On Day 3 at Singularity University, I learned more about many fields that I had only very little knowledge of up until now: cybersecurity, exponential energy and economies, neuroscience, and disruptions in the medical field. Although I can’t reproduce exactly, in just a few lines, the essence of ten hours of incredibly inspiring conferences, I thought I’d write about two important teachings that grabbed my attention.

Securing is more about delaying access rather than preventing it

Nathanial Gleicher, a stereotype of the perfect son-in-law whose hotel rooms nevertheless often get broken into because of his involvement in strategic activities, explained current cybersecurity challenges by using a metaphor based on US secret services. In short, it’s not a question of using security to supposedly prevent access thanks to supposedly impassable barriers, but rather a question of delaying access.

Penetrating inside the White House is extremely simple because there is only one fence, albeit pretty high, separating it from the outside. Any person who should attempt to scale this fence would of course be arrested rapidly, but they would nonetheless have succeeded in penetrating the sacred area. If, however, you erect several walls, however high or low, the contender will be considerably slowed down in his progression. Furthermore, the boundary of what constitutes inside and outside becomes more blurry.

So cybersecurity is first and foremost about timing, friction, and complexity. About timing, it’s better to be proactive rather than reactive because it always takes longer to act once the harm is done, and results are less effective.

As for friction, it’s not about taking an all or nothing approach, by choosing to have only one super-controlled access point to the company, just because access to the cafeteria is as laborious as reaching the CEO’s office. The objective is rather to have multiple entry points to make access tedious for ill-intentioned individuals, not employees.

Last but not least, complexity should be made comprehensible, by turning reality into an environment that is easier to control, and trying to focus security measures on high-risk zones.

The solution? Connection, timing, and customization

Amin Toufani explained the contours of today’s exponential economies, mentioning Trevor Gibbons and the potential bankruptcy of Sears, the 41-year-old business giant with over 12,000 employees; and Stewart Butterfield and the exponential success of Slack over just a few years.

According to Toufani, economic success is driven by the capacity to connect individuals, deliver products and services in near real-time, and customizing these to extreme levels to suit consumers. He highlighted the power of ecosystems over all other systems, inevitably referring to the WeChat app (see my first article on The Circle and its analysis of hyperconnectedness).

Amin Toufani considers that the new challenge isn’t so much a technological one but rather our capacity to forget everything we know about a given field to, ultimately, have the audacity to invent the future! So, to succeed, he recommends thinking out of the box, diving into fields we know nothing about. The exploration of what we don’t know becomes more valuable than exploring starting with what we do know.

He also drew attention to the relevance of shifting away from IQ-based thinking to an AQ-based approach (i.e. adaptability quotient), the aim being to successfully advance in volatile, uncertain, unpredictable environments. The capacity to adapt in real-time to external signals is what differentiates those who will succeed in a given field, from the rest.

Other speakers, in particular Divya Chander on the advancements in neuroscience, only confirmed the impression that today’s world is undergoing profound transformation. And this calls into question the very beliefs we have regarding what makes us human, what differentiates us from machines, especially given that we can now upload our mind to the cloud – opening up the doors to human immortality.

So the question is, “What does ‘we’ mean today, and what exactly is it that becomes immortal?” Over to you!


To read episods 1, 2 & 3 of Pachulski’s experience at Singularity University:

  1. Is There a Future For Privacy?
  2. Get it Wrong and Laugh it Off!
  3. Don’t Fear the Future, Invent it
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