By Eh’den (Uri) Biber
Ever since I’ve started to look into the subject of consciousness I’ve realized how elusive our perception of reality is. My friends are some of the most beautiful human beings that I have met in my life. We are talking about people are beautiful outside, inside, talented, funny, and smart – yet their perception of themselves and their perception of reality is so detached and was in such discrepancy from what I see in them and what I see in the world around me that it never fails to surprise me.
In information security we are constantly facing the unpredictability of the human element. We are trying to understand what makes people do something that is completely against their own interest, and we tried to develop mechanisms to mitigate these risks. Whenever we try to increase the level of awareness we are faced with this subjective life experience that makes people do what we consider as “stupid things” like sharing passwords with strangers and developing information technology solutions which are not secure. The solution to the problem is not via increasing the level of information we give people but finding a path that will allow a person with a subjective consciousness to have a constant state of awareness.
Most if not all of the information security awareness training we have today is based on the assumption that people do not understand the threats and risks, and that it is our responsibility (already organisation responsibility) to make sure that they will be informed about the threats, risks and the appropriate patterns of action that will prevent them. We take this path because the assumption is that human beings are logical creatures, and that given the right information a person will not take a path of action that will be destructive to him (or her), and there is nothing further from the truth than that.
One bullet away from life
My favorite artist is the award-winning American singer/songwriter/musician Jason Mraz. Jason recently appeared on VH1 show called “storytellers”, describing and singing few of his songs. One of the songs he talked about is a song that appeared on his last album, called “I won’t give up”. During the introduction to the song Jason revealed that he wanted to commit suicide and that writing the song was his way of reassuring his belief in life.
“When I wrote “I won’t to give up” I was really bumped out, and I hate sharing that because I’ve had everything, and all my dreams come true. I was given a great gift, I was given a great community to share it, and I was given a great network of people to get it all around the world. And yet, one is still experiencing melancholy, and you still end up in relationships that are not really quite right, and not really satisfying your heart, and any time I was feeling bummed out I would feeling ungrateful. “Why are you bumped out, dude? You get everything you need – you got a roof over your head, you got plenty of food, you get tons of great friends, beautiful people in your life”. … I was also seeing how was afraid of going on my career, I thought I’d done enough, I thought “what the more can be expected of me?”, I thought “well, I just can quit the career” and in many cases, and I’m sure I’m not the only one in this room who feels this way you sometimes contemplate ending. It’s a ridiculous thought, but we are human and it’s one of the powers that we have…” (Jason Mraz, storytellers)
When I told my daughter who also love Jason about the fact that he was thinking of ending his life she looked at me and asks totally surprised “but why? He has everything in life!”. The problem is that Jason was well aware of the gifts that he received in his life, yet it didn’t stop him from thinking thoughts that could have ended up in a horrible tragedy.
It is hard for us to grasp how others will think of doing something so stupid, yet we all think and do stupid things, including me.
When I was 19 years old I was serving in the military. After a long 24 hours shift I received a message from the girl I was in love with, and in it she told me that she is breaking up with. The emotional pain overwhelmed me, I went outside and cried, but it didn’t help. The pain did not leave me for hours, and after 12 hours I was back in duty, locked in a small room. I felt alone, so alone that at some point I’ve decided that I have nothing to live for. I took my assault rifle; put inside a magazine filled with live ammunition, used the loading mechanism to insert a bullet into it, released a safety pin, and put the barrel in my mouth. Looking back I can think of multiple elements that were responsible to that incident, some of which are bio-chemical, some of which relates to childhood pain. The truth is that it doesn’t matter. At that point of time I was unable for a brief period of time to be conscience of anything that would have told me that my actions are unreasonable. Luckily for me, that conscious state did not last long enough to end my life, I did not press the trigger, and since that night I never contemplated on ending my life.
A recent article that was published in a British newspaper was called “Suicide watch: What is being done to stop our soldiers killing themselves?”, and here are some of the horrifying facts: British troops under the age of 24 are three times more likely to kill themselves than civilians in the same age bracket, A US veteran commit suicide every 65 minutes, 74% of the military cases find that the soldiers in them suffered from mental disorder, and last year 177 active-duty US soldiers committed suicide compared to 176 who were killed in war zones (source: metro magazine). Taking your own life for the sake of purely ending it the most extreme action a living organism can do to itself, yet people do it when they are exposed to high levels of stress.
Everything around you, including yourself is a forming experience. The universe is a result of the big bang, the Earth as we know it is a resort of billions of years that the forces of nature made it to be, the mountains, the oceans, plants, animals – our all a result of constant experience. Whether it is gravity, heat, DNA, chemical exposure, physical exposure, social exposure and mental exposure – everything around us is part of an on-going experience.
Our subjective observation is a resort of all that previous experience, and combined with the biases that we develop and our sense of self we experience a unique sense of reality. In order to influence another human in a way that will create a sustainable change we need to understand consciousness.
Details and awareness to those details cannot provide assurances that the person who has been given this information will be able to react accordingly when needed. Until those who work in information security will grasp that fact, our efforts of increasing information security will continue to fail.
Stress and consciousness
The conscious mind is so far from the rationale device our society makes it, yet we in the information security world make an assumption that the only thing we need to do in order to achieve consciousness to security is by making people aware of facts. Stress kills “conscious” behavior our society and the work environment is filled with constant stress, and expecting people to act in a conscious aware state contradict everything we know about consciousness and the human brain. Obviously stress is not always negative, after all it is one of the most relevant survival mechanisms an organism have. However, stress is extremely counter-productive if it is occurring for a long period of time, and if the cause of the stress is painful past experience that we experienced and that now shapes our perception of ourselves and the world around us. It is my belief that in order to influence other people we need to be aware that, and that society, organizations and individuals should all work together to provide everyone the right environment so they could experience life to it’s fullest, grow and contribute back as equals.
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