Thursday, December 30, 2010

SENDS 2010: The Year in Review

by Carl Hunt, Bob Schapiro and Craig Harm

In sports, when an underdog team surprises everyone and gets into the playoffs, they can’t wait until the next game.  That’s what the SENDS team is feeling right now: the thrill of anticipation as we see our season extended and the team getting better and better when it counts.

Our goal has always been to empower the public to create the future of cyberspace and become part of the SENDS team.  A few months ago, we were in the odd position of being able to open positions on the team, but not having a lot of people to join.  Now that is

From the beginning, SENDS has been fortunate to enjoy the active participation of great thinkers...including some of the people who actually set the course for the future of the Internet.  Most of these people work for the government and major software firms, hired for their expertise in cyber-security.  But as scientists, they wish to transcend that role and discover what makes cyberspace tick.  They know this can only be discovered by working with the people who use the Internet every day; in short, almost everyone – it’s a big team!

That’s where SENDS comes in.

To be blunt, until a few months ago, our resources for reaching the public were not what we hoped they’d be.  But the seeds we planted started to thrive, growing stronger every day.  With this posting, we have now published 31 blogs in the 3½ months from the first entry.  We’ve been fortunate to be highlighted in several online fora, including James Fallows’ Atlantic Magazine blog, the DoD’s Armed with Science blog, and an interesting site called “OhMyGov!”  We’ve even been invited to two Highlands’ Forum meetings to talk about SENDS and participate in discussions of Design in Cyberspace.

The important thing is that you are reading this blog...and if you’re like most of the people who now read and contribute, six months ago you had no idea what SENDS was.  You joined the team!

In 2011, we look forward to empowering people in many ways, as with our initiative for you to help create the new vocabulary of cyberspace.  In fact, thanks to contributors, we have a lot to build on to strengthen and broaden the team.  As 2010 draws to a close, however, it’s worth talking about the direction the SENDS Pilot project has traveled from its inception and to try to put it into context.  That, along with new team members’ contributions, creates the synergy for 2011.

SENDS began in 2009 as a proposal to address the observations of a December, 2008 US Department of Energy White Paper entitled “A Scientific Research and Development Approach To Cyber Security.”  Thus, SENDS began as a project to address cyberspace security, expanding on several of the thoughts from that very fine DOE paper.

It became clear after a 90-day study, however, that in order for the US and indeed all users of cyberspace to explore and exploit the environment, security was necessary but not a sufficient condition to unleash the potential cyberspace has to enhance prosperity on a national and global scale.  We took this challenge to potential government sponsors and they agreed.

In a June, 2010 interagency, multidisciplinary forum in Arlington, VA, the current SENDS Pilot Project was initiated, identifying four main tasks to accomplish in the 12-month pilot.

As we embarked on the project, new ideas came to light as a result of the collaboration of the diverse SENDS participants.  The SENDS tasks were still relevant, but we found that we needed to look through the lenses of living systems and ecology to develop holistic perspectives about the greatest connecting fabric mankind has known.

Several prominent advisors told us that the ecological perspective is a valuable way to think about the challenges of cyberspace prosperity and security, particularly when considered through the standpoint of what is found in wicked problem resolution literature.  The wicked problem resolution advice is good because it also helps us think about the social context of problem definition and resolution: it’s a people challenge, just as are cyberspace prosperity and security.

We took this good advice and blended it with the thoughts of guest bloggers to produce what we think is an objective viewpoint about how cyberspace is emerging around us and how it will affect us in the future.  We looked at people, processes and technology as a convergent and emergent phenomenon (starting here).  These insights have been continuously informed by multiple perspectives, possible through the connectivity that cyberspace offers.

This holistic view is why SENDS is more than just another cyberspace security project.

Through the efforts of a variety of authors, the SENDS Blog has been fortunate to provide diverse perspectives on the SENDS tasks through several backgrounds…the SENDS wiki site has augmented and expanded these perspectives.

Broad thinking about one of the two most long-term focused SENDS tasks, Education and Academic Curricula, for example, has led to contributions from no less than four authors about this important topic.  We have had the good fortune to hear from a school teacher in Canada, an Emmy-Award winning documentary director/ producer, a director of a nationally recognized science center in Florida and a retired military officer (here and here), each sharing distinctive perceptions about how America must look at education in the connected age.

