Friday, October 15, 2010
Thursday, October 14, 2010
by Carl Hunt
My adviser in graduate school, Dr. David Schum, used to tell me it was rare that someone would “ask the right questions” in critically important situations. Dave, both a George Mason University School of Law professor and School of Information Technology and Engineering professor, knows what he’s talking about. I have always admired Dave’s position on inquiry and evidence, his specialties as a law professor, epistemologist and as true philosopher. I particularly like his emphasis on asking better questions about the world(s) around us. So have several important government agencies, but that’s a story for Dave to tell.
It’s the questions, not the answers, which most guide us in strategic thinking and understanding, Dave would point out. And equally important, it is the order in which you ask questions and experience discovery through responses to those questions that help you form strategies.
From the strategies we develop, we form tactical solutions to the opportunities and dilemmas the strategies pose and learn about exploiting insights the strategies and tactics make available to us. We make strategic plans, but execute tactics. To use the soccer and hockey sports metaphors, we try not to run or skate to where the ball or puck is now, but to where it will be – that’s where strategies and tactics converge.
Such an approach to discovery and learning is perhaps what best separates man from other species. Not only do we learn, but we also learn how to learn through inquiry, strategy and tactical responses based on strategies, as we make and test predictions. Our human essence drives us to be interested in learning and discovery, nurturing our intellectual livelihoods.
Dave Schum taught me that you may not ever formulate “the right questions” but you can learn how to ask strategically important questions, and set them up to maximize discovery and learning. Hence, I’ll pose some strategically important questions that SENDS and the Science of Cyberspace seek to ask. If we get it right, these questions will “set us up” for maximum learning.
Since the SENDS Pilot has four basic tasks, I’ll use those tasks as the organizing construct for posing the inquiries. I’ll only cover the first task in today’s blog but will present the remaining three tasks at the end to help us think about questions to pose when we come back around to those tasks in future blogs.
The first of the four SENDS Pilot tasks is roughly labeled: Build and utilize advanced Models and Simulations in network defense problems. I pose the strategically important question that is at the root of this task as follows: Given the hypothesized magnitude of cyberspace, what are viable ways to visualize and leverage what takes place in this environment?
This suggests several supporting questions of course, but in the interest of space I propose that this question is effective in shaping strategy because it focuses on the challenge of visualizing and thus better understanding what takes place in the cyberspace environment, most specifically network defense problems. It suggests that it’s important to visually interact with the mechanisms of cyberspace, which we have previously discussed as exchange, self-organization and emergence (discussed here and here). It also suggests that we leverage or apply what we learn.
As posed, this question prejudices us in thinking that cyberspace is a world of great size, but that’s an observation we now accept as valid after many years of experiencing its growth. We have also learned through experience that the magnitude of cyberspace, along with its underlying complexity, compounds the challenges related to defense and security of the environment.
The deep complexity of cyberspace recommends why we propose a science-based approach to understanding cyberspace and cyberspace security. It also compounds the challenge of orienting ourselves, e.g., visualizing, what goes on in cyberspace and what we do with what we learn. Since we ask about “viable” ways to visualize cyberspace, we are not presupposing there is one “best” way. Enough on the analysis of the question…
The initial response to this “strategically important” question is: use advanced models and simulations, the root of the first SENDS task. It forms the strategic level approach and sets the condition for the proposed tactical level responses: designing agent-based models and simulations that incorporate evolution and optimization, called SENDSim in previous blogs.
Visualizing exchange, self-organization and emergence through the laboratory lens of SENDSim that Craig Harm suggested in the last blog offers us an effective way to not only address the strategically important question we raise here, but to discover other important questions the response to which drive new discovery and learning. SENDSim, as described in these blogs, offers us a lab in which we can validate and tune questions, as well as form new hypotheses about the environment of cyberspace. It also offers a highly visual medium in which to observe what takes place.
Through SENDSim, we will build a modest but reasonably faithful representation of the complexity of cyberspace (admittedly on a small scale). This model will include significant social and technical interactions that take place within several of the domains that compose cyberspace. Using an iterative design and construction process, we’ll ask questions about the interactions we simulate and discover new, perhaps more strategically important questions to ask.
