Boundary Perimeter Edge

by Richard Veryard
We can use the three asymmetries to appreciate different strategies for security and trust, such as deperimeterization. First we need some definitions: Boundary refers to a discontinuity in a physical system, Perimeter to a discontinuity in a social system, and Edge to a discontinuity in systems of meaning. As with the asymmetries, these build on each other, so a perimeter includes a ‘virtual’ boundary, and an edge includes a ‘virtual’ perimeter. Thus where we place boundaries, perimeters and edges reflect where we place the three asymmetries. It also determines the way we are able to approach security and trust.

For example, deperimeterization can be understood as an effect of the third asymmetry. A traditional perimeter defence assumes that rights and obligations (social) coincide with certain physical divisions (boundaries). Deperimeterization means it is no longer feasible to align the levels of security with the social boundaries, because the social system is itself losing its cohesion under the influence of the third asymmetry.

Assuming symmetry means being able to run something as a closed system – the way it interacts is wholly defined by the supply-side, so control is possible. With the breaking of the first symmetry, the use of the technology is defined by its outputs, and not its internal functioning. But we can still apply a fortress approach to this, so long as we can wholly define the boundary across which the outputs are to be provided. The metaphor here is the fortress.

With the second symmetry being broken, our business changes from being defined by its outputs to being defined by its ability to organise business processes that deliver solutions. But the supplying business organisation is still in control of this, although the complexity of what is ‘inside’ is greatly increased by its now explicitly socio-technical nature. The fortress metaphor is still possible here, but understood now in terms of a dynamic frontline (e.g. Nato warfare across Europe).

It is with the third symmetry being broken that we get the necessity for defence in depth (they can strike from anywhere), asymmetric threat (they can play by their own rules), and agile/manoeuvrist conflicts that require power-to-the-edge and synchronization at the edge. This is the environment in which collaborative composition is necessary because of the complexity of the demand environment which you are trying to interact with. (The military metaphor here would be “operations-other-than-war” where you have to work with the inhabitants etc.) It is this latter third symmetry-breaking that creates the de-perimeterization effect.

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