The Snowden Code: Crucified or Canonized?
Edward Snowden is a whistleblower and a patriot. But he was doomed to be destroyed by entropy despite his best intentions and the fact that he is smart and articulate.
Entropy, the pesky physics concept that most students learnt about for the physics quiz and promptly forgot post-quiz, has turned him into an exile and a fugitive.
The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that the state of entropy of the entire universe, as an isolated system, will always increase over time.
Talking heads have debated ad nauseam Mr. Snowden’s actions. Should he be crucified or canonized? The debate has drawn so many opinions that it is no longer worth reopening. But there is a fundamental takeaway lesson for the next generation of whistleblowers.
Entropy, not the United States government is Mr. Snowden’s enemy, and ultimately his biggest challenge.
Michael Crichton is my favorite author of all times. He published Jurassic Park in 1990, which Stephen Spielberg turned into a blockbuster of the same name in 1993.
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In Jurassic Park, mathematician Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) professed, “Nature always finds a way”. And sure enough the dinosaurs started reproducing and revolting against their human captors. Skip Hollywood fiction, think physics: chaos always follows entropy, a natural increase in disorder in the universe.
No one disputes that Edward Snowden released secret documents, though the exact amount seems contentious.
Supposedly he vetted every document before releasing it to journalists for public consumption. Yet some of the material he released helped three terrorist groups change their modus operandi such that they would evade detection by cyber snoops. Jihadist websites also released three ‘significant’ encryption programs ‘within a three to five month time frame of the leaks’, meaning fanatics are harder to detect and encrypted emails take longer to decipher.
In media interviews Mr. Snowden claimed to have vetted the released documents for their potential impact on national security, not wanting to harm the US government. But entropy was watching and escalated chaos through the Law of Unintended Consequences.
In the social sciences, the Law of Unintended Consequences leads to outcomes that are not the ones foreseen and intended by an action.
Not all unintended consequences are negative, they can go either way but the problem is that the information that Mr. Snowden released was too chaotic not to beget more danger. Unfortunately for Mr. Snowden he struggled with perverse results, a perverse effect contrary to what was originally intended (when an intended solution makes a problem worse). This is sometimes called ‘backfire’ or on Friday nights in pubs, “a dog’s breakfast”.
Unintended consequences to Mr. Snowden were predictable in a Jurassic Park kind of way: no one is smart enough or diligent enough not to make mistakes, a lesson that was proven time and time again by history. In other words, no one is clever enough to manage a multitude of documents that can be extremely sensitive to national security while on the run and constantly looking over his shoulder not to make mistakes.
Therefore that Mr. Snowden’s whistleblowing scheme would degrade into a free-for-all is symptomatic of universal entropic tendencies. The perverse nature of the electronic dinosaurs he hatched was too compelling not to beget more chaos.
Michael Crichton would say, “You can’t hatch big dinosaurs and expect them not to eat you up.”
Note from the Publisher: Edward Snowden will be presenting via Googlehangout for a Q&A moderated by Bruce Croxon at the Cantech Investment Conference 2017 on Wednesday, January 18, 2017 from 1-2PM EST on the TSX stage. Kelly Bird, Alain Turnblom and myself will be at booth #111 – along with InvestorIntel member Nano One Materials Corp. (TSXV: NNO). To buy a delegates pass for CAD$50, go to www.Cantech17.com or be the 1st 3 people to tweet Sharron Clayton @Investor_Intel.
Dr. Luc C. Duchesne is a Speaker and Author with a PhD in Biochemistry. With three decades of scientific and business experience, he has published ... <Read more about Dr. Luc Duchesne>