Real life is difficult.\u00a0 It\u2019s tedious, filled with peaks of excitement, troughs of desperation, and long valleys of sameness.\u00a0 It\u2019s also filled with repetitive tasks. Due to the modernization of the labor force, cooperative and social work has been replaced with men and women interfacing with machines or having them as communication intermediaries. Consensus and collaboration have been replaced with ones and zeroes, decision trees, and metrics.This is not only true for work, but also for education. What Fredric Taylor started to measure work performance and timing has evolved, and now we\u2019re getting to the point where we measure everything about the workday and work habits, even if someone\u2019s working remotely.A history of gradual isolationWhat this leads to is a sense of profound isolation, and for many, a loss of what it means to be human and alive. This is not how our ancestors lived.\u00a0 Even without technology, people collaborated and cooperated.\u00a0 When the first technological communities, such as Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs), CompuServe, Quantum Link (pre-AOL), Multi-User Dungeons (MUDs), and Internet Relay Chat (IRC) came about, one of the first things each did was to provide some sort of replacement for social communities outside the computer realm.\u00a0CB Simulator and Club Caribe from Quantum Link and MUDs, amongst others, provided those escapist fantasies.\u00a0 Instead of sitting isolated in the computer lab late at night, or working on an assignment or experiment, you could be transported off to another world and be someone else different, and virtually live a different life.\u00a0 Many people I knew from college flunked out after discovering either MUDs, IRC, or both.\u00a0This evolved to Second Life, Everquest, Ultima Online and many of the Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games (MMORPGs) we have today, such as World of Warcraft.\u00a0 This can also include Fortnite, PUBG, Call of Duty and social media.\u00a0 The next generation of this is virtual reality, which will soon be powerful and small enough to be fully immersive.What have we created?We\u2019ve managed to create a substitute for reality without the direct human communication and social cues.\u00a0 This disconnects us from the rest of humanity, and causes people to feel more lonely, isolated, and alone.\u00a0 It also leaves many with a lack of empathy, understanding, or ability to separate real-life experiences and people from their virtual equivalents.\u00a0 All the while, the technology around us serves as a gigantic Skinner Box used to measure our conditioning and quantify our behavior and response.\u00a0We\u2019ve managed to create generations of people who respond better to technologies than their peers, who are measured on engagement with technology, and who are, in reality, in a gigantic video game.\u00a0 As the past few years have shown, we\u2019ve had significant decay socially because of this.\u00a0 Violent video games, according to Sestir and Bartholow, in their paper \u201cViolent and nonviolent video games produce opposing effects on aggressive and prosocial outcomes,\u201d increase aggressiveness.\u00a0 Anger and aggressiveness, as I\u2019ve written about before, increase engagement, and ironically, make people buy more.\u00a0We\u2019ve also substituted technology for parenthood and extended family interaction.\u00a0 Over the past 30-40 years, the cost of living has increased so much that both parents have to work, and there are also a significant number of single parents.\u00a0 This means that we have a number of children being left to their own devices with little to no supervision, and little control over what they do or access since security is expensive and obstructive for content blocking, and realistically, many people don\u2019t do it.\u00a0We also remove degrees of social interaction in other ways.\u00a0 With the emphasis on mobility of families for jobs, extended and close social interactions with close relatives and parents as part of the immediate social circle has decreased.\u00a0 As this has happened, the number of elderly and older relatives staying with their children or grandchildren has decreased.\u00a0 Facetime and Facebook don\u2019t provide adequate substitutes for close interaction.\u00a0 This potentially leads to more isolation.What are the effects?If we make people the hero of their own little world, it gives people more reason to stay.\u00a0 In the real world, they feel like they are nothing.\u00a0 In the computer world, they\u2019re actually something.\u00a0 We have generations of people now who have significant accomplishments online in virtual worlds, and almost none to speak of outside of them.\u00a0 This also leads to people who promise to keep the world the same or enhance personal experiences as being in charge, as opposed to overall improvement of society as a whole, because people can\u2019t (or won\u2019t) see outside their immediate world view.The algorithms that are used to keep people engaged and keep that positive response don\u2019t have feelings, empathy, or understanding.\u00a0 They just understand that giving more like content means that people spend more time on the site, click more ads, or buy more items to quest on further.\u00a0 Keeping people angry, distracted, detached, and responding to stimuli without major consequences is now big business.\u00a0 Keeping them the hero of their story in a narrative that has them triumphing over the mundane and vanquishing\/eliminating their foes dehumanizes those they think are different and lowers the barriers for hatred and resentment.\u00a0 Keeping them in a tunnel where their actions rid the world of evildoers and bring them fame, praise, and victory will keep them engaged, less likely to leave, and more likely to lash out at those that interfere with it or cause withdrawal.\u00a0This leads to minor instances and issues that would otherwise be resolved in minutes in real life, such as losing a video game, having violent consequences because people become so angry and visceral at any interference with stimuli that they fake hostage situations so that SWAT teams attack them, sometimes with tragic consequences, organize Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks on people or companies they don\u2019t like, hack websites that criticize them, and violently oppose and attack others with differing points of view, beliefs, genders, or skin color, such as with GamerGate and Charlottesville.