Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Enemies at the Firewall

Enlightened change does not always have to be "good" from the standpoint of the general public. As a matter of fact, it can be alarming if one does not stand back and take in the larger picture. Case in point is the article in TIME (12-17-07, p. 56 - 58) entitled "Enemies at the Firewall" which describes China's latest efforts to hack into government computers worldwide: "Chinese computer hackers are allegedly breaking into high-security networks in the U.S. and other countries. Is Beijing creating an army of Internet warriors?" The writer concludes "yes" of course and describes a network of work-a-day hackers being clandestinely supported by the Chinese military through hacker competitions. . .Chinese newspaper articles suggest that the establishment of a cybermilitia is well underway. In recent years the military has engaged in nationwide recruiting campaigns to try to discover the nation;s most talented hackers.The campaigns are conducted through the competitions that feature large-scale prizes. . advertised in local newspapers." In that case it would be hard to miss--or deny. However, the Chinese government is indeed denying the allegations of the recent and widespread hacking adventures including those against the US government, the German government, other western governments and major corporations.

The article goes on to say:
"China has long regarded cyberwarfare as a critical component of asymmetrical warfare in any future conflict with the U.S. From China's perspective, it makes sense to use any means possible to counter America's huge technology advantage. The current wave of hacking attacks seems to be aimed mainly at collecting information and probing defenses, but in a real cyberwar, a successful attack would target computer dependent infrastructure, such as banking and power generation."

Why I might observe this as enlightened change is the use of cyberwarriors in warfare, which shows an evolution from use of physical force to that of mental prowess. While I'm NOT advocating warfare, most likely, humans are going to have to evolve from the use of physical force to the use of mental means before they will get past the need for warfare at all. Thus, from the Observer's standpoint, this is progress.

Speaking of China,
the Olympics in Beijing next year was certainly a catalyst for change. That a communist-ruled country could be transforming so rapidly is a marvel to watch. I initially wondered how long the people, given their introduction to the outside world through the internet and other sources, would tolerate its central government But, from all reports, many of the young people are quite satisfied with their lives and are more interested in their newly acquired cell phones and other consumer items than the government, human rights issues or Tibet. After all, they are embedded in their culture just as we are.

In the story of the tortoise and the hare, China is the tortoise and Ukraine is the hare. China might have it more right. That's one nice thing about being an Observer, history tells the tale, not our various opinions.

On another note, I made the prediction to my environmentally disappointed daughter a few years back that corporate America would catch the social responsibility bug when it paid to do so. Well, apparently it is now paying in several different ways including the fact that international companies like GE and Microsoft, for example, were forced
by the EU and the Kyoto Agreement to embrace environmental causes. Force might be too harsh a word, but persuaded doesn't quite touch my view as to how it came down. Al Gore's prodding, which has added a shame factor to everyone's plate, hasn't hurt either. And although his science may not be spot on, politically he knew where to manipulate the sensitive, emotional areas to get his point across. Brilliant, really.

Even the WSJ has gotten into the act in a full page ad (12-17-07, p. R11) announcing an Executive Conference sponsored by them called ECO:nomics--Creating Environmental Capital to be held in Santa Barbara CA in March: "A unique conference , ECO:nomics takes a CEO-level view of the rapidly developing relationship between the environment and the bottom line. New business opportunities are materializing thanks to regulation, new technologies, and a growing sense that a world reliant on finite resources must adapt. But the risks are high, and both winners and losers are emerging. Who will end up in the lead?" This kind of gathering would only be organized at a time when the groundswell was so great that CEO's would find it advantageous to attend. The time is apparently now.

This is in the same paper that reported on the front page and further on page A3 that in Bali, Indonesia "nearly 190 nations approved a pact to combat climate change. The agreement paves the way for developing nations to take a more responsibility in fighting the global threat, a departure from the Kyoto Protocol. The accord hammered out at the end of a 12-day U.N. conference stops short of requiring binding cuts." The passage goes on to say meetings will take place over the next two years on a global treaty to replace the Kyoto Agreement. "The leader of the U.S. delegation called the accord 'a new chapter in climate diplomacy' and said the U.S. is 'very committed to developing a long-term global greenhouse gas reduction emission goal.' " Now, that is truly lighted change and proves that the U.N. can be an international leader in such weighty matters.

And a final note on the labor watch (yes, we have a labor watch as well): unions' best days may now be past, and they don't know it yet. Take for example the current writer's strike. If this goes on too long, people may decide they no longer need network TV, particularly when they have found new, more entertaining sources. Again, time will tell whether the writers were enlightened or unenlightened to go on strike over an issue that has little meaning with their audience, the man on the street. Of course, this does not count the groupies who bring donuts and other food to the strikers in order to brush shoulders with this illustrious crowd.

This coming week, I will host a SCIENCE blogathon event. DISCOVER magazine recently reported the 100 most newsworthy scientific events of 2007. Those stories will be highlighted that have shown world wide illumination, transformation or trends of science for a better tomorrow. Stay tuned.

No comments: