Careers with STEM: Space 2022

Had fun contributing to the Space edition of the Careers with STEM magazine. Thank you to the team for their efforts in helping to inspire the next generation of space professionals in Australia!

See the magazine and a little about what I do in Space-Cyber Security below:

Also a brief article here:

Preparing for cyber fallout in the wake of Russia-Ukraine crisis

Although it may feel like a great time to live in our distant island nation of Australia, we are far from being unscathed by the conflict. Recent history (NotPetya, SolarWinds, etc) has shown that we must get prepared for the worst.

The below article that I wrote with a colleague of mine helps Australian businesses to make sense of the situation, understand how it may impact their operations, and learn how to prepare for the inevitable ‘cyber fallout’ from the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Security Threats to the Academic Sector in 2022

I feel for universities at this time.

They’ve just come through a battering of nation-wide cyber attacks, a pandemic that threw their standard operating model out the window, and budget cuts that forced rearrangement of entire departments and projects.

And now, after all this, being declared critical infrastructure late last year puts academia under the spotlight. It will force significant investment into security for a large number of universities who haven’t got adequate security programs in place under the new expectations.

But, unfortunately for us, criminals and spies don’t care much about the reasons why we’re vulnerable. In fact, due to all of the above, it only makes the higher education sector an even bigger target.

It’s not all bad though. Raising your security posture will provide better protection for your research, staff, and students, and will enable collaboration with Government entities that are providing increasingly valuable research opportunities during this period of heightened political tension. It’s also the perfect time to revise your technology architecture and make things more cost efficient in the long term.

I could talk about this all day, best to just read my full article on the topic at the link below!

Croisements de vie

I’m honoured to have been selected to exhibit with Centre de Services de Justice Réparatrice and the Canadian Department of Justice. The virtual exhibition was hosted by Gallea and the physical exhibition by Bistro L’Enchanteur in Montréal on 20 Nov 2021.

The piece that was selected for exhibition was ‘Survivor‘ , rated as Best Artwork for the evening’s event.

Survivor, acrylic and charcoal on canvas, Jordan Plotnek 2020
Survivor, acrylic and charcoal on canvas, Jordan Plotnek 2020

Power systems resilience: Definition and taxonomy with a view towards metrics

JJ Plotnek, J Slay
International Journal of Critical Infrastructure Protection

Across the globe electric power grids are being upgraded to incorporate modern technologies that promise to overcome a multitude of challenges that the legacy infrastructure is currently facing. Each of these new technologies introduce new complexities and vulnerabilities that can be exploited by cyber adversaries looking to cause prolonged and widespread outages, leading to significant economic costs, public distress, and loss of life. Understanding that no system can ever be invulnerable, cyber-physical systems protection efforts are shifting beyond pure security and towards resilience. Smart grid resilience is a relatively young field of research and hence is still not adequately defined. This paper provides an in-depth investigation into the understanding of power systems resilience to date and proposes a new definition derived from a comparative analysis of existing definitions in the publicly available literature …

Cyber terrorism: A homogenized taxonomy and definition

Jordan J Plotnek, Jill Slay
Computers & Security

Large-scale cyber attacks are increasing at an alarming rate around the world. These attacks are often being linked to the widely publicized and popularized threat of cyber terrorism. However, cyber terrorism is a relatively young field of research and the terminology, much like its parent term, ‘terrorism’, is still not adequately defined or congruently applied. This paper provides a comparative analysis of the definition of ‘cyber terrorism’ and proposes a new universally-applicable definition and taxonomy. The new definition is derived from detailed analyses of existing definitions in the publicly available literature, which includes all of the key commonalities identified in accordance with the newly proposed taxonomy (i.e. actor, motive, intent, means, effect, and target). This new approach to defining cyber terrorism provides a common understanding of the broader threat for policy standardization, global collaboration, and …

Fuck Science, We Need More Art

Humans are gods. Through science and technology we have risen to staggering heights of power. We can wipe entire nations off the face of the earth with the push of a button. We can destroy entire ecosystems in pursuit of imaginary wealth that other animals can’t even begin to comprehend. We have accumulated so much unrivaled power that we are offended to even be compared to nature! To call someone an animal is to somehow strip them of their humanness, as if the homosapien exists outside the animal kingdom.

Yet our biology remains the same. Our minds have not evolved as quickly as our might. We are gods but with the minds of chimpanzees. And there is nothing more dangerous than an all-powerful fool.

This is where we have gone wrong. It’s true that the most valuable thing one can do in society is to advance it, but this idea has been sold to us incompletely. We are raised to believe in a technological utopia where, if we work hard enough, we will soon live in abundance and won’t ever be in need. Science and engineering are sold to us as the pinnacles of civilisation. The foundations of every comfort we know. And yet we are experiencing unprecedented levels of depression, anxiety, obesity, suicide, and every other disease of the mind that you can think of.

Without advancing our consciousness we become but addicts to our own inventions. We have no idea how to control this power we have at our fingertips. We slave our lives away to build this utopia that we will never see. We bring suffering on ourselves in pursuit of fictitious profits. We let every aspect of our existence be infiltrated by manipulative media and adverts that corrupt our every endeavour. We work meaningless jobs to make someone else rich so that they can feed their own addictions. To power. To money. To fame and fortune.

