The peculiar (and useful) mix of curiosity and paranoia

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“The security mindset is a peculiar mix of curiosity and paranoia that turns life into a perpetual game of asking “what if” questions”
Tripwire Magazine

Has anyone ever told you that you have the mind of a criminal because sometimes you come up with ideas on how to game the system, or creative ways to bypass any type of security?
Or when someone tells you their plan of action you raise your hand multiple times in a Hermione Granger style with “what if’s” questions to see if there is any flaw or exception?

That’s the security mindset, that can be incorporated in your planning session, it’s been known to be applied in the software development field but it is such a useful tool that can help you think more broadly and encounter new solutions if you are building a bridge, planning a city, scheduling your week or many other important activities. The good news is that as any skill, it can be developed. I think Steve Jobs might have showed this kind of mindset when designing products, because he always wanted to create great experiences and he put himself in the shoes of users, like what if they get lost pressing too many buttons? the home button appeared, what if it falls? Gorilla glass was installed, he also adopted the pentalobe screw in his products, not to make impossible opening the iphone ( we know that Steve was a hacker by nature) but he wanted to prevent people messing up uninententionally, Jobs was surely intolerant to that.

Putting yourself in the “attacker’s” shoes gives you a new perspective and an advantage. Curiosity gets you to discover what’s new, and paranoia to keep checking in case something goes wrong.

Recognize threats

But the truth of the matter is, we’re an open society, we want to remain an open society, and there will continue to be vulnerability. That’s why we have to meet the threats when they are not yet taking place on our territory and on our soil. Condoleezza Rice

Recognizing threats in my opinion has to take place even before you verbalize your goal, something you can visualize and seeing it happen. The right ammount of humility acts as those rotating beacons in emergency vehicles to be aware of your weakneses. Everyone has weaknesses some are better concealed than others but we all have plenty of room for improvement. Remember this, “One cannot be humble and aware of oneself at the same time.” Madeleine L’Engle, A Circle of Quiet. Entrepreneurs when running a throrough business analysis, especially if they think they have a perfect business idea , they take into account some threats that might be a liability for their business, overlooking them can be a costly mistake. And so can you, to avoid undesired consequences with a healthy dose of humility.

While looking for an open and practical resource for you, I found this awesome pdf deck of 42 cards from Tadayoshi Kohno, Professor of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington for free (AVAILABLE UNDER THE TERMS OF THE CREATIVE COMMONS ATTRIBUTION-NONCOMMERCIAL-NODERIVS 3.0 LICENSE). “The Security Cards encourage you to think broadly and creatively about computer security threats”. My first impression was “yeah, this might be useful” in a not- impressed -at- all tone of voice, but here is when comes the magic…I actually put it to work.

It includes interesting questions that make you think about possible adversary methods, motivations and their resources along with the human impact. There are some example goals, example targets, example actions and example assets. You can of course change some words like “system” or “adversary” for whatever applies in your case ( I was surprised it mentions ex-boyfriends). It also has blank cards in each category, so you take the time to think about unusual ways that your project is vulnerable.

The main goal is to reduce the risks

Chances are, my friend, that your project is not going to be flawless, but you will increase dramatically your chances of success. Now it sounds more enticing to practice and adopt this new mindset, right ? It implies control of possible future events, reducing anxiety. It personally helped me to increase my decision making capacity and to be aware of when and where to focus.

This new mindset becomes second nature with continued practice, and avoid sometimes costly mistakes at work, home or, I hate to say it, love and friendship.

Here’s a recomended article where I got the idea for this blog post.

[1] https://www.tripwire.com/state-of-security/off-topic/the-security-mindset-the-key-to-success-in-the-security-field/

This is how I would divide the learning in school ( warning: It might work )

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Im not an expert but I wrote this a few days ago in a simple piece of paper, not merely as a fun exercise but to boldly defy one aspect of the school system and decided to share this view with you, a completely raw and unrefined idea. I only added some comments. Of course, it needs to be revised many times , but it is perfect to start a conversation, gather some opinions and ask again, what is school for ?

That question led me directly to a Seth Godin’s video I watched a long time ago, a great inspiration to start aswering now and going offense, not defense. So when I asked myself what would help kids to live and work better based in current needs and interests, I came up with this curricula, courses I think it would be cool if offered by any institution.

I’m on the student’s side, your side, and I’ll always be, that’s why this is very important to me.

