This is all a metaphor…

.. maybe.

So I was thinking about security…

… today and I had a very strange thought–at least very strange for me.

I have always been someone who has put security as one of those core essential ideals that comes first before all else.  For me, security is the foundation that allows all else, and that, really, hasn’t changed for me.

However, this thought came barrelling in from the left field of my intuition and the thought was whether too much security for too long is actually a bad thing.  By this, I do not mean that people should act reckless and spontaneous and just “be free” and life will be all better and superior–that’s not something that really fits with me and my outlook on the good life.  Rather, my thought was really something more like “Let’s say we have a secure compound with lots of security details.  Tip Top Security–top of its class, etc etc.”

Now–everyone knows this place is “secure” and there have not actually been any attempts at a break in in a while. In fact, some of the security measures taken to make it so secure were draconian enough–such as laying waste to the area around it for 20 kilometers in each direction to make sight lines clear–to really discourage any attempts at breaking in.  Now perhaps there were a few attempts early on after the compound was founded–but they were so easily seen and so clumsy that these were nuked from orbit before they even knew what was going on.  Since then, however, nothing has been tried–perhaps because people have realized how good the security measures are–but perhaps also because who wants to try and break into a secure compound with a 20km perimeter with anti-personnel mines, laser-guided cluster bombs, etc etc..

Now… let’s say the situation has existed, that no one has tried to break into this place for decades.

And I had to ask myself–is this necessarily a good thing?  Two sub-ideas popped into my devil’s advocates’ mind:

a) If no one has attempted a break in–is it not possible that the security has been done to an overkill level–a level way beyond sensible redundancy and robustness–such that significant resources are being wasted that could be utilized in a much better way for other things (perhaps more research at the compound working on better plans for world domination–perhaps making the compound larger with better production facilities–perhaps finding higher quality people to work there.. etc..).  Perhaps this is not true, and the overkill is a worthwhile trait to maintain–it does keep life stable and productive for the most part–but I did have to wonder about this.  What really constitutes “overkill” with regard to security?

b) Might this state of being actually also lead to an ineffective security system over the long run, due to a lack of any real testing or interaction.  Basically, the line of thought was that if security forces aren’t actually ever dealing with any threats, no matter how good they are, they can both become rusty (which can be mitigated with training), but more significantly, they can become so detached from the environs around them–that they gradually become outdated and lose their awareness of the current and improving states of technology and/or weaponry that could be used  against them in the future.  And the longer the separation–i.e. the longer they haven’t been really tested–the more damaging this gap can become.
To give a real life example–groups of people who have become separated from everyone else for extended periods of time often become extremely vulnerable to diseases that are common in the more social and interacting groups.  Native Americans–perfect example.  Without exposure to all the various nastiness that was perpetrating itself all over the old world, they never got to experience the joy of smallpox until it killed 90+% of them as a whole new group of people decided to invade and take over their land.

Of course–you don’t have to go all biological here–the same thing applies to basic technology–compare pacific islander–or hell, Japan’s technology level–when exclusion kept them from interacting with the larger society around them.  Bad things can happen…

What if one of those bad things did happen–there was almost a break-in, and it was done so cleverly and in such a way that you had no idea that it was a break in at all until after it was well underway???? Or maybe it wasn’t a break-in at all, but you became rather unsettled about the fact that you don’t actually know what’s going on..

That’s what I’m talking about.

Anyway.. so these were my thoughts and I’m still dwelling on them.  Although it does go strongly against my general desire to eliminate any threats far in advance, I think that a tendency of mine to go overboard on security issues has actually been less helpful in the long run.  It made me both too secure, but also led me to be unaware.

I am rectifying this now as we speak.

All thoughts welcome.

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About Prof. Woland

I contain multitudes. Come meet us.
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4 Responses to This is all a metaphor…

  1. rufus says:

    dig b)… security must be tested and tested to evolve and stay dynamic and flexible etc etc to be able to ensure if not total break ins at least lessen the damage by clever invasions… letting only 50 ninjas through the perimeter rather than 1,000… but then again… 1,000 ninjas inside the perimeter would ensure a great learning opportunity…

    i think of the screw – i screw it in so much (overdoing it) that i strip the threads or the screwhead snaps off and then the screw ceases to function…

    • tricstmr says:

      I like your screw metaphor–security must be done just enough–don’t screw it in enough–it falls out and you’re fucked…. do it too much and you actually damage the overall structure–thinking you are just fine, but not necessarily knowing that you have a big hidden flaw that will show up at the worst time…

  2. Lisabeth Williamson says:

    *hmm.

  3. Keith Graves says:

    There comes a point when you just have to let go and let it be what it is.

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