces in the debate. On the one hand you have a tried and true organization like the Association of Old Crows who have a tool based culture. On the other side you have. Well nobody but scientists and not a very lot of them. Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of electrical engineering PhDs on the electronic warfare side of this debate. Yet most of the policy makers and writers are simply wrong in how they think about cyber.
Consider rain. If you are a dam builder you see the rain as a natural event and an unremarkable one unless there is none. Your job is the control of the river, the holding back of the water, and the creation of energy from that restrained power. You can build an entire science around the design, construction, and operation of a dam. Yet, without the rain you have nothing.
A science around the rain is not being a weatherman. It is the science of meteorology and understanding the vast systemic effects of weather, planet, and man on a fundamental force of nature. Rain is a result of that fundamental force, but it is not the only force. A meteorologist understands the vast relationships behind the environmental factors of his discipline. Rain is but one expression of that vast system that the operators of the dam can perceive. Digital quantification perfection is as much an illusion as is perfect prediction of the weather.
To the dam operator it is all about what they do since they constrain, contain, and manage the water in the river. That water came from the rain. A valid, and in fact important task to be sure. The dam though is not the rain. And cyber is not part of the electro magnetic spectrum any more than the electronic warfare people have ownership of cyber. Currently almost nobody in government or the military have any kind of specific relationship with cyber. They’re all building dams.
I’ve written about this before and I keep trying to evaluate an argument that explains why the EW people and signals people simply don’t understand cyber. Everybody wants to own cyber to keep themselves ahead of the pack. Yet almost nobody wants to discuss the first principles of cyber. This absurd absence is not trivial. It is an incredible and dangerous impact on national security. Yet it is ignored because it does not play well with politicians as it can’t be explained in a few bullet points.
Cyber is not the electro magnetic spectrum. Context, content, and emotion are principle aspects of cyber as expressed through the man-machine interface as forms of information. There is much more to this, but you can’t fit the fundamentals of cyber in a paragraph anymore than you can the fundamentals of physics. We can talk about how information can be stored physically as well as digitally. Though we don’t deal with Hollerith cards anymore the analogy is still valid. You don’t have to have the EMS to have data exchanged. Cyber transcends the current computing paradigm people are focused on. The exposure to the world of the new domain through the current computing society use of the domain does not mean it didn’t exist prior. All it means is you can see and interact with it today.
Today the computational revolution and information society is largely run on a digital and binary solutions for computation. Tomorrow that may not be true. Biological and analog computers are being assessed and brought on-line. DNA computing and storage is being experimented with. Cyber transcends those technologies and is instantiated in the complex interactions of man and machine information exchange. I’ve already had conversations with senior leaders who said cyber is just the network and who cares about data mining. This is a form of strategic blindness.
None of this is new concepts. It is an ignored concept because government and industry leadership struggles with simplistic analogies and as such makes decisions that are half measures. It isn’t about the dam anymore than it is about the computer. It is about the systemic creation of the rain, the constraints put upon it and the absolute nature of the entirety of the system. To make matters worse government ignores this as an area of science as they buy weapons to wage war in a cartoonish made up version of the domain. Critics of the current cyber war debate are stumbling around the edge of this scientific truth.
Dams are monolithic structures built by man, but the river was there long before the damn. The rain is what made the river. This is not a refutation of the dam as a human activity. It is an understanding that mistaking the tools for the environment is a very bad risk indeed.