Friday, June 23, 2017

Things I Wonder About–”Make Believe” Surveillance Oversight, Porn Extortion and Other Stuff

Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up. – Oliver Wendell Holmes

Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean. – Ryunosuke Satoro

By popular demand, I offer round 2 of “Things I Wonder About” (continued from Things I Wonder About).

In between selling a large tech company and starting up a Foundation that will “help NPO’s “do good better” through fact-based decision-making and evidence-based outcome assessments” (quoting friend and colleague, Doug P.), I often have other distractions that cross my mind that I feel merit some attention.

As a long-time Wall St. strategy guy, unsolved problems are always a conundrum for me, especially when the problems are significant in impact and are far / wide reaching in society.  Problems in society affect us all at some point, even if we don’t feel the affect directly (or believe we don’t).

However, I can’t tackle all these thoughts, nor should I (no individual is tagged as the “savior” of the world).  That being said, they are worthy of thought and action and so, with the encouragement of very nice colleagues who kindly never lose patience with me when I muse about other concerns in the world, I’m going to occasionally toss some ideas out with the idea that someone else may feel inspired to own some of them.

This is not a typical blog post for me such as can be found in the #1206 series, the Abigail / Gabriel series or any general post.  It is a grab bag of thoughts that pass through my brain in the course of leading a busy Life.

If you want to own one, I would be glad to help!

A subset of my random thoughts this week:

