On the Law of Diminishing Specialization

On the Law of Diminishing Specialization:

Deploying a technique called work value analysis, Sassone measured not only the amount of work conducted by his subjects, but also the skill level required for the work. He found that managers and other skilled professionals were spending surprisingly large percentages of their time working on tasks that could be completed by comparably lower-level employees.

An important lesson lurks in these results that’s just as relevant now as it was then, back in the early days of the front office IT revolution: optimizing people’s ability to create value using their brains is complicated. Just because a given technology makes things easier doesn’t mean that it makes an organization more effective, you have to keep returning to the foundational question of what best supports the challenge of thinking hard about valuable things.

(Via Blog – Cal Newport)

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Chinese Supply Chain Hardware Attack

Chinese Supply Chain Hardware Attack:

Bloomberg is reporting about a Chinese espionage operating involving inserting a tiny chip into computer products made in China.

I’ve written (alternate link) this threat more generally. Supply-chain security is an insurmountably hard problem. Our IT industry is inexorably international, and anyone involved in the process can subvert the security of the end product. No one wants to even think about a US-only anything; prices would multiply many times over.

We cannot trust anyone, yet we have no choice but to trust everyone. No one is ready for the costs that solving this would entail.

(Via Schneier on Security)

The story moved since poblication last week, but Bruce’s words still hold true.

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Chindōgu (珍道具), A Curious Tool

The 10 Commandments of Chindogu, the Japanese Art of Creating Unusually Useless Inventions:

Back in the 1990s I’d often run across volumes of the Unuseless Japanese Inventions series at bookstores. Each one features about a hundred ostensibly real Japanese devices, photographed and described with a disarming straightforwardness, that mash up other consumer products in outwardly bizarre ways: chopsticks whose attached miniature electric fan cools ramen noodles en route to the mouth; a plastic zebra crossing to unroll and lay across a street at the walker’s convenience; an inverted umbrella attached to a portable tank for rainwater collection on the go. Such things, at once plausible and implausible, turn out to have their own word in the Japanese language: chindōgu (珍道具), or “curious tool.”

(Via Open Culture)

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Internal Monologues

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DHS Report on Security Threats to Agriculture Industry

DHS Warns of Cybersecurity Threats to Agriculture Industry:

A new report from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security called Threats to Precision Agriculture warns against the cybersecurity risks faced by the emerging technologies being adopted by the agricultural industry. Known as “precision agriculture,” the technologies include internet of things (IoT) devices such as remote sensors and global position systems (GPS) and the communications networks that support them. These devices generate large amounts of data which is then analyzed by machine learning systems to improve crop yield and monitor the health of livestock.

(Via BleepingComputer)

The DHS report seems to be a nice primer on Precision Agriculture. The security advice, while correct, takes a basic approach that no one in the industry has proper security controls in place. I would have liked to see something talking more about protecting the supply chain, the use of penetration testing and OT monitoring, and leveraging newer technology when it comes to integrity such as blockchain.

As it stands from the security perspective, this paper doesn’t break new ground or talk about uniquely industry specific needs. The risks are legion, so more effort could have been applied.

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In my neighborhood!
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