Monthly Archives: March 2016

The sky is falling! The sky is… wait… it’s floating away!

The market hysteria of the 90’s is back! And it’s about time. It’s been far too long since hearing about the roofless demand of the future proof IT job market. Techcrunch released this article last week announcing the latest crisis caused by a shortage of cybersecurity experts. According to this article there are millions of jobs that will go unfilled over the next three years. Lest any of this be questioned, some facts and figures:

  • Cybercrime is a very real and serious problem and absolutely demands decisive action and education. 1.5 million victims in 2015 can’t all be making it up.
  • Cybercrime may in fact be replacing some violent crime.
  • The fact that the cyberheist outperforms the traditional bank robbery by more than two to one is also old news.
  • 47% of adults had their personal information stolen in 2014

The permutations of cybercrime and its far reaching costs and consequences is genuinely staggering. Combined with the vastness of criminal opportunity the depth of damage to the individual the demand for a solution is white hot indeed. And unlike the days of Web 1.0 when a barely competent mouse jockey could command a kings ransom for a generalist’s chops serious cybersecurity expertise starts at the veteran level. A boon for headhunters the world over the good old days of signing bonuses for geeks are back. Or are they? And for how long?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics there are just over 600,000 lawyers and judges in the United States. Assuming that only one third of the 1.5 million cybersecurity jobs that will supposedly be unfilled [globally] in 2019 are U.S. jobs we are dealing with a shortage of cybersecurity experts that nearly matches the number of lawyers and judges in this country.  The numbers are similar when comparing to the number of auto mechanics. The numbers may be exaggerated but my point is not to cast doubt on them so much as the assumptions about future demand of solutions to current problems. My position is that there are many moving parts to the problem and the solutions of cybercrime that could make years ahead predictions sort of.. well meaningless.

By looking back at a few lessons from the industrial age  we might notice that trajectories that follow the allocation of  manpower to problems of production can be peculiar, crooked, and sometimes unrelated things. For example:

  • Almost immediately after the completion of the transcontinental railroad the cost of traveling to the western states dropped by more than 80%.
  • The cotton gin improved efficiency of cotton processing by 50 to 1; very quickly. Tractors had a similar effect.
  • Before Gutenberg’s little thing known as the printing press, surely it was thought that given the world’s appetite for knowledge that until the 1430’s the demand for scribes would have provided endless days of gainful employment manually copying and binding books for wealthy aristocrats and the church.
  • Pasteurization suddenly allowed for mass production and distribution of milk said to have sparked the industrial revolution.

The irresistible charm of past innovation saying nothing of its benefits is the rescuing device of history. It inspires us to recall the miraculous and intoxicating effects of the game changer and challenges us to create once again a new machine, process or technique that will at once cancel future orders of copious human labor returning them to the stockpile to be reinvested in something else. The solution to cybercrime may not have a perfect analogue from the last century but whatever it turns out to be will obliterate certain assumptions we now have and in that way it will be exactly the same.