This process of visually informing an evolving inquiry process will enlighten us and subsequent users of SENDSim about even better questions. We may not know the “best” or “right” questions to ask of the SENDSim tool to start with, but we will learn not only about the modeled environment but also discover better questions to ask. This is at the root of the inquiry-driven science that drives SENDS, and in fact will drive all of the SENDS Pilot tasks.The remaining three SENDS Pilot tasks are: Prototype a Center for the Science of Cyberspace; Review and Recommend Academic Curricula; and Expand and Enhance the SENDS Consortium. We’ve discussed a bit about all but the last task already (here, here and here), but will take up those tasks in future blogs as part of the process of asking the “strategically important questions.” Stay tuned for more!
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
by Craig Harm
Cyberspace is an amazing laboratory for observation at the same time it connects us socially and professionally in real life. Our search for understanding in this living laboratory offers us a better comprehension of this extraordinary environment in ways no previously explored environment has been able to do in our history. As we refocus some of our best thinking towards better understanding cyberspace holistically as an interconnecting domain powered by the process of exchange and the outcome of emergence, we must consider cyberspace as a medium that enables exploration as much as exploitation. These two related ideas serve to frame the important questions we must ask to better understand cyberspace and fulfill the basic criteria of science: explain and predict.
One of the foundational principles of empirical science is that knowledge is based on observable phenomena, capable of being tested for its validity by other researchers working under the same conditions. The accepted practice to meet these ends is experimentation through the scientific method. Scientists develop a hypothesis based on research and expectations. This hypothesis is then put to the test through multiple attempts to prove and disprove it. Using laboratories specifically designed for the purpose, scientists are able to create repeatable events which can be validated by other scientists.
For the “traditional: sciences, we are all familiar with how this experimentation is accomplished: Chemistry and Physics have specially designed labs (particle accelerators come to mind); Biology demonstrates experimentation in life through nature and evolution (as well as labs); Medicine has research and controlled studies. But what about the Science of Cyberspace…how will we accomplish the principles of observable phenomena and repeatable experimentation?
As cyberspace evolved, tradecraft and technology served as the basis for our knowledge of cyberspace and users and developers focused almost exclusively on technical solutions to advance an environment that we are only now beginning to understand. Yet any attempt to explore, understand and exploit cyberspace requires a fundamental scientific foundation, which the current technology-focused approach fails to provide. To gain this understanding we must better observe and experiment within cyberspace.
Emergence, exchange and self-organization are effects we could potentially observe and measure through successful study and experimentation as a part of a Science of Cyberspace. As we’ve pointed out elsewhere in this blog, the observance of emergence must be a fundamental object of study within this new science.
And, as we build towards an observation of emergent behavior, we must also consider exchange as a part of cyberspace science. If exchange might be the fuel for emergence, self-organized criticality serves as the transmission for it. So how will cyberspace scientists observe these elements of emergence? The answer manifests itself as it does for the traditional physical science: a laboratory specifically and uniquely designed for the purpose of studying cyberspace.
Whereas sciences like biology, chemistry and physics have concepts and laws that can be experimented with through visible, physical media, cyberspace has not yet revealed those laws. The challenge for experimentation within a science of cyberspace is how to observe the virtual existence of its complex concepts and laws. In SENDS, we believe this lack of a physical, visible media for experimentation may be overcome with models and simulations.
We propose that we begin to think of highly collaborative, multidisciplinary computer-based models as the science of cyberspace’s laboratory. Within the SENDS Pilot Study, SENDSim will be used as cyberspace’s model and laboratory to observe and experiment. This blog already contains entries which go into detail on SENDSsim so please refer to those discussions for more details.
As the SENDS Pilot Study progresses, we must look to the modeling and simulation effort SENDSim provides. It is an opportunity to not only look at the specific scenario of Conficker, it is more importantly an opportunity to prove the viability for modeling to serve as the science of cyberspace’s experimentation laboratory. Just as we think of the important role chemistry, biology or physics labs fulfill to those respective sciences, so too will modeling serve the same role for the study of a Science of Cyberspace. In a way it is ironic that we will use cyberspace to observe cyberspace. It’s really quite interesting that in fact cyberspace is a medium that enables exploration as much as exploitation.
 Or, as biologist Harold Morowitz puts it “starting with observation, developing theoretical explanations of the observations, and using these to predict other observations.” (Morowitz, H., The Emergence of Everything, Oxford, NY, 2002, p. 7).
Sunday, October 10, 2010
by Carl W. Hunt
Several members of the SENDS Consortium have reviewed the SENDS Science of Cyberspace White Paper. This paper proposes interdisciplinary ways to proceed in the development of such a body of science, including education (which in fact is a separate SENDS task, and discussed in an earlier blog). One important topic that was only briefly mentioned in the White Paper, however, is the policy and political science approach to a Science of Cyberspace.