Another long-term task, a Center for Cyberspace Science, has generated equally important and diverse perspectives, ranging from the use of advanced modeling and simulation capabilities to the development of a “cyberspace laboratory.”  When put into the context of better understanding concepts like community in cyberspace and formulating meaningful inquiry about this new environment, a center for studying the remarkable power of cyberspace connectivity seems mandatory for better understanding this new world.

The task to develop relevant models and simulations (M&S) as a “laboratory” for cyberspace is indeed one of the tasks we have invested considerable resources in.  The SENDS M&S team collected data from a variety of subject matter experts, including military, law enforcement and commercial practitioners to develop SENDSim.  This M&S environment, shown in its early stages here, is one of the first products of the Center.

We are also developing SENDSim to become a useful tool to gain insights on the kind of socio-technological convergence issues we’ve been discussing above.  Speaking of understanding socio-technological convergence, the SENDS team has also been fortunate to publish the insights of a senior media analyst to help clarify challenges to look at cyberspace in this way (here and here).  We’ve even had an innovative software developer write about the development of programming languages in the context of socio-technological convergence and ecology!

Another early product of the Center is a White Paper on the Development of a Science of Cyberspace, that while in early draft form, may serve as a framework for the consideration of important topics to demonstrate how such a discipline would be studied.  We will see more similar products from the Center as the Pilot continues, and we expect to write about them here in this blog.

The first six months of the SENDS Pilot Project have been exciting, and chronicling it within the pages of the SENDS Blog has been rewarding considering the diversity of the authors who have contributed.  The remaining six months of the Pilot should be equally rewarding as we see the maturity of SENDSim emerge.

We look forward to experiencing greater government, commercial, academic and even individual relationships as we improve on the Science White Paper through more diverse input, and synergize SENDS through collaboration with other efforts.  We also look forward to formalizing relationships that move the Center for Cyberspace Science into a suitable home.

In coming weeks, we’ll port over this blog and much of the wiki material to a SENDS-dedicated site at  We’ll announce the movement of the site in this blog and on the wiki when we’re up and running.  Please visit us there, and continue to send your thoughts to or through comments within this blog.

It’s been a great first six months for the rapidly growing SENDS team and we can hardly wait for the next six.  The playoffs await and the season continues!

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Science of Cyberspace Education: An overview

by Craig Harm

As I mentioned in my recent blog, one of the four tasks for the SENDS Pilot Study is to outline a concept that will lead to the "establishment of modern cyberspace education curricula for government and non-government training and education." While I noted other initiatives in this area in the last blog, we feel creating an education plan specifically focused on a study of the Science of Cyberspace requires unique and intrinsic elements.

In a bit of a twist, we have an opportunity to develop curricula that anticipates the emergence of the actual new science. Historically, an academic and education curriculum develops and matures concurrently with the development of a science, and continues to evolve as the science evolves.
With the pace and progress on cyberspace development, traditional education evolution processes may be unable to keep up. Our attempt with the SENDS Project is to “kick-start” educational curricula that better prepares cyberspace users and defenders before cyberspace becomes too complex to study and understand.

I believe the first step in this process is to scope what it is we are trying to achieve, for whom we are doing it and with what content; in other words bound our problem. In order to succeed with the academic approach to cyberspace prosperity and security, we need to address some important issues. We are starting to frame our work with focus on some key points
  1. Determine the Scope: Basic entry to Post Graduate level? Continuing education? Industry, Government or Academia as students? Or all?
  2. Address how content is determined, developed and maintained?
  3. Comment on how, where and by whom is it administered?
  4. Determine elements of relevance
  5. Address how to make education adaptive and career-level appropriate
  6. Ensure education is technically current
  7. Speak to cultural alignment
  8. Formulate study questions for research to military and civilian academic institutions
My intent is to address each of these over the next couple of months and to provide periodic updates on our progress. However, for this initial overview there are a couple of key points I would like to discuss.