Early Start

Skills are acquired at a very early age at home, and overtime people acquire more and make some adjustments as they face different challenges and set new goals, but we want (need) to waste no time, money and energy.
Designed to get the basics to improve the quality of life, unlocking alternatives, in other words, freedom and confidence about the future.
At 16 they should be asking what would be interesting to do? instead of what can I do now? with uncertainty in their faces at 19.

Regarding the complexity, everything can be taught in a simple way so even a 5 years old can get it and then adding more depth as they grow. “The worst mistake we can make is believing that kids are stupid, they are not” . Have you ever wondered why only few of all the potentially geniuses kids actually become one? I do, a lot, and the same thought comes to mind, the institutions.

Let the class begin

Financial education and entrepreneurship (We are in desperate need of a generation being smart about money)

A very well funded program, taught globally and it would be covering concepts like:

*budget
*credit
*debt
*venture capital
*investing
*pricing
*savings
*product creation

Problem solving and critical thinking

Life is full of problems. Interesting puzzles and great mysteries are fun.

Remember: Projects projects, projects !!

Collaboration

Collaboration > competition, that’s how naturally I do better work, Walter Isaacson in his book called “Innovators” explains how the ability of those skillful people to collaborate and master the art of teamwork made them even more creative. Teaching students not only to excel at their craft but to see the connections of human capabilities and get marvelous results.

Journalism/Storytelling

To gather, verify and communicate information. Because “everyone has their own version of the truth, but there are facts” Bob Woodward.

Storytelling is in my more than humble opinion one of the most underrated skills as humans, also imperative to create a powerful personal brand.

Portfolio creation

I wish I knew back in those days how to start and finish a project and know how to present it. How to exhibit what I’ve done in an attractive manner and join it along other related works so at the end it looks like a beautiful interwoven piece of tapestry worth showing.

Art of memory/mindfulness

There are times we want to remember things, sometimes for a long period of time, but there are more effective ways to do it than rote memorization. Not everything will be singing a song to remember the long list of American presidents ( why doing that? You can just google it )…I mean, useful techniques like the Loci method (that’s how I memorized a deck of cards with little effort in a short period of time), mnemonics, basic asociation, etc. For things that really matter.

Science experimentation

“Science to learn not to keep us busy”. Basic projects with a lot of value ( including biohacking ) and get them interested to create their variations at home as a game, documenting the process and be reviewed by peers why not?.

BONUS : Coding (optional)
Im still deciding about it, even though is one of my favourites subjects. It’s a big part of being literate in this digital era.

Oh my goodness…where is math and language ??!! DO NOT DISPAIR

It is divided into very small chunks of knowledge scattered among the different subjects mentioned above. They are not in disguise like a chocolate coated brocoli as some people would label it. I would say that they are where they belong.

Yeah, and Phisical health

That’s the title it would have, it would cover research based diets, Brazilian Jiujitsu, one of the favourite martial arts of the Navy Seals ( fun, weight loss, self defense, humility, and becoming part of larger communnity, developing or strengthening the sense of belonging) Self control would keep many students out of trouble too.

Lets talk about it in the comments or social media 😉

Whats on your piece of paper? I’d love to know that too.

Could this be more than a simple game?

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“If there is hope in the future, there is literally power in the present.”

Zig Ziglar

I still remember that summer, working in my little frontyard with my earphones on, I  pressed the play button to the audio of Jane Mcgonigal’s keynote on SXSW EDU on “How to think (and learn ) like a futurist”[1] The idea she proposed never left me. (  Yup, for those who asked me, that’s the kind of audio files I have on my phone)

LearningisEarning2026.org is a collaborative game blog, where the creators post a possible imaginary scenario and you respond by playing different cards with a written idea of yours about what might happen, either positive or negative. It gets even better because then you play Follow up cards, with actions we can do now to make that happen, “predicting” cards to keep the story going, (c’mon we gotta make it interesting) or you can also support ideas you agree with and tell them why. One of my favourites is the “investigation” card where you ask or answer a follow up question, connecting this big network of ideas that you cant help but wonder… if this could be the actual future.

Learning, Earning and living

“Really? Could we do all at the same time? It’s very appealing, especially now where your mental stamina is another valuable asset in this knowledge economy, your are value for how much you know and the skills you have. You dont want to waste it.

This is the possible scenario:

Learning is a kind of a currency that ties together every aspect of our lives

“In this future, the currency of learning is tracked and traded on a digital platform called the Ledger. It’s a complete record of everything you’ve ever learned, everyone you’ve learned from, and everyone who’s learned from you. The Ledger not only tracks what you know – it also tracks all of the projects, jobs, gigs, and challenges you’ve used that knowledge to complete.

