January 2011

Sean Lawson tempers cyber doom

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Sean Lawson, an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Utah and a contributor to the Forbes.com security blog, The Firewall, discusses his new Mercatus Center working paper, Beyond Cyber-Doom: Cyberattack Scenarios and the Evidence of History. Cyber security may be the new black, but it’s been a significant policy issue since the 1980s. Lawson talks about the current cyber security discourse, commenting on widespread conflation of diverse cyber threats, over-emphasis on hypothetical doom scenarios, and their effect on policy proposals. He then looks to the history of disasters, including blackouts, the attacks of 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina, to help analyze effects of potential cyber disasters. Lawson also discusses incorrect doomsday predictions about strategic bombardment and air power theory during WWII, and he offers some conclusions and policy recommendations based on his research.

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Don Norman on living with complexity

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Don Norman, a former Apple vice-president, co-founder of the Nielsen Norman Group, and one of the world’s most influential designers, discusses his new book, Living With Complexity. Norman talks about differences between complexity, something being complicated, and simplicity, and suggests that people who bemoan “technology” don’t actually seek simplicity. He also discusses differences between designing a product and designing a system, using examples of iPods and iTunes, the Amazon Kindle, and BMW’s Mini Cooper — products whose success depended upon the success of larger systems. Norman also notes the difference between a forcing function and a nudge, explains how complicated rules can weaken security, and comments on sociable design in realspace and on the internet.

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Declan McCullagh on WikiLeaks

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Declan McCullagh, chief political correspondent for CNET and former Washington bureau chief for Wired News, discusses WikiLeaks. McCullagh gives a quick recap of the WikiLeaks saga so far, comments on the consequences of the leaks themselves, and talks about the broader significance of the affair. He also offers a few insights into Julian Assange’s ideology based on his interactions with Assange in early ’90s “cypherpunk” circles. Lastly, McCullagh discusses the future of diplomacy and the chance that Assange will be indicted in the United States.

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Evgeny Morozov on the dark side of internet freedom

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Evgeny Morozov, a visiting scholar at Stanford University, a fellow at the New America Foundation, and a contributor to Foreign Policy, the Boston Review, and the Wall Street Journal, talks about his new book, The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom. Morozov first discusses misperceptions about the effectiveness of American broadcasts and pamphlets to promote democracy and liberty during the Cold War. He then suggests consequences of bringing such historical baggage to internet policymaking, pointing out that many people today have faulty assumptions about the power of internet freedom to effect change in places like China, Russia, and Iran.

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