As mentioned in previous blogs, the study of the science of cyberspace will bring a diverse, multi-discipline approach to education. Wicked Problems, Complex Adaptive Systems and Social Science will all play foundational roles in the development of a Science of Cyberspace. Each of these disciplines has their own academic framework and SENDS may be able to synergize with those existing programs. The task for the SENDS pilot and the science of cyberspace itself will be to integrate and infuse these disciplines with those of the traditional sciences to create a logical and comprehensive curricula.

Any study of science requires the knowledge, skills and experience to work in a laboratory. Sciences like biology, chemistry, and physics go to great lengths to build this experience in students. For most elementary students, their first experience in a laboratory was in science class. It was as simple as mixing two liquids together to see a change in color, or as complex as building a structure out of toothpicks to learn about geometric shapes and strengths.

As students advanced in the subject content of the science, so too did they advance in the complexity of the laboratory activities. But it was not just the activities of a laboratory that were integral to learning. Maybe more importantly it was the laboratory skills which were both specifically taught, and subconsciously absorbed. Most science students will remember learning the skills of observation and recording by watching and describing a burning candle. Others will remember learning to use a Bunsen burner. Many learned about the importance of explaining and predicting new phenomena, the essence of science. This same graduated approach of experience and skills will be needed for any student of the science of cyberspace.

In previous blogs we made the assertion that modeling and simulation is the laboratory for the science of cyberspace. Based on the fundamental role laboratories serve in the experimentation process for the study of science, any scientific study of cyberspace will require training, experience and understanding in modeling and simulation. Modeling and simulation, when infused with a disciplined study of social science, will help us determine the behavioral aspects we seek to learn through experimentation. Many previous blogs have addressed the need to understand cyberspace as a social phenomenon (here and here, for example).

While some cyberspace scientists may specialize in model creation, all cyberspace scientists will require the skills to effectively design, use, and analyze models. This is just one of the areas where SENDS will be able to interlink and complement work being currently being done in the education of the sciences and technologies.

There are many other areas like the laboratory example in the education of cyberspace scientists which we must address, but we’ll leave that to future blogs. There is however one area I would like to close with. Effective education in the study of cyberspace will by its very nature require continual adaptation to new technologies and culture.

In observations from their recently completed Cyber Security Certification course, SENDS collaborator Joseph Cuenco, Executive Director, Science Center of Pinellas County, FL recently commented to us that “Perhaps our electronically immersed world has provided our students a more robust basis for their understanding of hardware and software components. The majority of these students were very familiar with the course material and concepts from a hands-on perspective.” This observation highlights what I believe: our current education system is vastly underestimating our young students’ practical experience and grasp of computers, both their use and construct.

Anyone who has or works with young students has seen the vast familiarity, comfort and knowledge about the workings of computers, the Web and even the social attitudes of working, playing and living in cyberspace. The study of the science of cyberspace must address this and evolve to capture this experience our younger generations are getting. Is it too farfetched to hope that we can start to adapt industry and academia to be as accepting of the hand-on knowledge of young folks as they are of a diploma?

We have built a small team to begin the development of a concept for this curriculum and will be posting future blogs as our work matures. The task continues!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The SENDS Academic Curricula Task: A Complementary Effort

By Craig Harm

The principal goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done—men who are creative, inventive, and discoverers. The second goal of education is to form minds which can be critical, can verify, and not accept everything they are offered. — Jean Piaget, Cornell University (1964).

Education is at the very core of science. It helps provide us a fundamental understanding of how and why things work. As humans, education starts with us as infants and toddlers touching and tasting as we learn to distinguish things from each other. It continues through our childhood with our formal schooling as we begin to whet our appetite for learning. As we approach adulthood our education starts to become more focused on our anticipated vocation through either post-secondary schooling or formalized apprenticeships. Even throughout our adult lives, continuing education keeps us well informed, current and quenches our thirst for further understanding.

The strength of the United States is not the gold at Fort Knox or the weapons of mass destruction that we have, but the sum total ofthe education and the character of out people - Claiborne Pell

One of the primary tasks for the SENDS Pilot Study is to promote and advance the study of the Science of Cyberspace and its complement: The Science of Cyberspace Security. Specifically, we seek to outline a concept that will lead to the establishment of modern cyberspace education curricula for government and non-government training and education.