\u00a0 The increased detachment leads to more anger and less empathy.This also leads to people that can be more easily manipulated based on stimuli.\u00a0 If you easily understand what makes people tick, how to make them angry, and how to provide positive stimuli to them, you can direct them to do what you want.\u00a0 It doesn\u2019t have to be conscious.Was Walter Mitty an infosec professional?\u201cThe Secret Life of Walter Mitty\u201d is a short story about a man leading a normal, albeit boring, life, who is triggered by external stimuli he observes on a shopping trip to have realistic daydream fantasies about leading a more exciting life than the one he has.\u00a0 This reflects an escape from his boring life.We see the combination of both detachment and loss of emotion\/empathy\/hope and need to have an escape from the drudgery of normal life and technology in Information Security, much like Walter Mitty.\u00a0 \u00a0\u00a0Information security isn\u2019t always exciting.\u00a0 It\u2019s frustrating.\u00a0 We fight for budgets with everyone else and often lose.\u00a0 We are understaffed and underpaid.\u00a0 We have customers who do not understand what we do.\u00a0 The lack of understanding is often a gulf between cybersecurity, the IT department, and the rest of the organization.\u00a0 Work that should be getting done, such as organization-wide risk assessments, insider threat analysis, or data exfiltration analysis, often dies on the vine due to lack of support or understanding.\u00a0 There is an undercurrent of anger and resentment with many cybersecurity professionals, and a lack of empathy toward their peers.\u00a0There is also the constant fear of losing jobs, standing, or getting large fines from data breaches or hacks.\u00a0 The fear of fines from the Office of Civil Rights, in particular, is pervasive in healthcare organizations.The current focus on cybersecurity products and stopping foreign threat actors is a Walter Mitty daydream.\u00a0 No matter how exciting we try to make it, cybersecurity is a lot of repetitive daily work and process with some exciting points, and more than a few troughs of depression.\u00a0 We\u2019re not going to be stopping Russian FSB agents or North Korean military hackers every day with our tools.\u00a0 However, the marketing and materials from many companies resemble marketing for video games, with an emphasis of stopping foreign actors with just one click.\u00a0In healthcare, marketing for many companies could be replaced with a role-playing game where one plays the hero striking down the big bad evil OCR.With cloud computing and modern technology, we have people who lose focus and think they are changing paradigms when they lose focus on the customer and the why of what we do.We make people the hero of their own narrative, and despite the rest of the organization having issues, giving them a sense of accomplishment and happiness, albeit undeserved.\u00a0 We turn security into a video game that addresses one minor piece of the puzzle.\u00a0 We ignore our customers, and worse, give them bad service that leads to us addressing what we think are the issues, but really don\u2019t.What can we do?\u00a0 How can we change this?We need to be realistic about how we structure and manage our organizations.\u00a0We need to focus on getting people to engage outside of the computer or phone.This is hard work, because you have to construct substitutes for the social structures that once existed in abundance.\u00a0 You have to give of yourself to give others a reason to get out of the \u201cbubble\u201d and get them interacting.\u00a0 A major focus that we have is providing that opportunity for everyone and getting them out and interacting with the rest of the team.\u00a0 We don\u2019t want people on web conferences.\u00a0 We want them interacting in real life, giving them a chance to meet their peers and understanding their needs.\u00a0 We\u2019ve observed that a real-life meeting with participants reduces fear and uncertainty, and that making the effort to approach someone and interact with them in their territory is a chance for everyone to learn.\u00a0 We have to emphasize in-person interactions and making that extra effort to understand customer needs.Security isn\u2019t just about technology.\u00a0 We consider it to be approximately 10% of the total solution.\u00a0 Most of what we try and do is build direct awareness and communication between our team members and the rest of the organization.\u00a0 We want people calling us.\u00a0 That doesn\u2019t happen without people being active social participants in the organization.The more we focus on the technology and security events, the less we focus on customer needs and about what their real mission is.\u00a0 If we don\u2019t address why social isolation and customer hostility occur, then we will see more of the same no matter who works in security.\u00a0To do this, we need to help people understand what is important, and put systems in place that reward team members for social interaction, customer service, planning, and communication.\u00a0 We want people to call us, and to feel comfortable doing so.\u00a0 We need to realize we are dealing with people on their worst days, and that we need to be empathetic about that.\u00a0 We also need to understand we deal with human beings, not nameless computers or applications, and that change starts with the person.\u00a0 Most important is for us to emphasize the rewards in real life vs. on a computer console.\u00a0\u00a0 This means phone calls instead of emails or texts, and real-life interaction whenever possible.We have grown up with technology.\u00a0 It has caused a palpable loss of humanity.\u00a0 Just because it\u2019s been lost doesn\u2019t mean that it can\u2019t come back better than before.\u00a0 What we need to do is to emphasize the humanity in what we do and get out of the bubble and into the real world.\u00a0This holiday season, write a few cards, hand them out, and say thank you. Set the example for your team, even if you aren\u2019t the boss.\u00a0 Reach out and be nice to someone.\u00a0 Show them that there\u2019s more to life than a narrow focus, and that the rewards far outstrip any rewards you get in a game or online.The best gift you can give everyone is to be the person who makes the change and improves the world around them.\u00a0 Hacker Secret Santa comes a close second.Happy Holidays to all my readers.\u00a0 Thank you for a great 2018.