The Doomsday Clock Is Still Ticking

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This was originally published in yesterday’s Foster’s and Seacoast Sunday.

doomsday-clock-animatedDo you remember the Doomsday Clock? I’m sure lifelong Seacoast residents are all too familiar with it, given our proximity to the former Pease Air Force Base and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. I have friends who grew up in Portsmouth who remember having school drills where they would duck under their desks in preparation for a possible attack on the area. Not that this would have helped, but that’s a different story line entirely.

For those who may not know about the Doomsday Clock, this is a Cold War relic developed by scientists to represent the threat nuclear weapons and the Cold War represented to humanity. It’s a stark analogy. The premise of the Doomsday Clock is this: It is a reminder of the existential threat to the human race we created for ourselves. It was founded by scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project, which built the world’s first nuclear weapon during World War II. Realizing what they had created, they then created the Doomsday Clock as a stark warning to humanity that nuclear weapons should never be used, lest we destroy the entire human race, by our own hand.

In 1953, the Doomsday Clock sat at two minutes before midnight, indicating in theory, we were minutes away from destroying ourselves. Not a pleasant place to be. The Doomsday Clock has moved around since its inception. Our best place in history was in 1991, when we stood at 17 minutes before midnight. Over the last 28 years, we have steadily moved to the precarious place we now sit. There are several reasons for this, mostly what the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists now calls our “new abnormal.”

Our new abnormal is driven by several factors, not the least of which is the United States eroding leadership position on the world stage. Historically, our nation has been looked at as the barometer for global stability. Our current policies, highlighted by withdrawals from nuclear weapons and climate change agreements have accelerated this state of affairs. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists relies on science and rational debate to form its position. In the case of climate change, the science is clear. In the case of nuclear arms agreements, this is as much about politics as anything else and that is truly a topic for a different type of article.

As it relates to cybersecurity, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists argues we have come to a point in our technological evolution where cybersecurity risks represent an existential threat to the survival of our species. Think about that. Technology could be a threat to our existence. I would argue most people look at technology as an enabler of a better future existence. So how could this be?

There are now more threats that intersect and in some cases magnify one another. Technology is a cornerstone of nuclear power and weapons and was heavily leveraged in a clandestine operation to disrupt the Iranian nuclear program before diplomatic efforts were accelerated. Technology has brought the age of information warfare upon us. From events in the Ukraine to our own elections, information warfare should not be a surprise and many feel we are at the tip of the iceberg.

Cybersecurity attacks are a threat to our financial, utility, health care, communication, food supply networks and more. Imagine the devastation that could be caused by taking down any one of these critical infrastructure networks, let along multiple events at the same time. Financial losses and physical damage would be the least concerning outcome. Loss of life could be significant, some argue as significant as a nuclear detonation. We must understand the magnitude of the threat to have rational conversations to not only mitigate the threat, but prevent it.

Two minutes to midnight is not a good place to be. We, as a global, interdependent advanced human race, need to recognize the risks that come with each new development. Most importantly, we need to render these risks inert, lest we condemn our future generations to a fate we never intended. This article unfolded more darkly than I intended. Perhaps that’s a good thing, to make the point clear. At the end of the day, it’s up to us, as individuals, as part of a larger family and society, as stewards of our past and our future, to ensure our advances improve the future, not unreasonably threaten it. What will you do to help move the Doomsday Clock back from its present time of two minutes before midnight?

Keep Calm…

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I’ve always been a fan of the Keep Calm sayings.  I’ve had this coaster on my desk for almost 10 years now…

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Now, I have a new one to add to my collection of favorites.  It’s not a coaster, but it’s still great…

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It’s an incredible time to be a New England sports fan.  A little over 90 days ago, we were celebrating a World Series victory for the Boston Red Sox.  Yesterday, the Boston Celtics won, the Boston Bruins won a gritty game against the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals, beating them after the losing the preceeding 14 meetings.  With that win, Bruin’s goalie Tuuka Rask became the winningest goalie in Bruin’s history and last night, the New England Patriots won the Super Bowl for the 6th time with several more records to show for it.

These are times to be cherished.

Industry IT Outlook Is Strong For 2019

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The following was published in today’s Foster’s and Seacoast Sunday.

The Computing Technology Industry Association recently released its annual IT Industry Outlook. While many things are in motion, as they always are, the key message of this report is the industry outlook for 2019 is quite diverse and healthy.

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CompTIA identified twelve significant areas of industry advancement this year. The following are the 12 trends CompTIA identified.

  1. Cloud, Edge and 5G. These three areas of technology encompass the rapid adoption of Cloud technology to move applications and services to data centers to provide greater reliability. Edge computing brings the Cloud together with the devices used by workers to do their work and 5G is the latest enhancement to the wireless network capabilities that pushes technology further in to the field where the workers are.
  2. Internet of Things, IoT and artificial intelligence. AI opens all kinds of new possibilities. Computing used to be tied to computers. Today, many devices that are not traditionally thought of as computers have more computing power than the first PCs of the 1980s. Taken together with AI, automation is reaching a new pinnacle that will continue to drive innovation.
  3. Distributed technology models. Blockchain and Cyrpto currencies have garnered a lot of press over the last year. These innovations depend on distributed technology to provide the computing power needed to support these new innovations.
  4. Stackable technologies are just like what they sound like – technologies able to be stacked together, like Lego blocks, to build the outcome needed to support the business model.
  5. Channel reinvention refers to the new ways in which technology is consumed. This applies to consumer and business technology. Technology no longer comes to market only through traditional sales channels and this is driving changes across the entire ecosystem.
  6. Hyper-personalization is a new buzz in the industry that takes the user experience to new levels of ease and customization to enable maximum productivity.
  7. Partnerships bridge gaps. Partnerships between technology companies breed innovation and capability. Take any technology available today and rarely does it stand alone. Integration with other hardware and software brings out the full capabilities of any given technology.
  8. Skills shortage. If you have anything to do with technology, you know the skills gap and high employment demands of the industry are a serious issue. Many companies no longer require a college degree. This creates tremendous opportunity for today’s youth to pursue technical training through their high school years and other avenues aside from a four-year college, while still leading to a rewarding and well-paying career.
  9. Digital-human models shape the workplace. This sounds eerie. It refers to the intersection of technology with the human who does a job. Some estimates suggest up to 30 percent of what a person does can be automated, freeing that person to perform more productive work.
  10. Technology professionals anticipate unintended consequences. As we saw in the 2016 election cycle, social networks were taken advantage of to negatively impact our country. As a result of this and other unintended outcomes from technical innovation, the profession has a keen sensitivity toward understanding its unintended consequences, much like any other applied science.
  11. High-tech improves low tech. Technology is everywhere. Consider that you can order fast food on your phone and it’s ready when you get there, dramatically decreasing your wait time. What was considered a low-tech experience, benefits from high-tech innovation.
  12. Global tech hubs spur innovation. Just about everywhere you look you seem to find a high-tech hub of some form. Once one company comes on scene, others seem to follow, bringing increased collaboration and innovation and driving local economies. We have seen this here on the Seacoast.

The global IT industry is estimated to reach $5 trillion in 2019. The United States represents roughly 31 percent of this market, which is a huge number. It’s no wonder we now see technology impacting literally every aspect of our lives. 2019 should prove to be an exciting year for the tech industry. I look forward to sharing updates with you throughout the year.