CYBER: SHIFT HAPPENS

Photo by Chanpipat/Shutterstock.comAround 536 BC, a Persian government advisor with the Hebrew name, Daniel, penned a number of predictions including a somewhat confusing description of Middle East dynamics at “the end of time.” The confusion was deliberate, he said. It would not be understood until an unmistakable shift happened on a global scale, a time when “travel and knowledge vastly increased” (Dan. 12:4).

 Roughly 2,500 years later, in 1970, Jewish thinker Alvin Toffler published a book called Future Shock. In it he predicted an imminent world in which change would accelerate to such a velocity it would affect every aspect of human life. Many, he said, would find it impossible to adapt, succumbing instead to various states of shock. The most prevalent expressions of shock would be denial and escapism. When these failed, he said, the result would be an array of psychological disorders that, in turn, would give rise to an entire industry of pharmaceutical treatments.

In short, Toffler saw a global shift that, like an earthquake, would knock a lot of people off their feet.

New Frontier of Cyberspace

CyberSpark pavilion at the
Cybertech conference
Forty-four years later, in September 2014, US Brigadier General (ret.) Keith Alexander flew to Tel Aviv for the 4th Annual Cybersecurity Conference. As its keynote speaker, he set the stage for every presenter that followed.

General Alexander is an intriguing man. Until recently, he was, simultaneously, Director of the US National Security Agency, Chief of the US Central Security Service, and Commander of the United States Cyber Command. Today at 61, he has shifted to become CEO of his own company called IronNet Cybersecurity. For a reported fee of $1 million a month, IronNet offers computer network protection from hackers. The company does not have a published website.

Keith Alexander
US Brigadier General (ret)
Alexander began by reminding the audience of the world in which we live. Cyberspace, he said, is the new frontier. He referenced a “highly recommended” YouTube video titled, Did You Know 2014. The video’s punch line is that “Shift Happens.” Citing the video, Alexander “laid the foundation” for what is going on in the “new frontier” of cyberspace.

“This year,” he said, “the amount of unique data that will be created is 3.5 zettabytes. That’s 3.5 with twenty-one zeros after it. That’s more than all the information that was created in the last 5,000 years.”

“The amount of technical information is doubling every two years,” he continued. Thus, “the top ten in-demand jobs in 2013 did not exist in 2004. This means that if you are a college student, fifty percent of information you learn in your freshman year will be outdated by your junior year.”

For universities, Alexander said that this rapid shift of knowledge means “we are preparing students for jobs that don't exist, using technology that hasn’t been created in order to solve problems we don't even know are problems."

The world today, he said, has 2.4 billion people using the Internet. It’s also a world in which there are 170 billion Google searches every month and 14 billion text messages every day.

Shifting at Breakneck Speed

WatsonHow can this shift, this new “Big Bang” universe of human knowledge, be processed?

Alexander reminded listeners of a new IBM supercomputer named Watson. In early 2011, Watson made an appearance on Jeopardy, a US television mainstay in which contestants face off to demonstrate knowledge in a broad range of subjects. Competing with former champions, Watson won first place.

Three years later, on 9 January 2014, IBM launched its biggest-ever endeavor, a $1 billion venture called “Operation Watson.”

Utilizing a non-linear cognitive program powered by massive processors, Watson is already being used to help oncologists prescribe chemotherapy regimens for patients with lung cancer. Development of customized treatment plans, a process that takes five doctors 30 days, Watson can prescribe in 9 minutes.

Watson also has the potential to stabilize global financial markets—and protect from identity theft when buying pizza from our smartphones.

In short, the world is shifting at breakneck speed. So are technologies that, increasingly, are part-and-parcel of everyday life.

In Jerusalem, when conflict is intense, Jews, Arabs and tourists quickly pull out smartphones. Dressed in burkas, black hats or multi-colored shirts, everyone is texting, posting, interacting with like-minded people—like-minded powers—throughout the Middle East and around the world. Almost every act of violence is caught on digital media.

How can such a volatile environment be stabilized? Ninety-one year old Shimon Peres, Israel’s ninth president, proposes a shift to international controls that goes far beyond the world of cyberspace. Speaking at the same cybersecurity conference, he proposed using a combination of global politics and a “United Nations of Religion” that employs cyber technology to isolate terror groups like ISIS, Iran and Hamas.

When Travel and Knowledge Vastly Increase

The consensus of conference speakers was that cyberspace and its attending technologies are on the verge of medical breakthroughs—and huge vistas of economic growth. Positive use, however, is not the only force pushing dramatic shifts. The other force is global danger from entrepreneurial criminals, well-funded terror organizations, and ruthless nation-states.

Benjamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister
Both forces, opportunity and danger, are driving nations, companies, scholars and investors into unusual alliances. Israel hopes to lead the way. At this same conference, Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu announced formation of a National Cyber Campus in Beersheva. “I think Beersheva will become a very, very important cyber city in the years to come,” Netanyahu said.

Think? Who has time to think? And yet we must. The importance of contemplative thought remains paramount. Even on the biological level, one scientist at the conference noted that a 100-micro-milligram insect brain can do things no computer can achieve.

How much more the human brain with its software, the mystery that is us?

Perhaps one thing to think about is Daniel’s ancient prophecy, the one that would be understood only at “the end of time” when, around the world, “travel and knowledge vastly increase.”

Those days have come; that shift is now, in such a time as this.

Source: By Brian Schrauger, USA Radio Network

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