Though the acute illness is over, I am still suffering notable emotional aftershocks of Covid - first severe ennui now yielding to anxiety. To distract myself, I am re-reading a series of seven short-ish novels comprising “The Homeland Connection” series by Lior Samson, a pen name for Larry Constantine. Constantine is expert in computing and software engineering, including malware and network security. He makes very good use of this knowledge in writing this series of plausible, disturbing, entertaining thrillers. He is also an excellent technical novelist adept at creating real, human characters.
Rather than attempt to review these very well-written and entertaining stories, however, I am moved to share with you the very disturbing, overarching impression with which they have left me: I am no longer even close to being able to understand the technical world in which I live and on which my very survival has come to depend. What with layers upon layers of software code insinuating itself surreptitiously and interacting in incomprehensible ways, these stories show the internecine power struggles on networks and in the ether all around us all the time. These stories recount malware destruction of gas pipelines, airliners, power grids, automobiles - virtually anything with SCADA systems running.
I am reminded of a short stunning color film from 50 or so years ago. It begins with an overview of a beautifully landscaped back yard with a manicured lawn. It is green, serene and aesthetic; peaceful. The camera then begins to narrow its field and reveal what is actually happening between those blades of grass and among the clumps of soil: a brutal life and death struggle, where predator devours prey, everywhere and continuously.
Similarly, I am reminded of one of John Walker’s reviewed books: “The Last Man Who Knew Everything”. . That man lived long ago and there is zero danger of anyone confusing me with him. This does, however, stand to exemplify the inequality between what is collectively known and what can possibly be known by one mind. There is something I find profoundly disconcerting about my obvious inability to keep a small grip on the some of the essential reality of the present day.
In other words, superficial appearances of smooth, serene, reliable functionality can be deceiving. And, at the cyber level, apparently, such e-predation is similarly pervasive, over networks and in the ether, everywhere. The degree to which I have been (mercifully) oblivious to this, is shocking. It forces upon me the knowledge that modern technology has left me in its wake, with my head barely above water. I fear I have become an anachronism, with no alternative but to hang it up and stop even trying to keep up.
It all seems at a different level than the effort I make here on Scanalyst. Here, I can read posts and watch videos which explain in some detail many things about which I already have some inkling. When it comes to computation and networking - especially at the levels within levels of AI, machine learning, malware, etc. - however, I am lost. Danté comes to mind" “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.”