Thursday, October 08, 2015

"Man in the Middle" Reduces Agency and Subordinates

It is an obvious statement that passing direct control of a device or thing to others to act on it, on the behalf of the owning entity, reduces the owners direct control, or Agency. While the owning entity may choose to trust the new agent, or service provider, the added complexity, aimed at making life easier to control automatically or remotely, will always add risk, and reduce security. Thus individual entities are both subordinated and less secure.

There is a clear difference between Architecting for Control versus Architecting for Agency. Often the former focuses on the control needs of the larger entity, rather than individual entities. The perspective of the designing architect is naturally driven by the needs of the corporate entity that is paying for the control architecture. It takes a corporation with very strong values to recognise the importance and value of Architecting for Agency.

Architecting for Agency is perceived not to be in the interest of the Corporation or Service Provider. The current architectural fashion is to architect Control Agents under the Provider Star Model. Meaning that all control commands come through the provider, making them the Prime Controller. This also provides one point of attack to gain control over all the devices in their dominion. It should be noted that the most important outcome is the ultimate loss of Agency of the owners of devices or things. Subordination is a natural outcome, individual entities become the serfs of the corporate service providers, not their masters.

So what does Architecting for Agency look like?

It often starts in the deliberately confusing Terms and Conditions of the service providers, here one can establish the architectural intent of the providers. See next blog post: My Logitech Remote Control Experience.

It continues with the Identity & Entitlement Model used by the provider; your identity and rules or theirs?

The Network Topolgy is also a great indicator. Does the owning entity control the communication pathway or hubs through which all control commands flow from owning entity to things or devices.

The future points to a mesh network where all entities can combine and communicate under the appropriate bi directional rules of owners and providers. With neither star nor hub. It is here that all devices and things become entities that can enact Asimovs Four Laws. (A 4 Laws enabled heart beat sensor that can identify that the heart it is sensing is in trouble and knows how to act to save the life of the heart's owner.)

The capacity of things and devices to exist virtually under their own control. Stated differently can the digital state of a thing be stored in the cloud under the direct control of the thing.

Nature has invented the technique of creating things that attain and maintain their own Agency.

We are those things!

Our challenge is to architect and implement a means of attaining and maintaining Cyber Agency

For today we are architecting for subordination, we are collectively accepting not a "Man in the Middle", but "Legions of Corporations in the Middle!" We should not be at all surprised at the consequences. If only George Orwell, had been alive today, his novel 2084 would have been far scarier!

Governments are often enamoured by techniques that can be used to subordinate their citizens, in the name of security. They appear not to have yet spotted that in this new age of Cyber Feudalism, it is the Corporations that are gaining control over their individual citizens tapping directly into their innate value and governments are being disintermediated. The "offending" cyber corporations apparently hell bent on reducing human agency for their own fiscal benefit, come from three basic corners, firstly the bandwidth providers, secondly the device providers, and secondly the service providers. The cleverer of these are starting to use more than one of the corners.

The upcoming agency architectural decisions are perhaps some of the most important ethical choices humanity has to make in this century. Without the right choices we can never expect to develop or gain Cyber Human Rights!

Subordination is a problem, but the resulting security risks are also key.

Sadly, as in all things security, we seem to have to first experience the full horrors of the negative, before we put in place methods of safely achieving the potential positive outcomes.

  • Cars - Seatbelts & Airbags
  • Electricity - Fuses & Earth Leakage Protection
  • Sunshine - Sunscreen

The film The Matrix is a good metaphor for Cyber Feudalism, the well hidden identity of the film was the name of corporate entity that was behind all the human energy harvesting.

I am reminded of the first live crab I cooked; what will it take for us to get out of the nice warm water before we fall asleep and boil to death?


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