Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Mountains matter in digital sovereingty

I'm going to explain a few things that don't matter in order to explain one thing that does. So let us start.

First, I invented a method of mapping competitive landscapes. This not only includes physical activities but practices, data, knowledge and even ethical values. I used such a map to map culture.

A map of culture

The map of culture is not important except I'll note that collectives (groupings of people) are differentiated by our values (i.e. beliefs) and the behaviours we exhibit. Those collectives are in competition with each other and that competition (the act of "seeking together" whether seeking some knowledge or some resource) can take many forms including co-operation ("working together"), collaboration ("labouring together") or even conflict ("fighting together").

When we talk about physical sovereignty (I italicise as we rarely mention the physical word) then we tend to use a map of the territory and mark out where our collective (and our values and our behaviours) exist surrounded by a border which demarcates the "outside".

Physical sovereignty

We can create a map of competitive spaces (see the above mention that I invented a way of doing this) then we can apply patterns (discovered through mapping) to anticipate potential future states. For example, this was a map created in the DVLA around 2014 of the future automotive industry. A number of its anticipations have already started to happen but that's not interesting for this discussion nor is the map itself.

Future of the automotive industry

What is mildly interesting is that we can bring elements of the culture map onto our competitive spaces. For example, we can show how a collective can embed their values in simulation systems for intelligent agents (AI). When we export products based upon this, we're also exporting our values to other collectives but then we've been doing this with film, music, games and art in general for a long time. It's a form of non kinetic warfare.

Embedding values within commercial systems.

As I said, most of this stuff in unimportant. What does matter and what I want you to think about is when we discuss digital sovereignty then we should be talking about where our borders are on those maps i.e. what are the bits we wish to protect for our collective, our behaviours and our values?

Digital sovereignty

So, why does this matter?

Imagine listening to a conversation on physical sovereignty where no-one has any maps and therefore no-one can discuss borders but everyone wants to talk about the importance of mountains or hills or lakes or forests or roads. You would probably think it's gibberish or at the least utterly hopless. Those are simply components that exist in a landscape and are mostly irrelevant on their own to the discussion at hand.

Well, this is exactly the conversation that is happening today in digital sovereignty. Few (in western Governments it seems) have maps of their competitive landscapes and as a consequence we not only poorly understand our supply chains but we have no idea where our borders should be in the competitive space. So, instead of trying to map the environment, we've replaced it with an entire conversation on the importance of mountains (clouds) or hills (cybersecurity) or lakes (data) or forests (AI) or roads (networks). It is utterly hopeless bordering on gibberish.