We Are All Intelligence Officers Now

Dan Geer:

I am particularly fond of the late Peter Bernstein’s definition of
 risk: “More things can happen than will.”[PB] I like that definition
 not because it tells me what to do, but rather because it tells me
 what comes with any new expansion of possibilities. Put differently,
 it tells me that with the new, the realm of the possible expands
 and, as we know, when the realm of the possible expands, prediction
 is somewhere between difficult and undoable. The dynamic is that
 we now regularly, quickly expand our dependence on new things, and
 that added dependence matters because the way in which we each and
 severally add risk to our portfolio is by way of dependence on
 things for which their very newness makes risk estimation, and thus
 risk management, neither predictable nor perhaps even estimable.
 The Gordian Knot of such tradeoffs — our tradeoffs — is this: As
 society becomes more technologic, even the mundane comes to depend
 on distant digital perfection. Our food pipeline contains less
 than a week’s supply, just to take one example, and that pipeline
 depends on digital services for everything from GPS driven tractors
 to robot vegetable sorting machinery to coast-to-coast logistics
 to RFID-tagged livestock. Is all the technologic dependency, and
 the data that fuels it, making us more resilient or more fragile?