Seeing More Than Just the Movie

Sept. 3, 2009

When I stopped to think about it, I suppose it’s not much different than us studying George Orwell’s book “1984” when I was in high school. Although dissecting the guts of the movie “The Matrix” seemed a bit over the top when my daughter told me her class had devoted a couple of weeks to it.

You remember the flick. In the near future, computer hacker Neo, the main character, lives a normal, dull life until he is contacted by underground freedom fighters who explain to him reality as he understands it is actually a complex computer simulation called The Matrix. Neo (played by the acting-challenged Keanu Reeves) has no clue his entire world is nothing but a digital illusion created by a malevolent Artificial Intelligence that cultivates this simulated life in order for the machines to expand their control and harvest people as their perpetual energy source.

Morpheus, the freedom fighter’s leader, has tabbed Neo as a modern-day Spartacus who will lead humanity to freedom and overthrow the machines. Teamed with sidekick Trinity, Neo and Morpheus lead the revolution against the machines. The movie has all the hallmarks of classic mythology as Neo assumes the role of the chosen, but reluctant hero. He must conquer ferocious challenges before he begins to believe he is humanity’s savior.

Being a science fiction fan, I had seen the movie and appreciated it for what it was, which was a classic tale of good vs. evil, with a ton of neat special effects. Whoops, was I wrong!

“Dad, how shallow can you be?” my daughter asked. “Matrix in the dictionary refers to ‘a situation or surrounding substance within which something else originates, develops or is contained’ — like a womb.

“Maybe this will make it easier for you,” she continued. “The concept of the Matrix as an illusion or a ‘construct’ that humans are unaware of resembles the idea of Samsara in Buddhism and Hinduism. Samsara teaches that the world we consider ‘real’ is actually a projection of our own desires. From Morpheus, Neo learns that how he’d perceived himself in the Matrix was simply ‘the mental projection of your digital self.’ The ‘real’ sensory world is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.”

Then she paused and added: “It is soooo obvious, can’t you see that?”

Okay fine. I’m not often speechless, but I have no response for her. Just when I think it is safe to make eye contact with her, the final volley is hurled my way. “Come on dad, did you think that Neo was just some Bruce Willis wannabe?” Neo in Latin means new. It’s also an anagram of ‘one’. Neo’s real name is Thomas Anderson, which relates to ‘doubting Thomas’ in the bible when he doesn’t believe he is the One,” she explains.

Feeling pretty smug I jump in with, “And Anderson means ‘son of man’ which is a messianic title!”

“Whatever,” is the response to my tiny contribution to movie symbolism. “See how much you miss if you don’t really stop and think about how the pieces fit together?”

The conversation with my daughter points indirectly to the reality of being a CSO in today’s risk-based security environment. If you are seeing yourself as the “keeper of the keys” or the “protector of the kingdom,” you are a lot like Neo before his revelation — you are living in a world that doesn’t exist.

As a CSO or security director, you are “The One.” It is your responsibility to market your policies, educate the masses and ensure that your goals are aligned with your organization’s key business executives. You must be able to garner the support among peers and colleagues to transition security initiatives into business initiatives.

Your reality now requires a varied set of skills that go beyond managing staff. Your ability to understand emerging technologies, legal and compliance issues, internal policy and business strategies will ensure that your voice will rise above the narrow niche security has traditionally occupied.

Too bad there aren’t any super-tight-leather-clad women and exploding cars to help get your point across!

If you have any questions or comments for Steve Lasky regarding this or any other security industry-related issue, please e-mail him at [email protected].