THE BLOG
02/10/2014 04:52 pm ET Updated Apr 12, 2014

The Algorithms Reap While the People Sleep

Whether Edward Snowden is a traitor or not is to me an ethical/political issue... the answer to which I guarantee will change over time -- today's traitor is tomorrow's hero...

Frankly, I have written before about issues of privacy vs. security vs. the public's need to know... not where I want to go today.

Rather, I am fascinated that cheap off-the-shelf software -- available to all of us -- took one of the largest and most secretive and (one would imagine) most secure security agencies in the world for a ride... compromised them, made fools of them, turned them upside down and, despite leaving fingerprints... FOOTPRINTS even... all over the place, got away with it all until the info went public.

Wild...

Truth is, only a few short years ago the kind of software magic available to three-year-olds today, for nothing, cost corporations millions of dollars in development costs from high-profile, posturing digital developers.

So what does it mean?

Seems to me, we continue to confuse technology with "applied" technology. We muddy the discussion by calling everything technology -- and then get taken by surprise when Amazon can't manage the basics of shipping that are second nature to so-called old-fashioned catalogers.

So... much like Amazon got blindsided by what so many others seem to manage profitably -- the NSA got blindsided by what the rest of us read in best-selling spy novels and, in fact, were reading long before digital came into the world.

The KGB used to control the Xerox business in the old USSR because to them, it was an obviously subversive tool -- see the parallel? And there was a time when bags were checked on the way out of secure facilities as opposed to today, when they are checked on the way in -- both looking for explosives -- if you will -- but of different types.

It also seems clear that internal systems meant for sharing are the most vulnerable (as I have written before), and frankly that concerns me, as the very nature of the Web is to be open and to share.

Interestingly, I just heard the CEO of one of the most prestigious executive head-hunting companies in the world report that cybersecurity is the hottest placement area this year.

Which might be the case, but it seems that with all the elaborate systems and such, the penny solution from the inside trumps all.

All of which reminds me that people and human intelligence still trump all.

The NSA was asleep at the switch. They were waiting for digital alarm bells to go off and never bothered to look down -- like the digital analysts who followed Amazon and never thought that shipping below cost lowers profits, as they focused their digibabble on the recommendation engines and such....

Traitor or hero -- profit or loss -- the lesson is that people, human beings, still count more than algorithms... and always will. Listen:

"The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking." -- Albert Einstein

If the NSA had applied some everyday thinking, they would have caught Snowden. If everyday thinking had been applied to Amazon, their fourth quarter would not have been a surprise.

Everyday thinking is common sense -- a human trait -- and humans still trump all....

What do you think?