We are not gods. We are apes with the power of gods. We have all this power and yet the only thing we strive for is death. Death of the environment, death of entire species, death of each other, and, inevitably, the death of humankind entirely. We have built weapons of mass-destruction and point them only at ourselves. That’s not divine, that’s primitive.

We are at a tipping point between life and abundance for all, or a painfully slow and torturous death for all. And the only switch that decides this fate is in our collective psyche. The human perception of life and all that is is the only thing standing between utopia and dystopia. And this is simply not the domain of science.

We know that humans aren’t driven by fact. This is agonisingly obvious in 2020. We have more knowledge at our disposal than any living being in all of the known universe has ever had, and yet because of our primordial perspectives we use this only to bring destruction. We don’t understand facts. We can’t effectively process information or assess risk. We never evolved for the world that we have procured. Our systems, our governments, our religions, our collective beliefs and aspirations all come from a different world; back when we weren’t so cataclysmically powerful.

What humans do understand, like any other animal, is emotion. How we feel. If we feel wronged we will enact revenge; or “justice” as we like to call it. If we feel empathetic we will donate, volunteer, and even put ourselves at risk. If we feel threatened we will act swiftly and decisively.

Unfortunately knowledge and fact rarely make us feel. We have known about existential threats such as climate change for an embarrassingly long time AND have had the knowledge to fix it. Yet look what we’re doing about it. Nothing substantial. Humankind as a species cannot comprehend science. That’s a fact.

Art however is different. Art is emotion. Humans have understood art since before language was even discovered. In every time period, in every revolution, in the coldest darkest places and the brightest happiest places there is always art. You generally won’t compel someone to change their behaviour through graphs and statistics, but if you show them a powerful story with moving music and emotive visuals then you can change their life. And so now, because of this utopia/dystopia tipping point, art becomes a matter of life or death.

We cannot save the world with any more power or knowledge than what we already have. Inventing new technologies and forcing primitive homosapiens further along the exponential curve of scientific discovery will only make us more unstable. We will not advance with more technology. What we need is more comprehension. A comprehension of reality and existence that can only be achieved through art.

Science without art is knowledge without wisdom. And we’re already witnessing the catastrophy of this imbalance.

So yes, let’s advance society. We have the scientific methods to build the technological utopia that we aspire towards. But we don’t yet have the emotional maturity or universal perspective to get there without destroying ourselves and everything else in the process. We need art now more than ever because art is the only thing that advances human consciousness. Art is the only thing that can save us from ourselves.

How I found fulfilment in a decaying world

On the topic of human purpose and existence, we all have a deep-rooted desire to seek meaning and to feel as though we are contributing to something greater than ourselves. In such chaotic times this presents the attentive individual with a seemingly unsolvable crisis.

Short of fabricating a supernatural delusion, we are faced with two options: somehow try to fix a rapidly decaying world, or accept the world for what it is and give up entirely.

The former often leads to burnout, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness. The latter generally starts at this point and spirals downhill from there, leading to self-obsession, delusion, passiveness, destructive behaviours, and close-mindedness. Neither of these options provide us with the hope or fulfilment that we as humans need for survival. And, to make matters worse, for the first time in history this long-standing dilemma has been compounded by the prolificness of mass media and the ever-growing consumption of social media.

Very few people are able to successfully balance this predicament, with most resorting to either religion that gives hope in an afterlife, or medication – whether prescribed or illicit – to help them cope with the reality of such an existence. We are not happy, we are not fulfilled, and most of us avoid facing the truth. We drown out the world with the overconsumption of escapist media and alternate realities, conspiracies and fake news, entertainment and substance abuse, inane achievements and hollow decadence.

I used to believe in this dualistic paradigm – to devote my existence to changing the world or to simply give up and have an easy life, caring only for those in my inner circle. Fight or flight.

In pursuing the first option I discovered art as a coping mechanism, a way to help me continue fighting my losing battle. However, during my journey as an artist I uncovered a little known third option: To seek beauty in the way things are. To neither change nor avoid, but to appreciate it for what it is.

If the natural universe is without purpose, then our existential struggles are simply not that important. No matter how badly humanity fucks up, the universe will continue to exist. There may be a lot of suffering in the meantime, which I take great care to minimise as much as possible, but besides that we’re only here for a short time. As individuals, but also as a species. And so, rather than digging myself an early grave trying to either fix or drown out the world, my life is better spent appreciating it for what it is. The good, the bad, the beautiful, the grotesque. This newfound perspective gives me purpose both in my work and outside of it, regardless of what’s happening in the world around me.

I have not, and will never, give up on fighting for positive change. But I now realise that this needn’t be a fight to the death. We will all die whether we fix things or not. We should strive for the best, but not at the cost of living. Because if we do, then we will never find purpose or fulfilment. And at that point life truly becomes meaningless.

My Patreon page is now live!

It’s live! If you’re an art lover or are curious about the process behind how I interpret my observations on humanity and society into artworks go check out my Patreon. I have a wide selection of tiers to suit your interests and budget and will be sharing exclusive content for all you artists and art lovers out there.