I came across a pair of articles over at ZDNet:
- Cybersecurity’s hiring crisis: a troubling trajectory
- Cybersecurity’s hiring crisis: Rockstars, anger, and the billion dollar problem
This is a well-known issue in information technology, but it does not seem to me to be unique to the field. In every field of which I have been a direct part, such as academia, politics, and information technology, the problems are very similar. Human systems are plagued by the worship of prestige and the disruptive whirlpool patterns generated around such phenomena. Organizations, like individuals, are prone to seek the path of least resistance even when said path is not optimal. As a result, we get hiring committees who seek to make socially bulletproof decisions by hiring the most popular and/or well-renowned experts in their fields even when these experts aren’t the best choices.
What’s worse is that these popular and well-renowned persons float to the top of organizations where they are responsible largely, if not solely, for general organizational direction, which typically requires less talent and knowledge from its principal decision-makers than the work which must occur as a result of those decisions further down in the organization. Asserting that an organization ought to enforce strong SE Linux policy, for example, is a hell of a lot easier said at the top than implemented at the bottom through wrestling with vendors hawking poorly-designed applications. The top levels of organizational hierarchy insulate incumbents from the potential for failure in their decisions and then, where the potential does find them, they are further insulated from the consequences of failure by massive salaries and other unbelievably huge fiscal resources.
We need to flatten our society. Economically, the range of salaries in this country is staggering, and it must be compressed. No human being deserves to make $1,000,000 in a year when other human beings doing good work at a lower hierarchical level must work overtime to reach $50,000 in a year. No one person is worth 20 good workers, and this must be reflected in our economic system. We need to sustain our good citizens with strong fiscal support, and that can’t be done with a monumental hierarchical income disparity.
Hierarchically, we need to flatten our society as well. Where possible, our employees need to be peers, not superiors and inferiors, and decisions should be made largely democratically where feasible. Everyone should have a hand in the design and improvement of processes of which he or she will be a part. Our labor must be liberal and fair in the interest of promoting freedom of thought and action as well as sustaining a strong, stable, and fecund citizenry.
Human economic systems have been a long time in the making, and improvement seems fairly great when compared with feudal systems of yore, but we still have much to do. One of the reasons I got into IT was the flexibility and broad applicability and necessity of the skills acquired in the field. The value and power of information technology skills allow for a more peer-like relationship between an organization and the employee rather than a virtual serfdom imposed on so many in this nation.
Our first and greatest goal as a nation should be to end economic slavery and ensure that any honest, hard working human being can live comfortably with the resources necessary to sustain and progress in liberal artistry and the general enjoyment of a life well-lived. Conquering the sorts of problems outlined in the linked articles above is possible, but it will require revolutionary effort to reign in the gluttonous excesses currently permitted in our economic system.
One final note: I’ve been thoroughly interested as of late in the open source community. It is, if you ask me, a true modern marvel that human beings have dedicated so many resources on a purely voluntary basis to the free open source software movements. It lends strong modern proof that financial reward is not the only (or even best) means of incentivizing great innovation and success. Human beings are interested in solving problems, and this behavior will persist regardless of the economic system of the day’s promotion or detraction of such goals.
Eventually, I believe Marx will be vindicated in that our economic system will far more closely approximate a communism than a free market capitalism. It will be some combination of attributes (for surely there is little which is mutually exclusive between the two, contrary to popular opinion), but our economic system will be driven less and less by what one has and more and more by what one can do. In an age where one can freely and easily acquire and develop enterprise-grade free and open source software to run on hardware purchased and assembled by oneself, we have already gone a great way to establishing every citizen as a powerful research and development engine. A status once restricted to the few privileged with formal education, employment, and access to the systems necessary to do the work of progress has been opened to many.
I try in my life to make a point to rarely fail to appreciate the opportunity I have in our current environment to retreat to my basement abode in my secure household and spend my time in study punctuated by inspiration-driven work on the same free open source software which is used to run our nation’s most important institutions. While I have recently found myself in more privileged position to serve one such institution in exactly that regard, I also have the flexibility to test configurations and scripts in my home environment, developing as I see fit, and making better the very systems of which I am a part.
I am a happy owner of the Encyclopedia Brittanica’s Great Books of the Western World series. One of the most important books I have read in my life is actually the introductory text entitled “The Great Conversation.” In it, one finds the following beautiful passage:
“Whatever work there is should have as much meaning as possible. Wherever possible, workmen should be artists; their work should be the application of knowledge or science and known and enjoyed by them as such. They should, if possible, know what they are doing, why what they are doing has the results it has, why they are doing it, and what constitutes the goodness of the things produced. They should understand what happens to what they produce, why it happens in that way, and how to improve what happens. They should understand their relations to others co-operating in a given process, the relation of that process to other processes, the pattern of them all as constituting the economy of the nation, and the bearing of the economy on the social, moral, and political life of the nation and the world. Work would be humanized if understanding of all these kinds were in it and around it.”
For all the time provided to capitalism and its overlords, rarely and only inconsistently has the system held up to this standard. With financial incentivization alone (and an absence of good moral sentiment), it is often more immediately lucrative for large organizations to treat people like machinery, depriving them of the ideals set forth above, and ultimately weakening the world while engorging the stockpiles of the commanders of wealth.
And yet, for the very short amount of time the world has seen the free and open source software movement, it has consistently, in my view, done a vastly superior job in upholding the ideals set forth above. With the polluting impact of money lessened to an extent rarely found elsewhere, a natural meritocracy has arisen in which there is embedded a sense of duty to honor and respect every individual and know that one is not defined by the consequences of one’s behavior, but by the Way in which one lives. Kernel developers volunteer their efforts just as documentation authors, and neither is held above the other. The workers choose when and how to apply their artistry to the overarching goals of the communities of which they are parts, and new ideas are readily supported and enhanced by all so inspired.
Eventually, this will define our nation’s economy; we will work out of a healthy, natural inclination, and no longer from a desperate need to survive. The way forward is liberal education for all, and a continued trend of decreased cost of access to the resources necessary to put that education to practice and grow as human beings.
As I age, I continue to believe that one of the most beautiful human sentiments I have ever come across is:
To each according to need, from each according to ability.
I hope I can have a part in moving us closer to that goal. The more I find and the more I have, the more I value the impact such experiences have had on me, and the more I understand the need to share that impact with others. It seems I have thus far avoided the cynical superiority complex which seems to cripple so many of those on economic trajectories similar to mine in this nation, and I credit those great men and women who preceded me with my salvation. Had I not come across the superabundance of their wisdom which now in part rests on my bookshelves and makes appearances in my Internet browser, my capacity to deal with the complexities of this modern experience would be horrifyingly low, and there is no telling what I would have become. Knowing all this, I maintain constant awareness of the value of liberal education and its crucial role in moving society forward.
Without distributing resources among the population in a manner which ensures the righteous among them will flourish, we cannot have a stable citizenry. Without stability, few can obtain the thorough education necessary to progress, and the moral integrity of the downtrodden is continually challenged. Without a thoroughly educated, morally sound citizenry, we cannot progress.