IT was with anxiety I approached last weekend for another bout of awesome rugby.
The Fijian team not only met expectations but exceeded them against an off-form (admittedly) English team in Twickenham.
Rugby, or any sport or activity for that matter requires a great deal of preparation at the highest level – I’m talking world cups, Olympics, etc.
Years of dedication to training.
Cybersecurity, as with other physical security including wars, probably ranks way up there — people’s lives are not ruled by law but can be taken advantage of in ways we don’t imagine.
I have been extremely fortunate to be blessed by scholarships for study (and rugby if my father allowed it) in many countries so write from a bit of experience.
As with the way sports has evolved, cybersecurity has also evolved — possibly from the war on terrorism and drugs that has become asymmetrical — no longer my numbers in the military/police/whatever beat your numbers in the military/etc.
Where are we at?
Where do we commit resources?
As always, I’m involved with various government and regional/global organisations answering some of these questions and as with climate change (our greatest Pacific national security threat in the region) solutions are not easy to come by.
I’ve had a look at some, and usually, it starts with education and getting the grassroots right.
The big bad issues with multiple governments, NGOs, etc involved require a lot of resources and for our small Pacific Island countries may not be feasible or even logical.
Their priorities may differ and sometimes, I hate to say it — let’s look after our own backyards.
If Fijian rugby can do it with less than 8000 players (including school children) to pool from I’m sure it can be done – one step at a time.
In an article I read recently in ‘The Conversation.com’ Imagine that we’ve all — all of us, all of society — landed on some alien planet, and we have to form a government: clean slate.
We don’t have any legacy systems from the US or any other country.
We don’t have any special or unique interests to perturb our thinking.
How would we govern ourselves?
It’s unlikely that we would use the systems we have today.
The modern representative democracy was the best form of government that mid-eighteenth-century technology could conceive of.
The twenty-first century is a different place scientifically, technically, and socially.
For example, the mid-eighteenth-century democracies were designed under the assumption that both travel and communications were hard.
Does it still make sense for all of us living in the same place to organise every few years and choose one of us to go to a big room far away and create laws in our name?
Representative districts are organised around geography because that’s the only way that made sense 200-plus years ago.
But we don’t have to do it that way.
We can organise representation by age: one representative for the thirty one year olds, another for the thirty two year olds, and so on.
We can organise representation randomly: by birthday, perhaps.
We can organise any way we want.
Indeed, as an engineer and technologist who studies complex systems and their security, I believe the very idea of representative government is a hack to get around the technological limitations of the past.
Voting on a scale is easier now than it was 200 years ago.
Certainly, we don’t want to all have to vote on everything and now I find governments are now finding committees to do their job.
Another theme was the harms of creating a political system whose primary goals are economic.
Given the ability to start over, would anyone create a system of government that optimises the near-term financial interest of the
Or whose laws benefit corporations at the expense of people?
Another theme was capitalism, and how it is or isn’t intertwined with democracy.
And while the modern market economy made a lot of sense in the industrial age, it’s starting to fray in the information age.
What comes after capitalism, and how does it affect how we govern ourselves?
What’s with an AI device in our pocket that voted in our name, thousands of times per day, based on preferences that it inferred from our actions?
If an AI system could determine optimal policy solutions that balanced every voter’s preference, would it still make sense to have representatives?
Maybe we should vote directly for ideas and goals instead and leave the details to the computers.
On the other hand, technological solutionism regularly fails.
As to other forms of democracy, we discussed one from history and another made possible by today’s technology.
Sortition is a system of choosing political officials randomly to deliberate on a particular issue.
We use it today when we pick juries, but both the ancient Greeks and some cities in Renaissance Italy used it to select major political
Today, several countries — largely in Europe — are using sortition for some policy decisions.
We might randomly choose a few hundred people, representative of the population, to spend a few weeks being briefed by experts and debating the problem — and then decide on environmental regulations, or a budget, or pretty much anything.
Liquid democracy does away with elections altogether.
Everyone has a vote, and they can keep the power to cast it themselves or assign it to another person as a proxy.
There are no set elections; anyone can reassign their proxy at any time.
This all brings up another question: Who gets to participate?
And, more generally, whose interests are taken into account?
Early democracies were really nothing of the sort: They limited participation by gender, race, and land ownership.
We should debate lowering the voting age, but even without voting, we recognise that children are too young to vote to have rights and, in some cases, so do other species.
Should future generations get a “voice,” whatever that means?
What about nonhumans or whole ecosystems?
Those questions lead to ones about the limits of democracy.
All democracies have boundaries limiting what the majority can decide.
We all have rights: the things that cannot be taken away from us.
We cannot vote to put someone in jail, for example.
But while we can’t vote a particular publication out of existence, we can to some degree regulate speech.
In this hypothetical community, what are our rights as individuals?
What are the rights of society that supersede those of individuals?
Personally, I was most interested in how these systems fail.
As a security engineer, I study how complex systems are subverted — hacked, in my parlance — for the benefit of a few at the expense of the many.
Think of tax loopholes, or tricks to avoid government regulation.
I want any government system to be resilient in the face of that kind of trickery.
It’s hard to find people who are thinking more radically: looking beyond the horizon for what’s possible eventually.
And while true innovation in politics is a lot harder than innovation in technology, especially without a violent revolution forcing change, it’s something that we as a species are going to have to get good at — one way or another.
As always God bless you all and your families and stay safe in both the digital and physical worlds.
• ILAITIA B TUISAWAU is a private cybersecurity consultant. The views expressed in this article are his and not necessarily shared by this
newspaper. Mr Tuisawau can be contacted in firstname.lastname@example.org