When things become too complex, we simplify. Which works fine, if we know what we are doing. But let´s face it, when it comes to the brave new virtual world, BNVW for short, we don´t know what we are doing.
There is no way to simplify, as we keep adding device after device to a virtual world that we don´t fully understand, much less control.
We deal with this insurmountable complexity the way people have dealt with such complexity for generations. We close our eyes, and hope for the best. Whether we are world leaders, bankers, business leaders, or just plain you and me.
I take some precautions against identity theft and cyberbullying; but really, if they want to get to me, they probably can. Whoever they are. So how much inconvenience should I suffer?
Business leaders try to safeguard their systems, but how much cost can you incur because of a threat that does not seem imminent? Besides, whose to say the people you hire to safeguard your systems are not building back doors for mischief as they go.
Is there such a thing as safety? Well no, but there is such a thing as best efforts to ensure safety. And they are not being made by many businesses these days.
Banks are businesses too of course, but because they handle my money, I would love to say that bankers are more careful. Sadly I can´t. One thing is for sure. Your money is not safe, because the banks are not doing enough to make sure you will get to it, when you need it.
You only have to think back on the denial-of-service attacks that have floored the banks from time to time. If an ambitious hacker, who has yet to reach the age of majority, can shut down the internet services of a major bank in Finland for days, just think what a more sophisticated approach could do, and probably is doing at this very moment.
DoS attacks combined with blackmail have been pretty crude so far. But there are so many other ways to do damage in the BNVW. I guess we will read about some of them in the years to come. The ones that will be found out, that is. Which is probably a fraction of what is happening out there.
Not to mention the possibilities for virtual warfare. Instead of the robots so often envisioned in sci-fi literature, you may one day find internet-connected refrigerators marching against you in the BNVW.
To be honest, I do what we all do when facing insurmountable complexity. I close my eyes, and hope for the best. I hope someone does something. But if we are all hoping the same, there is no someone out there doing anything truly effective to safeguard us, is there?
Which brings us to the world leaders I mentioned earlier. According to US intelligence services, people “with direct ties to Kremlin” gave WikiLeaks emails that had been hacked from the Democratic National Committee. These emails, when leaked to the public, undermined Hilary Clinton´s presidential campaign.
Which in turn goes to show how many new tools there are out there by courtesy of the BNVW. Not only can you affect the outcome of a major political event by fake news, you can affect it by judiciously leaking hacked real news too.
Fake news are just one more form of misuse of the BNVW. Some do it for the money, like the youngsters in Macedonia, who ran pro-Trump websites – more than a hundred of them, some sources say – and raked in a lot of advertising money because of the high traffic they generated with their fake news.
Then there are the sites that spread fake news for political rather than monetary gain. Or should I say political gain from which monetary gain is sure to follow, if things go as planned.
And finally, there are those to whom power means more than all the money in the world. The truly scary ones, who will stop at nothing.
Integrity starts at home. I am not saying that the young man, who blackmailed the Finnish bank, would not have done so, had his parents taught him integrity. It is not as simple as that.
But the fine line between right and wrong, fake and true cannot be allowed to become too blurred. I am starting my fight today. I apologise in advance, dear grandchildren.
Granny sermons are heading your way. Naturally I will cunningly package them so that you don’t recognise them for the sermons they are. I hope.
So here we go, into 2017, armed with a plan.
I hope the same can be said for the leaders of the European countries with upcoming elections.
As we know, the Dutch and German general election, as well as the French presidential election, will all take place in 2017. In addition Italy is a real wild card, and might end up with early elections too.
We also know that Russian disinformation is cited as one of the reasons, why the cooperation and trade treaty between Ukraine and Europe was turned down in a Dutch referendum this year. In addition, we know that France´s Marie Le Pen is best buddies with Putin, at least according to her own words, and that Angela Merkel has asked her security officials to look into Russian influence in German online media.
I hope European leaders in these countries have a plan, and that they recognise that it is not about the Russians, it might as well be about Macedonian teens.
Fake news are here to stay. So figure out a simple way to safeguard yourself. Set up a “Fake News Cop” site for starters, for the systematic, official rebuttal of obvious false news, whatever the source. The media will take care of the rest.
But more importantly, figure out what you voters fundamental fears and concerns are, and address them in a manner that they will understand, and buy into. It’s all right to fight for minorities, but don’t forget the concerns of the perceived majorities.
Now there will be those, who like George Friedman in his statement to Forbes, will be quick to point out that Europe doesn´t really exist in any meaningful way.
Yes and no. It´s all about perspective. If you look at the findings of the Eurobarometer 86, Fall 2016, 77% of the German interviewees felt that they were EU-citizens, but only 50% where hopeful regarding the future of EU.
So while I am focusing on integrity “lessons” for my grandchildren, maybe European leaders should be focusing on the positives of EU citizenship, as well as addressing the concerns regarding their country’s and EU´s future.
Forget the official mantras, go for the emotion. Address concerns and fears with clear, simple statements, but go for the positive too. Above all, understand your voters. What you are seeing on a general level, is probably not at all what your voters are seeing on a personal level.
If you can´t figure out what they are looking for, just look in the mirror when you lose. You probably lost because your vision did not address the concerns of your voters; not due to the Russians, or whoever else possibly tried to impact the end result by spreading disinformation.
There are not many out there, who would call themselves extremists, whether right or left.
But if they feel nobody else hears them, they will go with the person, who at least recognises their concerns, and hope for the best. Even though they may not fully agree with all the offered solutions, as many Trump voters indicated.
Once you have got the basic concerns right, you can follow-up with facts and figures. Hopefully real facts and figures, contrary to Trump.
With the Trump inauguration, the upcoming European elections, and a volatile Putin, it is building up to be an interesting year 2017 for all us bloggers.
Wishing all my readers a really Happy New Year 2017!
P.S.The featured image is my take on how Sarah Oppenheimer´s insightful works allow us to view things from different perspectives. T.S.