*Anyone can use the Ledger to teach or mentor anyone else. (And get paid for it.) In fact, you can pay down your student loans by teaching forward what you learned in school.

*You can get credit for learning that happens anywhere, not just in schools or formal classes. The Ledger will also track skills you build just doing what you love, or spending time with friends and family.

*Employers can match you with projects and gigs that perfectly fit the level of learning you have right now. There’s no need to finish school to have a thriving career.

*When you master a new skill at work, that goes on your learning record, too.

*You have a complete record of how much income each skill or lesson you’ve learned has helped you generate—so you know the exact value of every part of your education.

*Investors can help pay for your education. In return, they get a percentage of your future earnings tied to the skills they paid you to learn. This fuels a new speculative economy as people invest in building a workforce for what they hope will be the most lucrative skills.

Again I wonder…could a future like this really happen? It’s already happening.Today, learning, working, and living are already combining in thousands of unexpected ways.

Smart contracts in education

Nick Szabo in an 1994 essay[2] wrote:

“A smart contract is a computerized transaction protocol that executes the terms of a contract. The general objectives of smart contract design are to satisfy common contractual conditions (such as payment terms, liens, confidentiality, and even enforcement), minimize exceptions both malicious and accidental, and minimize the need for trusted intermediaries. Related economic goals include lowering fraud loss, arbitration and enforcement costs, and other transaction costs”

So basically it is a piece of software that self enforces the terms. “If X is done then do Y” . It’s mainly applied in the financial area but I found a great example: If a loan was taken out to buy that car, and the owner failed to make payments, the smart contract could automatically invoke a lien, which returns control of the car keys to the bank. This smart lien might be much cheaper and more effective than a repo man.

Protection

If someone at the office of your education organization is fired, or due to war or natural disasters the computer (or computers) are destroyed, it does not affect the functionality of the network, that’s a big benefit of descentralization, the data would not be lost, smart contracts and blockchain are going to continue to work regardless.

Education means a lot of work doing research and discoveries, this technology can help you and your peers to manage intellectual property. Bernstein Technologies  “registers the hash of documents on the blockchain, thus providing proof of existence, integrity and ownership” . By storing the hash of the document on the blockchain, the invention can be verifyably published, without needing to reveal its content unlike the traditional method used to secure copyrights and patents. [3]

Im fascinated because the document also refers that the system can be used to secure trade secrets, lab notes and other internal intellectual property.

As with personal data it gives you:

Recipient Ownership: means that individuals control the private key that allow them to demonstrate ownership of money or their digital records.

Vendor Independence: means that access, display and verification do not rely on any particular vendor…records can be migrated, shared, and verified independent of any vendor.

The Joint Research Centre (JRC), the European commission’s science and knowledge service published a Science for Policy report is very useful to find evidence and examples of how this technology is being used.

It can make the points mentioned above actually work. and protect this new currency called learning in this future.

Those who decide to join me and make this possible future come true, Sam Coniff Allende in his book “Be more pirate” can give you a priceless piece of advice:

Stand up from the status quo.
Dont accept pointless rules, rewrite them.
Collaborate to achieve scale rather than growth.
Fight for fairness, share power.
Weaponize your story.

But more on than later.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKvMmtclUBA
[2]http://www.fon.hum.uva.nl/rob/Courses/InformationInSpeech/CDROM/Literature/LOTwin

[3]https://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/bitstream/JRC108255/jrc108255_blockchain_in_education(1).pdf

 

 

 

 

 

terschool2006/szabo.best.vwh.net/smart.contracts.html[]

Anyone can be solving big problems

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Theory and experiment

Enter the third culture.”The third culture consists of those scientists and other thinkers in the empirical world who, through their work and expository writing, are taking the place of the traditional intellectual in rendering visible the deeper meanings of our lives, redefining who and what we are.” [1]

The big realization of people in general around the world that we can too be influential and helpful by aquiring and even mastering scientific knowledge. It just changes everything. Imagine unleashing millions of minds to solve problems,  solutions that brilliant scientist centuries ago would only dream of .  People having that amazing power to decide how to put theory and experimentation together and what to do with the outcome.

Is it all about control ?

Whenever the system we allow to represent us ( yes, with too many civil servants ) is scared of not being needed and its people operating on their own. They start to act like the ignorant parent turned into a tyrant arguing that “you don’t know enough” making you feel scared and insecure of what you can do because you cause some damage instead of first, creating a learning environment and secondly, looking at the posibilites and hopefully how good it could be for everyone in the house.

