A conversation with Ian O. Angell


After his presentation at the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas, keynoter Ian O. Angell, professor of Information Systems. London School of Economics, sat down with reporters in the Black Hat press room (yes, the one that was hacked), and talked about his take on technology, security, and much of the rest of the universe, as fits his philosophical bent. In some quarters, he is known as a cheerful pessimist.


In a prologue in the Black Hat brochure, he is described as having “very radical and constructive views on his subject, and is very critical of what he calls the pseudo-science of academic information systems. He has gained notoriety worldwide for his aggressive polemics against the inappropriate use of artificial intelligence and so-called knowledge management, and against the hyperbole surrounding e-commerce.”


Here are some excerpts from what he had to say.


On security:


“The problem with security is that there are so many silos of specialty that do not interact with each other. The breakdown is because they don’t talk to one another; they can accidentally conspire against one another.


“What we are seeing is not there; that is, we are not seeing security as it is. There is a latency, a link that does not appear anywhere in what we see.”


“The art of the security professional is seeing the problem before the amateur does.”


On the futility of quick fixes:


“When you focus on any single thing, you leave many things unobserved. There is no way to fully observe anything. There is a paradox as a result – almost a butterfly effect of paradoxes, a paradox that is smirking. The only thing systems have in common is that they fail.”


“If the internet crashes, it will be an accident.”


On complexity:


“Any entrenched culture is self-referential. The self interests of disparate groups are not alike.”


On innovation:


“We need more innovation. Innovation is ideas following on ideas, following on ideas. Large organizations do not innovate; they only fund orthodoxy. Professors research yesterday’s failures.”


On privacy:


“Privacy is monitoring people. The collective thinks it owns the individual; the collective strives until it destroys itself.”


“The government cannot ever get inside your head. When you see control freaks recognize their impotence, it’s wonderful.”


“Regulation can be the ultimate destroyer of the internet.”


On warfare:


“Using the internet in attacking another country is just another example of the use of innovative weapons in the history of warfare.”



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