The academic perspective provides for the long-term potential success of our nation in cyberspace and indeed around the world. As we grow responsible, cyberspace-empowered citizens, who better understand the nature of a connected environment and all that it enables, we may see the emergence of better, more environment-protecting behaviors of people who connect, no matter where they’re from.

This past November the JASONs, an independent scientific advisory panel published the results of their study on the Science of Cyber-Security, JSR-10-102. While not only supporting the SENDS concept that a fundamental understanding of the science of cybersecurity is needed, the report also addresses some of areas that are key elements in building an educational foundation. Highlighted in the report are: the importance of definitions; the need for a standard vocabulary to discuss the subject; and the need to devise experimental protocols for developing a reproducible experimental science of cybersecurity. The report also says the DoD should support a network of cybersecurity research centers in universities and elsewhere.

First and foremost is our SENDS objective is to make any modern cyberspace education curricula compatible and complementary with other similar or related education initiatives already in existence. A variety of organizations emphasize Cyberspace education activities; a few are listed below...

7. JASONS’s Study - Science of Cyber-Security, JSR-10-102, November 2010

Probably one of the best known national science education program approaches is known as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In January 2009, the National Science Board (NSB) approved and transmitted a set of six recommendations to the Obama Administration. These recommendations outline a series of steps to improve STEM education and foster innovation to ensure both scientific literacy among the public and ensure global competitiveness in the 21st century.

The NICE initiative’s goal is to “establish an operational, sustainable and continually improving cybersecurity education program for the nation to use sound cyber practices that will enhance the nation’s security.” SENDS Partner, Science Center of Pinellas County, has in its mission statement “To inspire, motivate and stimulate innovative thinking in the areas of science, technology, engineering, math, and career development for K-12 students; enhancing their lives through instruction, hands-on, and experiential education delivered through partnerships with schools, corporations, universities, and community.”

All these initiatives and programs are providing critically needed education opportunities in science, technology and cyberspace. Our plan for the SENDS Academic activity is to interlink with these existing activities and capitalize on their efforts to help build the scientific and technical foundations needed to study Cyberspace as a Science, to better visualize the linkages that promote cyberspace and cyberspace security science and education.

As we continue our journey toward the maturation of a Science of Cyberspace, education will be at its very core. This is what makes the SENDS Pilot study task to establish an outline of modern cyberspace education curricula for government and non-government training and education so important. While there are other complementary ongoing initiatives to strengthen science and technology education, the study of cyberspace as a science will continue to require the integration of additional skill sets beyond those found in the traditional sciences.

We’ll discuss in more detail in our next blog on the SENDS Education Task just how we see this playing out in the SENDS Pilot.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Community in Cyberspace: Real or Imagined?

By Carl Hunt

What do the reactions to the recent WikiLeaks (also here), Facebook, and your town have in common?  Well, since you saw the title to this week’s blog already, you guessed it: community.  The line of inquiry we take up today, however, is how “real” are these communities and what do they mean to us in terms of individual and collective human behaviors?

Since we talked a bit about Facebook previously, we'll focus on real "imagined" communities.

We all experience effects of behavior and one of the very first insights we consider is the effects of behavior in cyberspace-based communities.  Regardless of nation-state ties or physical locations, the virtual communities of cyberspace can create real effects that cause challenges to the traditional structure of government or business.  The communities that formed to do “virtual combat” against those that initially cut off access to the WikiLeaks site caused real damage that can be measured in lost income or customer confidence.  While the level of damage caused is still being debated, it was indeed quantifiable.

Equally as interesting, there is no evidence that any of the groups (communities, if you will) had ever met or coordinated their attacks on each other before the recent US government-related WikiLeaks were released.  These communities may have previously existed but their objectives and capabilities remained largely unnoticed until a rationale manifested itself and these groups self-identified around a common cause.  They “imagined” a status that empowered them to act as members of a community.

So, what is an imagined community as opposed to a real community?  Is there a difference as far as cyberspace communities are concerned?