  1. Winning (Losing) on Principle: How do we help people such as the person who contacted me this week, telling me an unfortunate story of how she has had compromising video / audio taken of her but she can’t report it to police?  The information is such that her personal and professional reputation would be destroyed if it was made public but she has been informed that any action by the police against the miscreant will cause the information to be released to the public.  After contacting the police, I was told that she needed to come forward and file official charges (of course).  But the moment she does so, her Life is destroyed.  The police say “but we will still arrest him”.  The counter, that her Life is still destroyed while she “wins on principle”, doesn’t seem to matter much.
  2. Bureaucrats Who Don’t Think Things Through:  The Liberal Government in Canada is planning sweeping legislative changes to curtail the surveillance authority of various law enforcement groups as provided by the previous government.  Unfortunately, all of the laws can be circumvented, providing unlimited power to surveillance authorities.  For information on how that is accomplished, observe how the NSA has dealt with similar “restrictions”.
  3. Our Over-Spend on Anti-Terror: Over dinner with Gwynne Dyer last week, I explained to him how billions of dollars spent annually on surveillance and decryption technology can be undermined using $100 worth of technology (I wrote about it in National Security – Arming Both Sides).  He just shook his head.  Why are we still pretending (outside of the fact that it keeps people “fat, dumb and happy”)?  The money spent on this could be better spent on …. just about anything.
  4. Our Overstated Fear of ISIS: While random attacks using vehicles as weapons draw great press and create fear that can be used as leverage for various purposes, consider this the next time a “”frightening event” occurs.  You are:
    • 6 times more likely to die from a shark attack (one of the rarest forms of death on Earth)
    • 29 times more likely to die from a regional asteroid strike
    • 260 times more likely to be struck and killed by lightning
    • 4,700 times more likely to die in an airplane or spaceship accident
    • 129,000 times more likely to die in a gun assault
    • 407,000 times more likely to die in a motor vehicle incident
    • 6.9 million times more likely to die from cancer or heart disease (source).
  5. The Disabling Effect of a Good Story: Someone used the story of the fisherman and the starfish on the beach (where the fisherman insists he can’t save all of them but he saves one by throwing it back into the ocean) to explain how every little bit helps.  Many of these feel-good stories can also be used to justify minimal effort under the guise of making a difference when much more could be done.
  6. The Lack of Strategy In People’s Lives: Most people would never set out on a long drive wearing a blindfold, without a working gas gauge, without knowing how much gas they have in the tank and not knowing where they were going.  However, if you look at how much effort goes into planning their Life, they don’t follow the same safety guidelines for their own Life.  It matters – we all reap the reward and pay the penalty for each person’s brilliance, greed and ignorance.  If you don’t believe me, ask your insurance company how your premium is calculated or how many stupid people it takes to get all of us to take our shoes off in airport security (the answer to the latter question is one).
  7. Realistic Use of Strategy: While many people generally accept the importance of strategy, many of those same people prefer to build plans in ignorance of where they are at the moment because where they are reminds them of some failure or shortcoming.  This myopic, over-optimistic view causes them to not realize that knowing where you are going depends entirely on where you are starting from.  If I call you and ask for directions to Penn Station in NYC because I need to be there in an hour, it matters if I am calling you from Chinatown (NYC), Seattle or Moscow.
  8. Failure to Use Data: Many people make choices regarding important things that involve risk (e.g. in investment, buying insurance, extended warranties, implementing new business strategies and the like) based on how they feel at the moment.  Unfortunately, doing so using “your gut” instead of using data may cause you to be too risk averse if you just experienced a bad moment or not risk averse enough if Life is going swimmingly at the moment.  Data doesn’t care how you feel, is not so easily biased and can prevent you from over/under reacting to a specific risk mitigation requirement or being coerced / influenced by someone else who tells you to do something “just because”.
  9. Be Proactive: Stephen Covey was right when he said Habit 1 is to be proactive.  Look around you and ask yourself how often we apply this rule.  Do you?  Don’t forget – we all reap the reward and pay the penalty for compliance / non-compliance.
  10. Awareness of Psychology: Why do so many people have the ability to explain every nuance about how Facebook works but can’t explain the psychology of how people use emotion (particularly anger, fear, envy or greed) to manipulate them or how someone can debate them repeatedly into no-win choices that always benefit the other person?
  11. Multidirectional Respect: Why do people who insist that we all be respectful of one other tend to be the ones who least like counter ideas and opinions and shout the loudest to diminish the ideas of others?  When the Voice of Fire was purchased by the National Art Gallery in Ottawa some years ago (containing three equally sized vertical stripes, with the outer two painted blue and the center painted red), many people stood in front of it and marveled at its insight, brilliance and creativity. I observed to the person next to me, quietly, that it looked like the artist had run out of paint.  Apparently I wasn’t quiet enough because a security guard who had been marveling with the others came over and told me to keep my uninformed opinion to myself or I would be asked to leave the Gallery.
  12. Hyper-Analysis of Zer, Zim et al:  If you don’t know what these mean, you have learned how to tune out the news (which can be a good thing) or you are living under a rock.  We must be careful that we don’t get so distracted by the tail wagging the dog that other things in society (appropriate governance, health care, education, infrastructure, safety and security of society, etc.) are not forgotten.  We thrive or die together.  Focus and priorities will determine which way we are going.  When politicians tell you that they are balancing everything well, ask them about unsustainable budgets, infrastructure security, health care waiting lines, failing grades for education performance …. well …. you get it.  I find that when I use social media to ask (not accuse) a politician how things are going, they block me without trying to answer. Some in the meantime, will then tweet all day about someone’s cat that looks very cute.
  13. Airport Security: A cell phone battery and a glass of water can create a potentially dangerous situation on an aircraft (I won’t say how).  People examining this situation are considering bans of laptops, tablets and potentially cell phones as well as potentially requiring you to submit them for safe transport (and obviously, examination).  Don’t act surprised if this happens …. soon.
  14. And More Airport Security: I explained to someone today how a $60 drone purchased at Walmart can imperil everyone on a large aircraft at an airport.  Bureaucrats who legislate against drone use close to airports ignore the reality that those of us with common sense don’t need to be told this and people who don’t care won’t be told this, so the legislation impacts very few people.  We have avoided a disaster because people have chosen not to do something stupid but unfortunately, hope is not a strategy.  And if something happens, we will still have excellent laws to charge the miscreant but as in the first point in this list, we will win in principle only.

Do these things matter or am I just over-sensitive?

Should we care that these represent symptoms of a society that is not ticking over as well as claimed by politicians or do we ignore them, saving our complaints and intention for action only when we are directly affected as opposed to when our neighbor is being pummeled instead of us?

If they matter, what can we do about them?

The Bottom Line

I’m a big believer in sharing thoughts and encouraging people to dialog about things with an eye towards taking measurable action.  Good intentions and thoughts are worthless without measurable results.

However, we can’t own everything that comes before us, even when it impacts us deeply.  Some of us who work hard to make a difference in the world need others to share the responsibility, especially when many who put little into society want to reap the harvest that comes from a better world.

It’s time for more people to be concerned about society and where it’s going …

… while it’s still a going concern.

In service and servanthood, create a great day because merely having one is too passive an experience.

Harry