[p2p-research] Intrinsic Security vs. Extrinsic Security

Paul D. Fernhout pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com
Sat Aug 22 04:44:48 CEST 2009

Here is something I wrote previously but thought I'd post here with 
revisions, indirectly to go with the "holoptism" essay by David Ronfeldt.

I think peer-to-peer has a role to play in intrinsic security, as networked 
security like David Ronfelt suggests, or even collaborative security as 
Christine Peterson of the Foresight Institute suggests about nanotech security.

But, I want to put those networked security ideas into a larger context of 
intrinsic security (security fundamentally built in) versus extrinsic 
security (security that is actively maintained by security professionals 
somehow or patched on afterwards). It is a fundamental aspect of data 
security that security must be woven into all aspects of a software design 
process; security generally can not be patched in at the end with any hope 
of long-term success.

"The term intrinsic denotes a property of some thing or action which is 
essential and specific to that thing or action, and which is wholly 
independent of any other object, action or consequence. A characteristic 
which is not essential or inherent is extrinsic."

These terms are not (yet) that mainstream in security:
   "Results 1 - 10 of about 375 for "extrinsic security". (0.23 seconds) "
   "Results 1 - 10 of about 33,100 for "intrinsic security". (0.32 seconds)"
There may well be better terms than these for what I mean.

Like with health care, it rapidly becomes a gray area how different sorts of 
funding for social goods affect different things that may seem unrelated at 
first. For example, is it better to spend money on health insurance for 
heart operations in obese people who eat poorly, or instead to perhaps save 
money by providing subsidized healthy food, playscapes, and health spas? 
Likewise, is it better to take military funding and spend it on making 
better solar panels to increase intrinsic security or instead spend the 
money on better killer robots to defend oil pipelines? So, these are 
decision areas that are not always so obvious at first, because while 
everyone needs health and security, these things come about because of 
holistic decisions at a societal level about how to allocate resources 
across an interacting network of cause and effect.

So, we may often find that spending money on some fundamental aspect of 
society (like public parks interconnected by bicycle paths and walking 
trails) will provide many benefits in other areas (like improved health and 
perhaps even lowered costs for healthcare in excess of the spending on parks 
and trails).

Likewise, insulating US homes, putting in renewable energy, and making cars 
and appliances more energy efficient would cost as small fraction of the 
current US defense budget, but within a short time make the USA independent 
of foreign oil (perhaps in as soon as a few years, at maybe US$100 billion a 
year, so 15% or so of the US defense budget for real energy security). I 
think we could do better than this proposal linked below much faster, but 
clearly, compared to the US defense budget of about US$1000 billion a year 
(depending what you count),
US$420 billion asked for by this plan for renewable energy subsidies oven 
forty years to go entirely renewable is not even one year of US defense 
   "A Solar Grand Plan"

So clearly *money* is no object to converting to solar in even one year. The 
problem is purely ideological, specifically, in how we define "security" in 
terms of "intrinsic security" (solar) versus "extrinsic security" (soldiers).

To me, given facts like the last one, that the cost of converting 100% to 
solar in the USA is less than half of one year's US defense budget, the 
interesting debate our global society is *not* having is: what sort of 
national security policy and related initiatives should we be emphasizing, 
ones about *intrinsic* security or ones about *extrinsic* security?

One may ask why we are not having that debate, but here I will assume the 
reason is just out of ignorance and conservatism and not malice or corruption.

And maybe we need to talk about other dimensions of security too. For 
example, what about security that relies on secrecy vs. security that relies 
on openness (considering the presumably open nature of democracy)?
Or security that depends on networks of peers as communities (David Ronfelt, 
Christine Peterson) rather than czars?
Or unilateral security vs. mutual security (Morton Deutsch)?
Or security that is about playing an infinite game (to keep playing) instead 
of a finite game (to win or lose) as suggested by James P. Carse?
And maybe more aspects of redefining security could be talked about, 
including perhaps intrinsic motivation (joy in the work or seeing results) 
versus extrinsic motivation (rewards and punishments) in those who work in 
the security field?

When you have *that* debate about security, talking about intrinsic versus 
extrinsic security, as exemplified by the points made by Amory Lovins and 
Hunter Lovins in the 1982 book "Brittle Power" about moving to renewables,
that is IMHO a debate that people often called *liberals* can come out 
looking like the real champions of "national security". :-)

Traditionally, "liberals" and those under related labels (Greens, etc.) in 
the USA have advocated for a country secure in its health, secure in its 
sustainable energy supply, secure in an educated populace (no compulsory 
schooling please, just send checks or a basic income to parents :-), secure 
in its uncontaminated food and water supply, secure in having a shared 
informations commons, secure in its democratic political process, and above 
all, secure in having friendly neighbors with happy populations who provide 
mutual security for each other. And some techy liberal people have even 
advocated for being secure by having an escape plan to space habitats for 
the entire population of the Earth in the worst case, like some global 
disaster like an asteroid impact.

