Monthly Archives: May 2011
Last year, two quantum cryptographic systems were shown to be vulnerable to hacks which neither system registered. For years, quantum cryptographers have promised completely secure systems. However a year ago, a group led by Hoi-Kwong Lo at the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada showed a vulnerability in quantum systems. It was a complete hack, but it still left some noticeable errors after the fact. Another hack led by Vadim Makarov at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim rendered a system incapable of recognizing a breach in security. With this second hack, the security of quantum systems became truly questionable. More recently, the team of this second project have introduced another method to exploit vulnerabilities in quantum systems.
To some extent, the research weakens the perception of security which quantum cryptography has always promised. However, the increasingly successful field of quantum hacking should not reduce confidence in the security of quantum systems. There are always vulnerabilities in any system, but quantum systems are still a viable choice for state of the art security. This research actually helps strengthen the security of such systems by exposing existing vulnerabilities. Once the vulnerabilities are out in the open, they can be dealt with accordingly.
Horizon scanning and environmental scanning are two terms which are seemingly interchangeable. Even futurist organizations are often unsure how to use them. As a scanner, I feel there is a difference. Scanning the environment means looking only for what is happening now and immediate consequences, but scanning the horizon is looking more broadly at the plausible implications of what is happening now and weak signals for how things may change in the future. If I were to choose a preference for describing what I do, I would say I am a horizon scanner because environmental scanner is too narrow. In truth, any good scanner does both, and so it is largely unnecessary for anyone outside of the foresight field to bother with the difference which is largely semantic.
I make this distinction here because I recently came across a great flyer by Maree Conway about what makes a good environmental scanner. Ms. Conway’s description is appropriate for scanning in general whether horizon or environmental. There is one thing I would add to the list. Scanners must be resilient to hype and capable of maintaining objectivity. These are similar to the scanner understanding their own world view and challenging assumptions about the future, but they are more specific. Without a proper hype meter, the scanner is likely to bring in too much dross and apply too much emphasis to something without merit. Whether the scanner is looking at the daily news, blogs or academic journals, hype and poor research methods abound. A good scanner has a critical eye and the ability to apply the right emphasis to potential trends and changes by being aware of the influence of others on themselves and the world around them.