Imagine that the year is now 2020. Life has never been more exciting. Such a vast array of information is now accessible, and, more importantly, useful, to the citizens of the world. Advancements in massive-scale, deep learning, and predictive analytics technologies make this all possible.
Ray Kurzweil, a noted futurist, was right when he said that healthcare and medicine will become subject to the “law of accelerating returns.” Succumbing to sickness is becoming a concept of the past as we now have the technology to reprogram our biology.
This is all possible because the world has fully embraced distributed computing, connected via a unified and open Internet.
Trust on the Internet is a critical component of connectedness, community and commerce. So back in 2015 the question remains: will the citizens of the world — from individuals to enterprises and governments — trust each other enough to make this a sustaining reality? Or will we let fear and uncertainty win?
This is a challenge that every global citizen faces. With the public revelations surrounding Edward Snowden, and in light of a stark increase of major cyber security breaches, trust in the global internet fabric is close to, if not at, an all-time low.
Most cyber security systems today are based on techniques and truisms from the early days of the Internet — the days when there were relatively few devices, connected to relatively few networks, that were sharing data utilizing relatively few applications. This infrastructure was also only supporting a small number of users who communicated in a one-to-one or one-to-few fashion. The security systems relied heavily upon being able to define and control what is known as the perimeter. Everything on the inside was good, and everything on the outside was bad.
The world we live in today is different. It is a world with many devices, connected to many networks, with many applications. It is a world with close to three billion connected users where there is no ability to define a perimeter. With individuals using their personal devices for work, organizations leveraging the cloud, and with new best-of-breed software applications being developed by innovative startups on a daily basis, the entire notion of control has gone out the window.
One thing, however, has remained the same: individuals, organizations, and infrastructure systems still create and consume data. The world has relied so heavily on protecting the devices, networks, and applications where this data is either created or consumed but has neglected to inherently protect the data itself.
It is not because this is an unrecognized problem but because it is problem burdened by significant legacy investment. The Internet was never designed to be secure, plain and simple. So we have over 20 years of investment in infrastructure that can’t just be turned off and replaced overnight.
This challenge reminds me of one my favorite books, The Box by Marc Levinson, a historical account of how the global trade of physical goods was revolutionized a little more than 50 years ago when entrepreneur Malcom McLean decided the entire process was broken. Instead of setting out to make parts of the existing system better, Malcom decided to hit the reboot button and start from scratch. He designed and built new ships, new trains, new trucks, new ports, and, most importantly of all, a standard container for moving goods around in each of those environments. His peers thought he was mad and that it was an impossible task. He was eventually successful, and his work still has a global impact to this day.
I fear that unless we can have a similar reboot in the digital world, we will never achieve what could be. We will never trust the systems and those that operate them enough to take the risks needed to turn the dreams of the future into a reality of today.
I was born into the Internet age by sheer luck, and I have seen the greatness that humanity can achieve when they share and collaborate on the collective knowledge of the global citizen. In just the last few years, I have also seen what happens when collaboration slows, or, in some cases, stalls, due to a lack of trust.
This article is published in collaboration with Medium. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum
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Author: Adam Ghetti, technologist and entrepreneur, founded Ionic Security in 2011 to address the problem of trust in a cloud and mobile enabled world.
Image: An illustration picture shows a projection of binary code on a man holding a laptop computer, in an office in Warsaw June 24, 2013. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel