Small and Large Scale Connectivity


Lately I've been grabbing everything I can about Thomas Barnett's new book The Pentagon's New Map (PNM). I bought the DVD from CSPAN and watched it with my sixteen year-old son who thought it was "very interesting."

In the Nov 5th edition of the Gillmor Gang which I remixed, Jon Udell pointed out how much of Barnett's language is taken from, or at least parallels, the language of IT. Words like rule-sets, system administrator, connectivity, and so on lace his speech.

This morning, I was reading in PNM and came across this passage (page 53):

Let's not kid ourselves, most of the rule-set changes proposed since 9/11 focus on war and the military management of "empire." ... [T]he rule-set reset we seek is far larger than simple keeping the barbarians at the gate, which--frankly--is what virtually every discussion of "American empire" is really about. In effect, America's avowed goal should be extending our culturally neutral, rules-based "civilization" called globalization, because if we do not all live on the same basic rule-set, there will always be a globalization hierarchy by which some rule and others are ruled.

Later, Barnett talks about isolationism (page 159):

The more mainstream response from the right focuses on the notion that shrinking the Gap is simply too big a problem for the United States to take on--militarily or otherwise. Instead, they bluntly advocate a sort of civilizational apartheid that strikes me as the mirror image of what I believe many violent anti-globalization forces would also prefer--including Osama bin Laden. Rather than fix the Gap, these respondents prefer segregation. The most common way this gets expressed is the idea that if America would only end its dependence on foreign oil, illegal narcotics, and cheap immigrant labor, we could just build a but fence around this nasty neighborhood called the Gap and now have to deal with it anymore.

What struck me about these passages (and many other similar ideas) is how not only the language, but indeed, many of the concepts and drivers parallel those faced by IT.

One of my favorite themes is how new models in IT, such as Web Services, change the nature of the IT security landscape in fundamental ways. In fact, its the primary motivator in my upcoming book on Digital Identity and, I believe, lies at the heart of the increased interest in that topic by many. Here's what I wrote a year ago:

In his book, "The Age of Access," Jeremy Rifkin argues that economic shifts over the last several decades have given rise to a regime where anonymous transactions are nearly impossible. In a service-based economy, digital identity matters; I have to know who you are in order to sell you access to my service. Since these services are increasingly delivered over digital networks, businesses need reliable, secure, and private means for creating, storing, transferring, and using digital identities. Understanding how your organization will manage and use digital identity is a crucial part of your business strategy.

In addition to identifying customers so that you can sell them services, business have an increasing need to identify employees, systems, resources, and services in a systematic way to create business agility and ensure the security of business assets.

In the past people have thought of security as an edge game. Given a firewall and access control to the network, we can do a reasonable job securing a business. However, the economic shifts spoken of above have driven the need to integrate systems, not only internally, but with trading partners and customers as well. This has been fueled by XML and the creation of standards for exchanging data and the increasing trend to decentralized computing embodied in Web services. This trend has a huge ramification for business security: we can no longer treat the edges of the network as a secure perimeter.

When integration is driven by business, rather than IT needs, security policies need to talk about documents, data, actions, people, and corporations instead of machines and networks. This security model is infinitely more complex than the old "secure perimeter" model. But even if you define your policy, how do you ensure that it is properly implemented across dozens or even hundreds of systems and at the same time control access to fields of a database or paragraphs of a document?
From Phil Windley | Business Driven Identity Management
Referenced Sat Dec 11 2004 15:08:59 GMT-0700

In many ways, even the motivations are similar, albeit vastly different in scale. Business are increasing their connectivity to outside partners, suppliers, and customers in an effort to increase productivity and, ultimately, profits. While Barnett is talking about security and war, over and over, he states that the motivations for seeking greater connectivity are nothing less than prosperity for a larger portion of humanity.

I think the parallelism between motivations and techniques goes well beyond just a simple borrowing of IT terms. The parallels are structural and stem from the universality of connectedness as a modern expression of the ideals that have not only been the foundation of this nation, but the basis of our commercial advantage and might. The loose coupling of 50 states into a federation that embodied many of the ideas of connectivity (free borders, no interstate tariffs, and so on) is now becoming an organizational principle in the small as we increase the connectivity of one business with another, as well as in the large as we define globalization.

Over a year ago, I wrote this in response to the World of Ends article that Doc Searls and Dave Weinberger wrote:

World of Ends piece what Doc Searls and Dave Weinberger just published. In the end, that's about connectedness too and I think many of the issues they talk about apply regardless of the "connecting" system that you're talking about. For example, when Barnett talks of harmonizing a country's internal rule set with that of other nations, he's really talking about laws, protocols, agreements, processes, and other things that have direct analogs in what makes the Internet special as defined by Searls and Weinberger.

To take this one step further, I believe that the three virtues that Searls and Weinberger ascribe to the Internet apply just as truthfully to the global economy:
  • No one owns it
  • Everyone can use it
  • Anyone can improve it
Read their words and substitute "global economy" for "Internet" and you'll find some interesting points. For example, I think that principal four provides real insight: Adding value to the Internet lowers its value. How do people attempt to "add value" to the global economy? One way is by regulating it or trying to tweak it in some way to benefit their country over others.
From Phil Windley's Enterprise Computing Weblog
Referenced Sat Dec 11 2004 17:21:27 GMT-0700