18 February 2021

Cyberworld and cybersecurity

AI in Cybersecurity colloquium hosted by Arizona State University, Institute for the Future of Innovation in Society 17/18 Feb. 2021

Expanded outline of my talk for the colloquium.

0) The distinction between a posteriori and a priori knowledge: A posteriori knowledge is so-called 'evidence-based' knowing that is based on empirical knowledge after the facts, and thus, in an important sense, comes too late.
A priori knowledge, by contrast, is knowledge of the elementary phenomena before the factual events of empirical experience. It concerns how empirical facts are already cast or framed prior to particular experience of them. A priori knowledge thus frames in advance our access to the world, i.e. how we interpret the most elementary phenomena in our age. It therefore enables insights that an empiricist mind-set, arriving after the event, cannot.

1) The bigger picture on cybersecurity from a philosophical, i.e. a priori, pre-empirical, perspective: We live in the age of progressive algorithmization of the world that thus increasingly becomes the cyberworld steered by bit-strings.
Algorithms outsource a segment of our understanding of some movement or other to the cyberworld with the aim of automatically controlling, mastering it. Bit-strings are the denizens of the cyberworld that are in constant interplay with one another, algorithms being the bit-strings that copulate with data bit-strings (in trillions of Universal Turing Machines) to compute progeny bit-strings that control movement/change of some kind, either within the cyberworld itself, where the bit-strings circulate, or in the physical world. UTMs therefore are conceived within the venerable paradigm of efficient, productive movement — everything under control! This conception is pre-empirical, and no one will ever be able go out into the cyber-network and establish the empirical existence of UTMs. Nevertheless, the cyberworld is inhabited by bit-strings in unceasing algorithmic copulation.

2) Any algorithmic bit-string in a UTM, however, can be infiltrated by a virus bit-string to alter how the movement is controlled, thus subverting the
paradigm of efficient, productive movement. Hence what was conceived as the unambiguous, dead-certain, automated control of movement via bit-string code is subverted into an ambiguous, uncertain interplay among many players injecting bits of digital code into the cyberworld. The uncontrollable interplay with which cybersecurity is concerned can be characterized as algorithmic bit-strings in antagonistic interplay (or even at war) with one another in order to usurp control over movement to the detriment of the opposing player, i.e. the adversary, who may be a state, a government agency, a company, an institution or an individual. The automated, algorithmic outsourcing of our understanding and control of movements in the world to the cyberworld that also enables the viral infection of bit-strings is a momentous, unparalleled world-historical event, by subverting, once and for all, the venerable paradigm of efficient, productive movement that is the hallmark of all Western science: automated movement controlled by a single source can now be countermanded and outsmarted by another, adversarial, automated source. If all movement in the social world is power-interplay that requires mutual estimation (in the twofold, both appreciative and depreciative, sense) to negotiate it successfully, the cyberworld of bit-strings now enables this ubiquitous power-interplay to be outsourced and thus played out also via certain things called bit-strings. Our human conflicts can now be fought out, and even automated, via bit-string surrogates.

3) Moreover, the cyberworld movement intermeshes with the augmentative movement of thingified value (roughly: anything that has a price) through whose medium, in the first place, economic interplay is played out globally today in the gainful game in which we are all players and have stakes, above all as income-earners of all kinds, starting with wage-earners. The value-form transformations that thingified value has to pass through in order to augment are facilitated by algorithmic steering in the cyberworld, e.g. supply-chain management, logistics, accounting, market information, etc. Such algorithmic control, however, cannot guarantee that the gainful game runs smoothly and surely, augmenting thingified value in its circular movement. On the contrary, th
e gainful game interplay is itself inherently uncertain since the value-form transformations themselves depend on an inherently uncertain, transactional interplay.

4) Thingified value in itself also has a social power over movement that goes beyond the global economic interplay. It exerts its power, in particular, in politics (lobbying, political donations, etc.) and is the medium also for cyber-criminality whose villainous business model employs viral bit-strings to defraud and extort thingified value from victims, including state agencies, public utilities, public health institutions as well as private persons and entities. Hence the current increasing concern over cyber-attacks and cyber-vulnerabilities in an increasingly algorithmically steered world.

5) But even apart from the dangers of cyber-attacks and illicit cyber-interplay, even in 'legitimate' interplay that is not subverted by viral bit-strings, we are all captive to thingified value as
the medium of our sociation with one another, and we are becoming increasingly controlled in our life-movements of every kind by what the algorithms, intermeshed with the turnover of thingified value, dictate what we can and cannot do. All the more reason for learning to see i) through the fetishizing veil of thingification and ii) the ambiguous, power-interplay nature of algorithmic control over movement.

Further reading:
'Turing's cyberworld of timelessly copulating bit-strings'
Movement and Time in the Cyberworld
Social Ontology of Whoness.

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