In the White Paper we briefly discuss pending legislation that has gone to committee (Senate Bill 3193, “International Cyberspace and Cybersecurity Coordination Act of 2010”) and follow-up articles on the US State Department (e.g., here and here) about their potential responsibilities under such an act if it became law. While it is not clear if this particular legislation will be enacted, it’s apparent that at least some in the Administration and Congress consider the uniqueness and the ubiquity of cyberspace as an environment that requires a diplomatic presence in order to engage in the international emergence of globally present interconnectivity. Some observers quoted in the two articles cited even mentioned an “Ambassador to Cyberspace.”
It’s worth discussing a bit more about what such a diplomatic position might entail, what could be some of its contributions, and what SENDS might do in support of such an effort. Two recent publications point even more directly at the need for this discussion. The first, a Wired Magazine piece from the October, 2010 edition, entitled “Post-State Diplomacy,” raises the issue of how a nation-state like the US conducts diplomacy with non-nation-states within cyberspace. Although slightly irreverent in its approach, Wired presents a good point about diplomacy that we’ll take up in future blogs.
The Wired piece is particularly worth discussing in the context of new thinking about the “Global Commons” and the ways in which cyberspace is such an important component of it. This is brought out in a recent essay by Capt Mark Redden, USN, and Col Michael Hughes, USAF, “Global Commons and Domain Interrelationships: Time for a New Conceptual Framework?” from the National Defense University’s Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS). They discuss the Commons as air, sea, space and cyberspace.
The INSS paper tells us that for the last 60 years, it has been the responsibility of the US military to guarantee national access to the Commons (see US National Defense Strategy). Both military and diplomatic challenges in the last 10-12 years are changing this paradigm, according to the essay, with the domain of cyberspace bringing about the most acute challenges. “Despite its breadth of use within both the civilian and defense sectors, the U.S. defense community’s understanding of the full impact of cyberspace on military capabilities and operations is modest at best,” note Redden and Hughes.
Unfortunately, Redden and Hughes miss several important opportunities to discuss interrelationships of the “Commons” environments in the context of Interagency interdependencies and their own “interdomain” interactions. Fortunately, they do briefly discuss the issues in relationship to the DIME construct (Diplomacy, Informational, Military and Economic bases for national power) at least raising the visibility of non-military perspectives in US relationships in the Commons, including cyberspace.
Diplomacy is critical, not only for traditional reasons, but for what the authors call “expanding interdomain relationships,” which means all the components of the Commons interacting and becoming ever more interdependent. This is even more relevant when thinking about the domains of the Commons interacting within the context of how Whole of Government entities think about the Commons consistent with their own organizational missions: “interdomain” perspectives can have multiple contexts. This line of thinking is a key contribution the INSS presents for the Interagency community to explore.
The investigation of many things “inter-” (interaction, interdependency, interrelationships, “interdomain”, etc.,) compose a major part of SENDS research. Interdomain, interagency thinking is a significant area that SENDS offers to synergize with the approach it takes in the development of the Science of Cyberspace. Redden and Hughes do a fine job teasing out the important insights about the environments of the “interdomain” to think about here, but it is at least as important to think about non-military perspectives as it is the military roles.
We would like to discuss more of the role an “Ambassador of Cyberspace” might play in shaping a fuller articulation of a national strategy for security and prosperity, and will solicit more participation as the SENDS Pilot unfolds. For the time being though, we want to ask readers and followers of SENDS to think about how we as a national entity interact with the rest of the world from a diplomatic standpoint.
How would the “US Ambassador to Cyberspace” interact with others, state and non-state, and what would they seek in representing the nation? As the Wired piece points out, dealing with non-states requires a different type of “diplomacy” than what we have practiced in state-to-state interrelationships.
Those of us taking on the work of developing a Science of Cyberspace appreciate the important assertions and questions raised by the Wired Magazine article and the INSS essay. As we have suggested in other presentations on SENDS, we may find insights from the way business and non-governmental organizations interact with both states and non-states, but that is only a proposal for the first “Ambassador to Cyberspace” to explore.
Several of the SENDS advisors worked on a project a few years ago that produced a concept we called the “CyberDIME” which we'll talk more about in future blogs as part of the challenge the Wired Magazine article poses. This notion suggests diminishing the role that the military takes in “interdomain” and “international” interrelationships, which while not the focus of the INSS paper, must be considered in the age of massive interconnectivity. SENDS also offers to open the forum for this discussion, as well.