Americans, Chinese, French, and even Somali citizens understand their ties to a nation-state entity.  In some populations, the concept of nationalism creates great personal patriotism and fervor, and in some a personal identification with national spirit is less relevant.  But in all cases, according to Cornell emeritus professor, Benedict Anderson, some quality of fraternity emerges and a people develop a sufficient sense of national identity that they come to be willing to die for their identity and the national entity.

Since we have not yet fought any full-blown Cyber World War, it’s unclear yet how such a strong sense of “nationalism” will play out in cyberspace.  Anderson’s ideas about imagined communities still resonate strongly in both real and virtual life, however.  We’ll have to see how the notion of willingness “to die for their identity” as a part of a community, whether physical or virtual, will play out, but there are insights we can start to accrue, as the recent wikileaks episodes clear.

NY Times technology reporter and author Nick Bilton has begun to address the idea of imagined community as it applies to cyberspace in I Live in the Future and Here’s How it Works (Crown, 2010).  Bilton writes “…we are constantly weaving in and out of small and large, obvious and imagined communities.”  Cyberspace, or the digital realm, as Bilton further clarifies it, is an “always on, real-time, creating, consuming society,” and the media has been bringing this trend to human community for many years, perhaps centuries, as noted by both Anderson and Bilton.

Writes Bilton about Anderson’s perspectives on community and the media: “In the same way that Anderson recognized that the printing press and its ability to communicate in a person’s language could break up power structures and create meaningful and powerful nations, so too may our online communities reshape and remake both our own personal imagined nations and our traditional ways of communicating.”

The creation of new globally-connected, yet often self-detached imagined communities such as the participants in the wikispaces conflict demonstrate is important to watch.  Community may be real or virtual but it is in the mind of the beholder what role and actions the inhabitants may take, and in fact, cyberspace may amplify those roles and accelerate behaviors around the globe.  While we may never see the Cyber World War, we will likely see constant transformation of conflict as enabled by cyberspace and imagined communities.

Study and modeling of these communities is a critical objective of SENDS as we have noted here and here, for example.  Creation of common terms and concepts so that we can better understand the wicked nature of the problems we discover along the way is also a mandate.  Before we can understand communities and new forms of conflict in cyberspace, we have come to grips with the nature of cyberspace, and we need your help.  Please send us your thoughts to and let’s move forward with this real and important community!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Information Operations and Cyberspace: It's “Time” to Chat

By Craig Harm

Last week, Carl Hunt and I had the opportunity to talk about the SENDS effort at the Defining IO/Cyber Spectrum Operations Conference hosted at SPAWAR, Charleston, SC.  The conference was conducted by the Association of Old Crows.  The conference theme was “Defining IO & Cyber Capabilities in 21st Century warfare”.  Keynote speakers were headlined by Vice Admiral “Mike” McConnell, U.S. Navy (retired) who was previously the Director of the National Security Agency and the Director of National Intelligence.  This was an important conference!

Discussions the first day centered on the strategic issues of DoD and national cyber operations and defense efforts.  While we heard how each of the military services is reorganizing to make cyber operations a more main-stream activity, we also heard about the complexity of their network management and defense challenges.  Senior-level operators expressed their concerns about being unable to see into their own networks.  The speakers included an Army general officer, a reservist on active duty, who has also worked in senior leadership positions in the commercial sector.

Many of the senior-level presenters on the first day talked about their efforts to secure their own networks.  As would be expected from those with such responsibilities, they all seemed to focus on the key areas of management, oversight, accountability, command and control and roles and missions.   These points were highlighted by recurring mention of organizational studies, effectiveness inspections, committee formations and “way-ahead” talks.

The second day was focused more on the “tactical” level and network operations.  A key point about network dependencies was brought up during these discussions.  The upshot of all of the presentations was that despite the talk of Net Centric Operations and Warfare, the DoD is really Net Dependent, and it is this Net Dependency that presents the most opportunities for vulnerability; this creates a driving force behind the requirement for secure networks.   With over 1.4 million DoD users on the network (including an increasing mobile presence), the challenge for network operators is building the culture to ensure users are protecting data and the network.

Yes, despite the leap in technologies and accessibility, it is still a culture issue – a people issue.

