“To be, or not to be?” That really is a good question.

Putting all politics aside, you would have to admit that Ayan Rand (1957) wrote a pretty good book.

The Struggle to Become

As a quick recap, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged tells the tale of a dystopian society where oppressive governmental officials and businessmen use regulations and other tricks to shackle the creativity of highly developed intellectuals. Misguided policies are implemented to manage and regulate individual creativity and control the output of the society’s great thinkers. The result is the creation of a country separated into “producers,” the creative minds, and “looters,” a powerful class of moochers. The latter exploited the productivity of former with little abandon claiming collectivism over self-interest for the betterment of all. Moocher rules were enforced using backbiting, double-dealing, under-the-tap deal making, and unfair oppressive trade practices with stringent commerce regulations. Offenders were quickly destroyed overnight by public opinion and found themselves facing stiff consequences. In the midst of the struggle, however, a shadowy figure emerges. John Galt appears and begins convincing the great thinkers to go on a “strike of the mind.” Soon, the society’s most brilliant and productive individuals began to slowly disappear leaving their jobs and employers abandoned.  Chaos ensues as the dependent class begins to crumble and their economy collapses as its leaders realize that – there was no one left to bring home the bread. Rand’s 1,168 tome ends with the striking producers building a new world dedicated to reason, individualism, and the rights of freedom to the fruits of one’s thinking (SparkNotes Editors, 2002).

Popular opinion is that Rand wrote Atlas Shrugged as a statement of her objectivist perspective. She was well known for her association with those that promoted the importance of one’s rights to benefit from one’s labor and creative self-expressions. It should be small wonder then that the ethical egotism promoted in Atlas Shrugged led to negative critical reviews upon its release. In fact, the novel’s underpinnings remains a topic of heated debates even today – over 60 years later

The Slings and Arrows of Cybertheft

While realizing the book’s fictitious dystopia could never happen in America (right?), we must admit that the growing plague of cyber crime is having pretty much the same effect. Web-based crimes are reported to have cost individuals and companies $13 million in 2017 alone (Accenture Security, n.d.)

Gordon and Ford (2006) defined “cybercrime” as a range of criminal activity that spans from data theft to copyright infringement. The outputs of cybercrime were described as fraud, forgery, unauthorized access, child pornography, and cyberstalking. But, what is truly disturbing is that Gordon and Ford found these illegal acts represent a continuum of crimes almost exclusively aligned with technological intrusions and purposeful Internet-based security attacks (p. 14-15).

After studying the phenomena, Poufinas and Vordonis (2018) wrote that digital theft and cyber crimes are so dangerous because they significantly impact global economies through the direct loss of taxable income, property, and profits (p. 128).  The researchers found that cyber crimes target the income-generating capacity of individuals and companies, which inhibits their ability to earn legitimate revenues from goods and services sold. The researchers also wrote that theft of proprietary intellectual property and trade secrets threaten a nation’s economic system thus creating security risks for all contributors to an economy (p. 130). 

Of equal concern should be findings by Ablon, Golay, and Libicki (2014) who explain that the demand for stolen trade secrets and intellectual property has created a dark web “Hackers’ Bazaar.” These websites allow like-minded criminals to congregate online to trade security breech techniques, tools, and weapons created exclusively to target and steal from their cyber theft victims. Such websites appear to be flourishing internationally with little regard, concern, or care for the resultant costs or damage done to individuals, companies, and economies (Ablon, Golay, & Libicki, 2014).

To Catch a Thief

The high levels of ruthlessness displayed by cyber thieves is leading design and technology engineers toward the study of computer-linguistic analytics as a possible defense. Fedushko and Bardyn (2013) studied promising technologies under development that would use algorithms to profile and track cyber criminals online using web-personality traits (2013).

Nevertheless, while such technologies sound exciting, one can only wonder how many intellectual producers and creative thinkers are simply holding onto possible solutions for everything from a common cold to global warming in fear they will not be compensated because of cyber theft.

Jennie’s Perspective

Taken in context, Rand’s Atlas Shrugged could provide the opening discussion for my question: “To be, or not to be?” Should creative producers continue to generate cutting-edge innovative and original content and products and services knowing full well that groups of lazy looters are patiently waiting to steal their ideas immediately or illegally download every single letter they type? My answer is simple and emphatic: Yes.

For instance, one of my final assignments was to create an advanced workforce development instructional design that included all the bells and whistles. But, my dilemma was: Should I release that little jewel I’ve been holding in my pocket for a few years knowing that I could not protect it?

While I faced a moment of hesitation, once I got started, I could not hold back. I quickly opened my mind and really got into it. My professor commented she found the end result “exemplary”, which meant a lot coming from her. (She’s one of the best in the industry.) That simple word made my early feelings of discomfort vanish into thin air. (Along with the lost of my intellectual property, I’m sure.)

But, I decided, why should I deny myself self-actualization and creative expression because someone else can’t stop stealing? In retrospect, I realize that, no matter how many times some low-down, dirty, and despicable lying looter steals my stuff, I will continue pursuing a degree of excellence. Even if that means I will have to carry a few moochers on my coat tails. That is, of course, until they get caught. Keep hope alive!

I’m just saying, …

References

Ablon, L., Golay, A. A., & Libicki, M. C. (2014). Markets for Cybercrime Tools and Stolen Data : Hackers’ Bazaar. Santa Monica, California: RAND Corporation.

Accenture. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.accenture.com/us-en

Bernstein, A. (2000). CliffsNotes on Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. Foster City, CA: Cliffs Notes. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=67214&scope=site

Fedushko, S., & Bardyn, N. (2013). Algorithm of the cyber criminals identification. Global journal of engineering, design & technology2(4), 56-62.

Gordon, S., & Ford, R. (2006). On the definition and classification of cybercrime. Journal in Computer Virology, 2(1), 13-20.

McQuade, S. C. (2009). Encyclopedia of Cybercrime. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Publishing Group.

Poufinas, T., & Vordonis, N. (2018). Pricing the Cost of Cybercrime—A Financial Protection Approach. iBusiness, 10(03), 128.

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