So, these are all aspects of intrinsic security that don't directly require 
tanks and bombs to ensure. And without these intrinsic types of security, as 
with, say, North Korea facing so many intrinsic problems, one might even 
ask, what exactly are we defending with extrinsic security like soldiers?

Instead of talking about intrinsic security, the traditional left has let 
the traditional right frame the national security debate so it is about 
extrinsic security, or essentially, who has the most guns, bombs, soldiers, 
and drones. So, we get "missile gaps" that aren't even real.
Or we get a need to spend as much money blowing up Iraq (US$3 trillion 
current estimates before it is over) as it would have taken to turn both 
Iraq *and* the USA into paradises of both universal health care and 
alternative energy and then done the same for Europe and China. And so on. 
Ironically, misguided attempts at extrinsic security (like to secure oil 
profits as was one big reason to invade Iraq) often only increases the need 
for *more* extrinsic security as the USA's moral prestige erodes. Thus war 
over extrinsic security is not only a racket, it is also self-perpetuating 
as arms races and so on, like an infectious disease.

In that model, one might see the internet and peer activities as essentially 
like developing an immune system to counter that disease, in part by 
figuring out how to provide cheaper *intrinsic* national security instead of 
costly *extrinsic* national security (costly in many ways, money, lives, 
democracy, hope, and so on).

Personally, I would have no objection to the current US national security 
budget of a trillion dollars a year *if* the money was spent to provide 
security through an *intrinsically* secure (healthy and prosperous) country. 
But, the traditional right has framed the debate in the USA as about 
*extrinsic* security, which mean more soldiers, more security czars, more 
planes and bombs, and so on. All without fixing the intrinsic security 
vulnerabilities. And so, in my opinion, most of that national security money 
is wasted and the USA has become a very insecure place to live for lots of 

To some degree, I try to transcend left/right distinctions (toward a 
post-scarcity model), so if I thought hard about the above paragraph I might 
find a better way to frame it than left vs. right -- maybe as scarcity vs. 
post-scarcity security. :-)  So, perhaps what we really need is an intrinsic 
post-scarcity mutual networked peer-emphasizing infinite-game security 
model? :-) As this idea was refined, no doubt many right-leaning 
politicians, soldiers, and other citizens would see some merit to it.

Anyway, even in case of (almost always avoidable) war, consider that the USA 
was strong in WWII not because it had much of an army or weapons going into 
WWII (most of the small Navy was even sunk), but because the USA had a 
robust physical plant and an educated, healthy, socially-connected, and 
well-fed population, and the USA posed no overt threat to most neighbors, so 
it was not enmeshed in other significant wars that sapped its strength. So, 
logistically, the pre-WWII USA was in good shape to defend itself from all 
sorts of threats (including the Great Depression). Now the USA has a 
decrepit physical plant relatively speaking in many ways, a less educated 
citizenry with lower literacy rates, and there are many sickly and poorly 
fed citizens, who are often socially disconnected and alienated. By most 
standards in other countries, the USA overtly threatens most of the world's 
security in several ways including through a military doctrine of strategic 
superiority, plus the USA is engaged in at least two wars, plus threatening 
more. So, in that sense, the USA is less *intrinsically* secure than it 
easily could be in facing any challenges that come its way (like an oil 
shortage, a plague, a computer networking threat, an economic transformation 
or an asteroid strike), and the USA is setting itself up to have more 
challenges (by its aggressive posture), despite spending more money than 
most of the rest of the world on *extrinsic* security.

Put this way, the current US national security spending pattern seems, at 
the very least, suboptimal, relative to intrinsic security needs. :-)

In classical terms, one can talk about civil defense, emergency 
preparedness, and ensuring the resilience and redundancy of critical 
infrastructure. But I feel this issue goes deeper than those classical 
terms. And historically, those issues were often afterthoughts, even though 
any real military professional will tell you the adage amateurs talk about 
strategy, but professionals talk about logistics (sometimes attributed to 
Gen. Omar Bradley) . And ultimately, logistics reaches deep into the 
fundamental nature of a nation or a world, perhaps into its very soul, in a 
way, even to the point of ensuring a society is intrinsically secure in 
terms of its ethics, so that it is worth securing.

So, anyway, I would suggest that reframing any national security debate in 
terms of intrinsic security versus extrinsic security would be beneficial to 
creating support for many of the themes discussed on this mailing list.

--Paul Fernhout

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