Health

Dr Josiah Zayner wrote a powerful article I strongly suggest you to read ( essential to understand my point of view). I cannot write better arguments advocating for the democratization of science than him (especially in the genetic engeneering field). There are big lessons to be learned.

The people affected by any problem should be directly involved in the decision making to solve the same instead of being made by office staff  located kilometers away ( both physically and emotionally) from the issue.

“Laws are spider webs through which the big flies pass and the little ones get caught.”

Honore de Balzac.

 

My call to action without fancy words and much decoration is this : Lets protect everyone, especially ourselves, the little ones.

And some tech 

In the patent area, inventors need some form of compensation not aimed to kill competition, thus streamlining innovation. Solving this dilemma moves the compass towards progress, a recurring theme in my writing. When you read about patents legal battles on the news, pay careful attention to who is collecting the money and how much they are making by filing lawsuits against companies vs actually providing a real product or service. How about the RIAA vs Jesse Jordan case?, an association that “does not itself own any copyrights (those are held by the record labels and music publishing companies)” vs a college student who improved an existing buggy peer to peer filesharing system.[2] This is another example of profit vs progress, supporting Dr Zayner views and the families fighting for more affordable solutions, including creating the solution themselves. Im not implying that every patent should be free to use like the polio vaccine or living in a lawless state, but there are obviously more ethical ways to provide answers to problems and make them available for the maximum ammount of people.

So in conclusion the Third Culture is pop culture based on technology, giving a fair quantity of choices and access given to all interested parties. Laws are slowing down the process and some companies that have influence in government decisions criminalize what we as the people would see as positive and meaningful for power’s sake. Democracy is more than voting every four years. The more have this uncomfortable conversations is going to improve democracy, in every area especially in what impacts our everyday life, like technology, medicine, education and work, because anyone can be solving big problems now.
[1] https://www.edge.org/conversation/toc
[2] https://www.eff.org/wp/riaa-v-people-five-years-later

On building your own country.

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More than an actual invitation to send a letter to Antonio Guterres and getting nations to reserve you a seat in the UN council, this is an experiment to reflect on your values and system building skills.

The first article of the Montevideo Convention ( 1933), document that was registered in League of Nations treaty in 1936 [1] declares that: “The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.” The fourth is, according to what I’ve observed, the most difficult to pass. (Have you heard about Somaliland? Neither had I before writing this, so there you have an example) Those four are the main points to consider but not the only ones.

What are your values ?

Your principles, your desirable code of conduct. This is a vital element to keep in mind when building a nation. Please, take your time to reflect about your country’s values and your own, are they aligned ? do you support theirs? The answers are a good place to start when deciding what we should do as citizes to protect our rights and the ideals of the founding fathers.

The written law provided by legislators is one honest reflection of what we value the most, do they favor property over life ?.

Systems.

This is to support point number three mentioned in the first paragraph, there is a need to be organized as a society (large or small). World history provides various models and their consequences. Modern systems are better documented and also equipped with higher technology to organize and deliver proper solutions on time. It doesnt mean however that modern systems are perfect, it means that people like you and me can think of modifications to be made or entirely new ways of organizing and delegating responsabilities to people with different skills to get optimal results. The more questions you ask, more answers you’ll get with adecuate ethical research. Keep in mind the number of people that must be involved, the power and authority of each role, how limited and for how long, the best method to keep everyone accountable, to incentive transparency, law enforcement, to secure alwayscompassionate, sympathetic and generous behaviour. 

What if you could create your own country? What would you do ? Im sure you can do a great job.

Have a great day.

[1] League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. 165, page 24.

Naturally unnatural

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“All technology is inherently about changing away from what is natural.”

Adopting new ideas is how we reach new heights and find new solutions to our problems. One question is, Should we always try new ideas ? and How natural is to adopt the unnatural ?

The human voice is incredibly fascinating, how vocal capacities are expanding gradually but lets not forget that there is also a physical limit ( currently ). Let’s say I want to tell Chad who is living in Seattle in detail about a new book, podcast or any project Im excited about, but Im living in South America, 10596.35 kilometers in a straight line distance. Its not possible to talk to him “naturally” but I do enjoy the benefits of servers conections, I bet you do too. But this is something you can carry with you at will, it is a helping device.

