I was in Abu Dhabi last week, speaking at Khalifa University in a conference on cloud computing. Never having been in Abu Dhabi before, I found many things new and unfamiliar, but also wonderful – particularly so, that evening, when we had dinner at a restaurant that looked across the water to the Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque. It is an extraordinarily beautiful complex, particularly as we saw it that evening.
When I remarked on the beauty of the mosque to one of my colleagues at dinner, he mentioned that it is a well-known example of the Islamic principle of “unity in multiplicity” (I later found a great article on the Grand Mosque and this principle by Dr. Christopher Evan Longhurst.) That is, the mosque brings together many disparate elements into a single cohesive whole, including using fractals to reinforce the sense of coherence from the smallest detail to the largest structure. In doing so, it becomes a symbol of the “culture of tolerance” that Sheik Zayed believed in.
That comment struck me particularly strongly in the light of the discussions we had had during the day. As is true at many conferences, those of us attending this conference in Abu Dhabi had come from around the world, from many different cultures and economic situations. Although the conference was conducted in English, there were many languages spoken. We had very different responsibilities, from academic research to government policy to technology development. But in the presentations and discussions over the course of the day, we also had a remarkable sense of agreement about the security issues we’re confronting: the change in the threat landscape, the de-perimeterization of the enterprise, the difficulty of visibility across supply chains and cloud services. And there was a remarkable sense that exactly the kind of cooperation and collaboration we were doing at the conference was essential to addressing those threats.
This is something that we at RSA believe in strongly. In his keynote at RSA Conference Europe this week, our Executive Chairman, Art Coviello, re-iterated that “we must work together to create the trusted online community.” It is essential, in a world in which, as Art said, “an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us”. For me, it is a very great privilege to be able to contribute to that community, that cooperation and collaboration, including through events such as the Abu Dhabi conference.