Although the details and the content of most of the discussions about Information Operations (IO) were classified, there were some key points of interest we can discuss here.  The first and foremost to me is the incongruence of the definition of Information Operations and what it is composed of.   Even today, there is still debate about what IO is and how it’s done.  The conventional DoD definition of IO includes both electronic warfare (EW) and computer network operations (CNO).   While some of these discussions look and feel “new”, such as computer network operations, the main themes are not, as I point out below.

The third and last day was conducted as a panel forum on new technologies.  The panel members were asked to address “What are some new technologies on the horizon, and how are these technologies transitioned to the warfighter?  What are Cyber and Net-Centric Warfare, and how will these capabilities help the warfighter?”

There were discussions and presentations on adaptive antenna technologies, text and video content extraction, as well as Information Management systems: the technologies of cyber-enabled operations, if you will.  It was in these sessions that Carl presented the SENDS Project.  His was the only presentation of the entire conference to specifically address the need to understand the human part of cyberspace, the linkage between “new” and “old” thinking about Information Operations (see below).

Many of the presentations during the conference alluded to the human element, but none called it out specifically.   In addition to giving a basic overview of the SENDS philosophy and the concept of the Science of Cyberspace, Carl talked of how the biggest source of both gratification and aggravation in the growth of cyberspace is in innovation….persistent, emergent innovation, a human process, by the way.

There is a paradox of sorts, where the ultimate uses of technologies and policies in many cases deviate to a use that was not the original intent.  This, Carl pointed out, is the manifestation of emergence from human, technological and cultural exchanges.  Cyberspace is a breeding ground for adaptation and innovation.  People interacting with other people, often through cyberspace technologies, show us daily how adaptive and yet unpredictable we truly are: this also helps explain why social science, while making progress, still has a long way to go!

After hearing three days of talk about the importance of Information Operations, the tremendous focus and effort within the DoD towards these operations, and the monumental challenges DoD has to overcome to implement them I began to wonder why this seems so new to people.  Information, communication, connectivity and secure lines of communication have historically always been important, vital parts of our lives as humans.

Several in the conference pointed out that during the revolutionary war, it was George Washington’s tremendous human network for gathering information that enabled him to outmaneuver the British and keep the Colonial Army intact.  While moving to intercept Robert E. Lee's army of Northern Virginia, Union soldiers from George B. McClellan's Army of the Potomac discovered a misplaced copy of Lee's detailed battle plans wrapped around three cigars; even though McClellan failed to exploit the discovery to victory, he was still able to achieve a tactical draw at Antietam (interestingly, some of the first “cyberspace” technologies such as the telegraph, linked people during that time).  World War II saw the dependence on wireless transmission, another manifestation of cyberspace.  The Allied exploitation of Japanese codes and the German Enigma machine gave a significant advantage to the Allied war efforts.

So why is there the sudden emphasis on Information Operations?  Why is this different now, in the 21st Century, than it has been in the past?  Why are these operations drawing so much attention from our national leaders in the last few years?

I believe what is really making this different is rooted in the effects modern cyberspace connectivity brings to operations.  Near-ubiquitous human connectivity and the massive quantities of data, interacting through the technology of cyberspace, have a transformational temporal impact.  It is really about time, and the massive human-human, human-machine and machine-machine interactions that modern, fast-paced flows of information enable.   SENDS is attempting to gain an understanding of these same themes through the study of exchange, emergence and self-organization.

These elements that cyberspace brings to Information Operations makes things different now, more than at any other period in history.  And it is these elements, including the effects of time, through which we must gain a more fundamental understanding before any study, reorganization or new policy will ever have any significant impact.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Cyberspace Community: Yours, Mine or Ours?

by Carl Hunt

Perhaps the biggest source of both gratification and aggravation in the growth of cyberspace is innovation…continuous, emergent innovation: it constantly surprises us!  What we ultimately observe in human, technological and cultural interactions often does not resemble the original purposes we had in mind when we built and deployed cyberspace realizations of our great ideas.  The communities within cyberspace just seem to take over and something new emerges.