Almost everything we do is against nature, when we go to the supermarket, nature made us to walk or run and still we rather use the car or public transportation for instance. Our ethical and moral lines are constantly changing when the results are positive for everybody. Dr. Zbigniew Religa performed the first successful heart transplant in Poland despite the strong influence of the Catholic church among the general opinion and even colleagues, they were accused of playing God and desecrating the body, being such practices increasingly regular and accepted by their contemporanous in the western world. It also applies to gene transfer therapy, one miracle of the modern era, the introduction of a normal gene into an individual’s genome in order to repair a mutation that causes a genetic disease. Knowledge and tools that are available by the way to anyone eager to contribute and have an impact and make changes.

We fear the unknown, and genetic engineering is a new, vast, unknown field to many of us because of the myths and wrong or inaccurate ideas circulating, acting like a fuel for ignorance. We can begin by asking questions, debating, start developing ideas and see the potential to bring the maximum postive impact and mitigate future problems as Prof Juan Izpisua Belmonte ( Developmental biologist) says: “We are okay to retore vision to the same level, and no one will say this is an ethical thing if wear glasses, but if I wear two binoculars that will make me see better than you thats the problem, no? That’s what, with enhancement, is what we are discussing here. Because maybe you can do it, maybe I cannot do it, it will generate inequalities. But in principle if everyone could have the vision of an eagle, what is wrong with that?”

Poem excerpt I found on Medium, written by Sylvia Clare:

We are such tighly knotted
fists of clinging
to the known, the familiar

Denying, and excluding the other,
without understanding
we are also the losers

Should we try everything new?, no without calculating the potential benefits/risks. The invitation is to explore and have a conversation as a society to participate and defend freedom and democracy of science, making informed decisions. Because unnatural would be not trying to help those in need.

The most advanced digital society

The most advanced digital society in the world is a former Soviet Republic on the edge of the Baltic Sea.
Wired Magazine UK March 27th 2017

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Intrigued? Maybe you already know the answer by now.

But first, 30 seconds of history. Independence is never easy, and estonia was not the exception. Divisions and foreign occupations (being the soviet union, a one party state, governed by the communist party, the last one) marked a before and after. In the early 90’s while the world was listening Nirvana’s “Smells like teen spirit” or dancing Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” in the other half of the world Estonians were facing an inmense challege, “to build a fully functioning country from scratch, while knowing [they] cannot afford the bureaucracy of a developed democracy”. Fortunately, around the same time computers and the internet became a worldwide success. Two events that forged what Estonia is today.

Becoming a digital society is aiming to be efficient, getting the desired result with little or no waste, and that includes our precious time. On the official website (here) explains that the digital ecosystem Estonians have built has saved them 1000+ years of working time. Here is where I introduce you to X Road (https://x-road.global/), the open source ( yes, it is open source) data exchange layer solution that enables organizations to exchange information over the Internet in a secure and confidential way. I strongly suggest everyone to search a little more and consider the possibility to make it part of our governments. The numbers of years of working time saved is only increasing, imagine our civil service employees efficiency and anyone who would enjoy to file taxes online in only 3 minutes or starting a company in 3 hours.

Consequently a new generation is rising, digital literate people, educated not only to be resposible tech users but also citizens able to write software, build and maintain hardware so more and more people take part in running the country in a safe, transparent and efficient manner, thus securing digital democracy.

You’ll find the following on the top right corner in their e-education pdf factsheet: “RAISING SMARTER KIDS IS THE SMARTEST INVESTMENT A COUNTRY CAN MAKE.” As we examine closely our current situation, we’ll see the results of previous efforts. Making the decision now to build a solid foundation in policy making, brings naturally a change in behaviour and a fresh new perspective on how things are to be done. So next time we hear complaints about bureaucracy, unemployment, crime rates, poor performance in schools and how universities are failing, one the question we must ask is how big and meaningful is the investment our country is making? Is that adequate to what the 21st century demands?

Being a pathfinder means being creative, discovering new paths, embarking in a very exciting journey moving the world forward. It also means making mistakes and acknowledging the system is not perfect, but as you are open and truly improve, the progress is inevitable. Let me give you Estonia’s example, right after the 2007 cyber attack, they overcame the natural reaction of hiding mistakes and just blaming others, they documented the 2007 attack, learned from it (because it was certainly a new experience) and shared it with the world. Nowadays Estonia’s credibility and trust in cyber security is stronger than ever and becuase of their experience, the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence and the IT-agency of the European Union are now based in Estonia.

What is our country known for ? Are we pathfinders ? How afraid of mistakes are we ? What are we willing to do to become an advance society? ( in every aspect you feel is necessary )