Tuesday, June 11, 2019



Neal Stephenson and William Gibson and Daniel Keys Moran all treated the problem of disinformation and over-information differently in their books. MINOR SPOILER WARNING btw.

NS's latest book is a cool 900 pages, longer than even those compendiums of cyber policy we usually review on this blog. I read it the entire way to Argentina and realized when we landed I was only 50% of the way through. The whole first section is about a near future where someone runs a successful strategic disinfo-op (using actors and faked media) against a town in America claiming that it has been attacked with nuclear weapons, while using cyber means to cut it off from the rest of the country. This works surprisingly well, and changes the nature of how people interact with the Internet as a result.

Good science fiction grapples with policy problems, in many ways, sooner and more accurately than policy writing. All the consternation over "Deep Fakes" is a proxy grieving process for "Mass media can no longer be used to control the masses". The recent controversy over the NYT's reporting on the Baltimore ransomware attack is perhaps a symptom of ongoing consensus fragmentation. You can, for any given factset, fool SOME of the people ALL of the time. We are essentially tribal in all things.

In other words, we always lived in Unreality, but the rise of the cyber domain means we now live in a Chaotic Unreality which seems to make a lot of people uncomfortable.

To be fair, everything about cyber makes policy people uncomfortable because the whole thing is so weird. The clearest example of this, to me, is Targeting, an aspect of projecting cyber power that is basically ignored. This is why someone ends up hacking a fish tank to later own a casino.

I don't know what makes good targeters. Smaller organizations tend to be better at it for obvious reasons that Cybercoms should probably address at some point because having a significant cyber effect is almost always perpendicular to the way a planner thinks it ought to be done.

VEEP covered another angle on this: In one episode the Chinese pay back a debt to a politician not by hacking an election itself, but by messing with the traffic lights and power in North Carolina during the Democratic Primary, in certain districts known to vote against her, which works perfectly well.

Good targeting is just not believing all the things you see around you because they actually don't exist, as the Matrix pointed out but as so few can internalize. In other words, Fall is a good book; I highly recommend it.

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