Whose communities are these that change our intents and purposes?  Why don’t we have better control over our ideas and creations?  Just who owns cyberspace in the first place and do “they” control these communities?  Why do these emergences keep happening?

We have spoken about emergence in past blogs (here and here, for example), but we haven’t yet discussed it in terms of community, an all-important concept for cyberspace dwellers to accept and adopt.  People, interacting with other people and our technologies, show us routinely how adaptive and often unpredictable we truly are, particularly when we start forming the connected collectives we call community.

Whether these collectives and communities are in the virtual worlds of cyberspace or in the real world (whatever the differences are anymore), who owns them and who governs them?  Do we as humans own cyberspace or does it ultimately own us within the communities we build and occupy?  Could we at least suggest models of how these things work together?

One thing we have seen is that cyberspace is a breeding ground for adaptation and innovation, accelerating the processes of ecological coevolution as we have discussed in the past.  And since we can in fact begin to build models of these interactions, we can see that the outcomes of these adaptations and exchanges are truly emergences.  We can also see that these emergences apply to communities, as well.

SENDS is about leveraging these outcomes of emergence in the context of biological, sociological and technological events.  Emergent behaviors, products or processes are outcomes that are greater than the sums of their parts: the very nature and richness of the interactions that bind together to produce novelty and innovation ensure the amplification of the essential qualities of cyberspace.  Oh yes, emergence is something more than a simple sum of parts.

Cyberspace communities accommodate and reflect emergence in ways that we as humans have simply not been able to visualize before.  Technological innovations are mashed up to produce products not originally conceived, enabling new opportunities and processes for their uses and new communities to embrace and propagate them, and the cycle begins again.  New communities then form and so it goes, on and on…this is emergence in action!

Emergence is empowered by the connectivity of cyberspace in ways no other environment or domain of existence has ever done before, and we can indeed begin to model it, as we suggested (here and here).  But, communities and the dynamism they represent start to really add complexity to the models.  That’s why it’s so hard to say whose community is whose and who really occupies or controls it.

It’s worth trying to struggle with the concept of community within cyberspace, and we are going to do it in these blogs.  We’re going to leverage the insights we gain from the calls for assistance from contributor Bob Schapiro, for example, and find ways to express cyberspace as community, embracing emergence as a concept that reveals rather than obscures. 

We may not answer all the questions raised in this blog today but we’ll answer some of them.  And in keeping with good science, we’ll raise even better and more focused questions that help us explain and predict just what is happening in cyberspace and in community.  We may even reach some level of community sensibility!

Editor's Note: We want to thank Atlantic Magazine correspondent James Fallows for mentioning SENDS and the SENDS blog in a recent piece (noted in the right margin of this blog).  Jim's work in helping people understand the effects of cyberspace and the applications of modern technology have been terrific over the years.  Thanks, Jim!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Graphical Languages in the Cyberspace Ecospace

by Sandy Klausner
editor’s note: Sandy Klausner is the founder and CEO of CoreTalk Corporation, the designer of the Cubicon programming language, described at  The opinions and concepts proposed by Sandy reflect his thinking about new types of programming languages, and web-based architectures including Cubicon.  SENDS does not endorse any specific product, but seeks to ensure members and guests of the Private-Public partnership of the SENDS Consortium are aware of novel thinking proposed by those associated with the Consortium and its efforts.

As reflected throughout the SENDS Blog (here and  here, for example), the SENDS Project seeks to understand the nature of cyberspace as a complex adaptive system (CAS) as well as reflectively thinking about cyberspace itself as a meta-system.  Not only is cyberspace characterized as such a CAS, but increasingly the computer architectures and programming languages that support cyberspace-based communications must also support these levels of functionality.

This functionality, discussed previously, includes the processes of exchange, self-organization and emergence.  Let’s look at each of these through the lens of computer network architecture.

Exchange – The exchange of concepts and information requires a semantic basis to enable software agents to infer relationships and manage content and services without human intervention.  This machine processing requires unprecedented levels of automation to support massive exchanges between billions of people and information transactions around the world.  New graphical languages must enable domain experts to create, share and execute software agents that process knowledge, transact services and enable social networking to evolve to new levels of collective intelligence.

