The Knowable and Unknowable

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So as we all do, I often come across challenging and perplexing issues or problems in life. 


And my nature is to try to understand them, solve them, fix them–is it survival or the challenge or both?


But then we come across some things that are just beyond our [mere mortal] understanding or ability to simply fix them. 


I remember as a youngster learning in Yeshiva about when it says in the Bible that G-d hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that he continued to refuse to let the Jews go from their enslavement in Egypt.


And the classic mind-bending question is how could G-d harden his heart if Pharaoh retained free will which we all have to choose good or evil.


Did G-d harden his heart or did he have free will–which is it?  And if G-d hardened his heart, then how could Pharaoh and the Egyptians be punished for something they didn’t fully control? 


One explanation is that by facing the punishing plagues, Pharoah was losing his free will to decide what to do with the Israelites, so by hardening his heart, G-d was actually restoring his free will to choose once again…interesting. 


Of course in life, there is also the philosophical dimensions of so many seeming contradictions such as the cliche about what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.


Which wins out if one is unstoppable and the other is unmovable?


No, I don’t think these are just riddles, but the testing of the abilities of our human minds to understand further and further into the mysteries of G-d, creation, and the universe. 


So what do we do in life when confronted by things that are seemingly or really beyond our human capacities? 


– We ponder these weighty matters and sometimes we get frustrated and rip our little-left hair out or laugh at ourselves as to why we can’t just get it.


– We look to understand the deeper spiritual meanings of these challenges in the context of our earthly lives. 


– We try to solve and fix what we can within the confines of our spaghetti brain matter and flesh and bone bodies. 


– At the end of the day, we acknowledge our human limitations, and look to the Heavens for answers or at least for Divine guidance and protection along the way.


While we cannot understand everything or always reach our destination that we set for ourselves that should never prevent us from trying our hardest and going as far as we can on our journeys–and letting the next person, and the next person pick up the torch and carry it forward. 


In the Jewish prayers, we say that the matters of the earth are for our exploration and striving, but the ultimate secrets of the Heaven are for G-d alone. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Classified Nuts

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Something about this advertisement seemed perfect for this week:


“I didn’t realize these nuts were classified.”


So said the chipmunk.


This was posted the same week that intelligence about ISIS was shared with the Russians from the oval office.


The Prez is entitled to share whatever he wants and maybe he didn’t realize “these nuts were classified.” 


My bet is this was all sort of innocent, but either way we don’t want to jeopardize critical intel sources and methods in our fight against our enemies and terror. 


It’s their nuts that should be on the line and not ours. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Why Can’t We Keep Our Secrets

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Well after the now notorious email scandal and other information security mishaps galore, this advertisement in Washington, DC is really quite the rage. 

“Keeps classified data classified.”


As parents tell their children about keeping private things private:

“If you can’t keep it a secret, then how do you expect the other kids to keep it to themselves?”


There are lots of secrets in DC, but there are also a lot of big mouths, security negligence, and even corruption. 


This gives our adversaries the opportunities they need to get our countries vital information. 


We work too hard to develop the best intellectual property for national security and our economy as well as the critical policies for advancing human rights and democracy around the world to let it just be easy fodder for others to help themselves too. 


Technology won’t solve the gap in certain big mouths and sloppy Joes around town. 


Only vigilant, smart people can protect the nations vital information that is the fuel for our success and survival. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Secret To Long Life

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I just love this Tibetan proverb on the secret to long life

“Eat Half

Walk Double

Laugh Triple

and 

Love Without Measure,”

The rest is icing on the Tibetan cake. 

(Source Photo: Rebecca Blumenthal via Facebook)

Burning The Evidence

Transparency

This is a brillant funny advertisement that was displayed on the Metro in Washington, D.C.


“If I burn the evidence, those donuts never happened.”


This as astute marketing for a fitness facility.  


Burn baby, burn (calories that is)!


But in Washington, D.C. (and at times for fiduicary duty bound Wall Street), where transparency is supposed to rule the day–but often doesn’t as we know–this resonates in a whole other way for a class of political and wealthy elites as well as for a host of criminals. 


Bad things (fraud, waste, abuse, and stupid mistakes)–uh, they never happened if there is no evidence to prove it.  


Like the tree that falls in the woods that no one hears…it’s as if it never fell. 


Also, is there a habit of perhaps punishing the innocent in order to protect those that are really guilty? — That never happens too, right? 


But G-d knows what really happened, and often somehow, someway the truth does get exposed (whether by savy investigative journalists, Congressional or court inquiry, brave innocents that come forward, or some bad people getting caught up in their own jumble of lies and deceit).  


As Judge Judy says, “If it doesn’t make sense, it’s usually not true.” 


Or more in line with the ad, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

We Just Keep Giving It All Away

Missiles

How do these things keep happening to us?


We lost a high-tech Hellfire air-to- ground missile, accidentally sending it to Cuba, likely compromising critical sensor and GPS targeting technology to China, Russia, and/or North Korea. 


But it’s not all that different from how many other examples, such as: 


– Chinese cyber espionage snared critical design secrets to the 5th generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.


– Iran captured and purportedly decoded an RQ-170 Sentinel high-altitude reconnaissance drone.


– Russian spies stole U.S. nuclear secrets helping them to build their first atomic bomb.


We are the innovator for high-tech bar none, which is beautiful and a huge competitive advantage. 


But what good is it when we can’t protect our intellectual property and national security secrets. 


The U.S. feeds the world not only with our agricultural, but with our knowledge.


Knowledge Management should be a mindful exercise that rewards our allies and friends and protects us from our enemies–and not a free-for-all where we we can’t responsibly control our information. 😉


(Source Photo: here with attribution to James Emery)

What If They Can Read Our Redactions?

What If They Can Read Our Redactions?

The New Yorker has a fascinating article about technology advances being made to un-redact classified text from government documents.

Typically, classified material is redacted from disclosed documents with black bars that are technologically “burnt” into the document.

With the black bars, you are not supposed to be able to see/read what is behind it because of the sensitivity of it.

But what if our adversaries have the technology to un-redact or un-burn and autocomplete the words behind those black lines and see what it actually says underneath?

Our secrets would be exposed! Our sensitive assets put at jeopardy!

Already a Columbia University professor is working on a Declassification Engine that uses machine learning and natural language processing to determine semantic patterns that could give the ability “to predict content of redacted text” based on the words and context around them.

In the case, declassified information in the document is used in aggregate to “piece together” or uncover the material that is blacked out.

In another case prior, a doctoral candidate at Dublin City University in 2004, used “document-analysis technologies” to decrypt critical information related to 9/11.

This was done by also using syntax or structure and estimating the size of the word blacked out and then using automation to run through dictionary words to see if it would fit along with another “dictionary-reading program” to filter the result set to the likely missing word(s).

The point here is that with the right technology redacted text can be un-redacted.

Will our adversaries (or even allies) soon be able to do this, or perhaps, someone out there has already cracked this nut and our secrets are revealed?

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Newspaper Club)