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!

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