Self-organization – People, systems and information need the ability to self-organize through cyberspace.  Such capability mandates a new computer science, infused with the inspirations of complexity science, where software artifacts are inherently recombinant to energize self-organization.  This first principle science will enable unprecedented levels of interactions and interoperability that can be visualized as dynamic system models.

Emergence – As noted in Carl Hunt’s earlier blog, this self-organization process is the transmission that moves exchange into emergence.  Emergence of novel behaviors, fresh opportunities and new organizational structures must be simulated in new graphical languages that support cyberspace evolution, providing insights into complex cyberspace realms.  These visual simulations will be easily shared across domains, providing novel ways to understand complex systems and provide continuous dynamic feedback to all participants in knowledge evolution.

Knowledge Processing

Borrowing from the SENDS blog on “Ecospace”, Figure 1, below, helps to visualize the major interactions that take place to create both the opportunity and the requirements for coevolution within cyberspace and its interacting elements.  Service exchanges and knowledge processing are at the heart of this interaction.  The figure also depicts several categories of emergence that are both ingredients and products of the coevolving world of massive interconnectivity that cyberspace enables.

There are two basic forms of systems that coevolve with each other through exchanges and processing that compose cyberspace: human systems and machine systems (together they accommodate the production of something useful).  Emergent characteristics from human and machine behaviors, technologies, cultures and governances all synergize to produce what we recognize as cyberspace.

The services that we introduce to make the network valuable as well as the threats to those services are also part of the coevolving landscapes.  Just as in predator-prey models of ecosystems, the threat is an integral consideration of a holistic perspective of cyberspace.  Finally, both natural and artificial adaptations take place that ensure cyberspace is a constantly changing, coevolving environment that truly requires the augmentation of more modern architectures and graphical programming languages.

Figure 1 - The Programming Language-Architecture View of the Cyberspace Ecology (courtesy CoreTalk Corp.)
New Software Paradigm will Manage Systems Complexity

The gap between generational advances in hardware (Moore’s Law), users’ application demands, and software’s ability to productively utilize both continues to expand … with no end in sight.  This gap can only be closed by greatly automating the software life cycle that can effectively overcome complexity bottlenecks.

A new software paradigm must address seven fundamental cyberspace complexity challenges that can be characterized in the following ways:

Semantic Web – As RDF & OWL remain underutilized, a graphical language must provide the required formalization of ‘context’ and ‘community’ architecture to fully support a global semantic substrate across cyberspace

Service-oriented Architecture – As SOA remains too ad hoc, new approaches must provide the requisite technology for machine-to-machine (M2M) interactions to truly scale across billions of devices

Smart Grid – As hard real-time environments are difficult to encode, a graphical language and a contextualized infrastructure must provide the following capabilities for a National “Smart Grid” to be realized sooner:

- ability to create and evolve interoperable standards
- mediation of services between disparate devices in a community
- execution environment that deterministically processes events in real time

“Manycore” processing – As threading is failing to scale, a fused software/hardware architecture must provide an effective parallel programming mechanism that can harness the power of emerging “manycore” processors

Software re-use – As current programming language ecosystems lack componentry architecture, a recombinant technology must enable a fertile exchange of high value intellectual property assets

Malware – As current immunization technologies are increasingly less effective, next generation programming must prevent malware infiltration through a robust ‘whitelist’ security model for all software components and apps

IP (intellectual property) tracking & licensing – As the Open Source model lacks a viable business model, a graphical language must ultimately support the ‘Open Design’ software model that provides direct compensation/recognition for authors based on virtual supply chains


As a proponent of what the SENDS Project calls “Open-Source Science,” these discussions about new, exchange-based programming languages and architectures are an important augmentation not only to a science-based approach to understanding cyberspace, but to spur greater innovation in the development of these capabilities.

I think the Cubicon programming language that CoreTalk has designed is consistent with the principles SENDS initially proposes for architecture and language development.  As is the case with all open-source evolution, however, the market and its users will decide.  In the meantime, the public-private partnership SENDS seeks to leverage is a viable path forward to doing good science in cyberspace and generating more secure environments for national and global prosperity.