The Future of Global IT: Its like the Kobayashi Maru

If you are a little rusty on your advanced science literature, theater and movies and don’t recall the story from the fictional Star Trek universe known as the Kobayashi Maru, please take a moment to watch this clip, just to get your mind going:


This part of the story, reportedly written by Gene Roddenberry himself, is about a simulation at Star Fleet Academy.  For most students there it is a no-win scenario, as you saw in the clip.   For one, however, there was a solution we should all remember.  That solution is one I like to use to remind people of what we need to do to help enhance the security and functionality of today’s enterprise IT.  More on that later.

Regarding the future of global IT, the NYT ran an article today I’d recommend to any enterprise technologist or security professional titled “Do We Need a New Internet?”  The article provides a good summary of how we got into the current mess regarding security of interconnected devices:

The Internet’s original designers never foresaw that the academic and military research network they created would one day bear the burden of carrying all the world’s communications and commerce. There was no one central control point and its designers wanted to make it possible for every network to exchange data with every other network. Little attention was given to security. Since then, there have been immense efforts to bolt on security, to little effect.

It also briefly discusses some of the threats and significant penetrations we have seen, and then introduces the Stanford Clean Slate project.   This project seeks to build a new Internet with improved security and capabilities to support a new generation of applications, as well as support mobile users.  It is an Internet designed with security in it from day one.  From the Clean Slate site:

We believe that the current Internet has significant deficiencies that need to be solved before it can become a unified global communication infrastructure. Further, we believe the Internet’s shortcomings will not be resolved by the conventional incremental and ‘backward-compatible’ style of academic and industrial networking research. The proposed program will focus on unconventional, bold, and long-term research that tries to break the network’s ossification. To this end, the research program can be characterized by two research questions: “With what we know today, if we were to start again with a clean slate, how would we design a global communications infrastructure?”, and “How should the Internet look in 15 years?”

The site provides a good synopsis of research and profiles of the leaders working on the project.  I’ve heard of several similar efforts, but none so well formed, in my opinion.  The thing I really like about this one is it does not require everything everywhere to be thrown out before transitioning to this new way.  There will be changes required, but this is much more evolutionary than other approaches seem to be.  It is a great way for us humans to take back control of the technological aspects of our destiny.

Now back to the Kobayashi Maru.   How did our hero Captain James T. Kirk win the simulation?  He realized that the simulation was a creation of humans and decided that it could be redesigned.  He designed it to work better for him and he won.  That is the approach we need when it comes to Internet security, and it is an approach I think of when I read about the Stanford Clean Slate project.  People like Nick McKeown have realized it is ok for us to decide what our future will be and design it.  Thanks Nick for that, you remind me of one of our SciFi heroes.

More CTOvision Reporting:


For more on these topics see the CTOvision Guide to National Security Technology and


Leave a Reply