Cybersec Medical Landscapes: Ontological Challenges

I recently read a fascinating article by Rachel Colls and Bethan Evans in Progress in Human Geography called ‘Making space for fat bodies?: A critical account of ‘the obesogenic environment’’that is available if you click on its title (paid subscription required). This piece argues with much previous work in areas such as ‘Fat Geographies’ that there needs to be a much wider appreciation of the environments where obesity is created not just by humans, but by non-humans and social practices. Although this may appear far from my doctoral studies in Cyber Security, I believe there is some connection with implantable electronic medical devices and their security. I believe my affinity to this work further extends from being privileged to have been taught on a very small scale by Rachel on feminisms. I appreciate some will disagree with ‘transplanting’ such different issues across in this way however this is not the attempt at some form of porting. I am interested in how the body is conceptualised, especially in medical discourses. It is already well-discussed among those in geography and other social sciences (and indeed some in ‘science’) that the body is already more than itself. In that life and bodily action cannot be simply summarised as a sum of its parts. This follows much thought and development in philosophy since the 1960s and which became far more critical during the 1990s, with the emergent Actor Network Theorists such as Bruno Latour. Thus far I have yet to find a real critical engagement with how ‘cyberspace’ (I believe this term needs far more interrogation but will be something I use as an interim) and security as a form of environment in ‘cyber-physical’ systems intertwines. There is much work in cyber security studies on this area from a business-critical approach yet I believe this works extremely well with some forms of ‘cyber’ insurance as a protection of society and individual from risk, if we can think of the world consisting of something ‘virtual’ and ‘real’. So, returning to the article at hand, there has been a move and appreciation that ‘obese’ bodies are not only emergent to some form of ‘individual’ becoming-fat. Yet this sits and plays with the environment where leisure spaces, fresh food, urban space, cooking habits and so on all contribute to obesogenic landscapes. If one is to turn to medical devices such as those of pacemakers, insulin pumps (and I believe in the future those that monitor and rectify our health before a ‘problem’ even occurs) then I believe a security environment that involves bodies and perceptions, social inequalities, ‘healthy’ bodies including many more will be (and is emergently) prevalent. Therefore what will be the risks and inequalities that arise in the ‘securitisation’ of the implantable device that is part of the becoming-human? It is simply not reasonable to even have a dominant narrative of anthropocentricism, as the technical/mechanical becomes the body as its environment between human/para-human/non-human become mixed in ways not experienced before. As these devices are infused with increased machine-learning techniques, what does security in ‘cyber’ become if it ‘learns’ to die? Obviously designers of machine-learning will attempt to make sure that this is hard-coded out. Yet, as we know, ‘things’ have a tendency to exert agency beyond that of human will and is a fairly common problem in cyber security: for example the multiple uses of a piece of code that would always pass functional testing (we do have some counter-weight in penetration-(or pen)testing). Therefore can we talk of cybersec medical landscapes or environments, where security will come to an understanding from this distributed, tangled world in which we live? The challenges present in the cybersec medical landscape will lead to a fundamental and ontological questioning of ourselves, humans, among a much greater network than ever before. This leads me to further question during my studies the need to develop a fully non-anthropological philosophy. This is something that I have been thinking of over the past couple of months and is starting to take more and more of my spare moments, especially when I drift off when I go walking anywhere. I think the key that links across all ‘objects’, ‘things’, ‘atmospheres’ or whichever term you may wish to use, is the term ‘agency’. If I take the ontological distinction here that everything that exists expresses some form of agency, and because humans are so exceptional in the breadth of their agency, it enables something that expresses everything in its uniqueness of coming together. I believe that we can see how through a combination of different forms of agency, new forms of agency and life emerge. Therefore intelligence can also be expressed in a similar function that the potentiality of the body through its combined agencies through forms of evolutions, learnings, societal performances and so on help define this. As I look to have diverged somewhat from the article that I feel expresses some of these themes, I will return to it to attempt to conclude a lot of thinking here which is expressed in such a short blog post. I believe the challenge that has been applied by Colls and Evans need to be applied in cyber security far more coherently and strongly. These include the acceptance of a larger environment and about researching in new novel ways and philosophies. They do currently exist but there is a lack of critical thought present, especially on my area of interest on implantable medical devices. In cyber security studies, we are very good at appreciating and adapting the technical applications of devices. Yet as society becomes aware it is technical and that this is becoming more so, we have to also tackle all of society and humans as well. This may potentially lead to the extinction of ‘cyber’ itself, yet who knows what the future may hold?

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