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Japan's cyber-security minister has 'never used a computer' (bbc.com)
481 points by GeneticGenesis 3 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 318 comments

Maybe I’ll sound like a bitter old techie, but it’s absolutely wrong to have someone with no direct experience managing something that is technical.

If you can’t code, you shouldn’t manage coders. If you’re not a lawyer, don’t run a law firm. If you haven’t been in charge of a class of kids, you shouldn’t run a school. And that’s despite the day-to-day of these management roles not touching code/clients/kids.

The experience gained in a few years on any ladder is enough to appreciate most of how people in those fields think.

Have you ever tried working for someone who didn’t have relevant experience? You get people deciding that they don’t need an issue tracker, let alone a code repo. You get people who think paying Google 5 bucks a months is not worth it, they’d rather have their own email server. And it’s not that there’s never a case for having your own server, it’s that the case is never made in a technical way (eg we want security / uptime / whatever). The techies end up having to translate complex reasoning into something a layman could understand, or at least pretend to. A lot of time is wasted explaining things. And then when there’s feedback - and most people cannot resist the temptation to act like they’re contributing - it only makes sense to the non technical staff, while the tech people are trying to implement whatever crazy modification it is they’ve been given.

What these people tend to do is to make everything a management issue. So management, just like politics ends up having its own ladder. Relevant experience for being a health minister is to have been an MP. Relevant experience for managing a code department is having managed the interns.

It massively corrosive to let this continue.

And before someone makes this argument, it's perfectly possible for techies to do the managing and politics.

Some of the best managers I know, especially in tech, are the ones that admit their teams are far better qualified to make those decisions than they are. We're not talking about an architect here. A team lead is different than a V or C level, my understanding is that the minister has about 3-4 layers between him and someone pushing code or writing policy. If I have the choice of putting someone at the head of a division of 200 people with excellent people management skills or good domain knowledge the former will trump in almost all cases. Domain knowledge is great, but it can actually make you less open minded and unbiased.

I've seen some pretty scary discussions about underlying technology in executive management with seasoned industry veterans and it's the usually the person with no domain knowledge that asks the right questions that lead to a good decision.

You depend on your team to execute. They depend on their team and so on.

That's why the minister expressed that he preferred the questions in advance so he can distribute them with his team (the experts) and get the right answers instead of answering on behalf of them.

Also it's pretty hard to get hacked when you don't have a computer. If anything the fact he rose to his position without the help of modern devices is a pretty strong testament to his fundamentals. Most managers and executives in tech would find their day-to-day pretty difficult without modern productivity tools.

I strongly disagree with "Some of the best managers I know, especially in tech, are the ones that admit their teams are far better qualified to make those decisions than they are."

These people defer everything to their subordinates including major technical decisions. Then what the hell is their job!? To "people manage"?

As Steve Jobs said, "I don't hire managers. I hire amazing individual contributors, but the only reason they become managers is that they can't achieve their vision on their own."

Just to be clear, technical managers don't necessarily have to get mangled up in detailed work - they need to have a vision for what their team is going to do. It is a "pull" rather than "push". An ideal manager should be someone that their subordinates aspire to be and they have a leadership character that is worthy of following. They give room for their team to provide inputs and they're decisive when time comes.

> These people defer everything to their subordinates including major technical decisions. Then what the hell is their job!? To "people manage"?

Imo, the idea that the job of a manager is to make decisions is extremely misguided (and old fashioned). It's their jobs to ensure that the right decisions are made. This is a very different thing.

I think you are on to something. Steve Jobs was like a "curator" from top to bottom and beginning to end. Though he could not code, draw, or design he certainly could lead (albeit in a quasi-abusive fashion at times) and his vision was shaped by Vitruvian theory.

"...Vitruvius believed that an architect should focus on three central themes when preparing a design for a building: firmitas (strength), utilitas (functionality), and venustas (beauty)..."

>Though he [Steve Jobs] could not code

Right, I'm going to throw a MASSIVE [citation needed] here.

This is common knowledge. Did you think he was code reviewing Woz while they were working together? Jobs was the salesman, Woz was the engineer.

Since you couldn't be bothered to Google it yourself, here's an archive of Woz's personal website.


>Then what the hell is their job!? To "people manage"?

Yes, absolutely. I work for a "people manager" with enough software development experience to ask the right leading questions when someone's stuck on a technical question. Never seen him make an overriding call on the "how," only the "what."

> with enough software development experience ...

^ this detail basically supports the initial point that domain experience is required..

Nevertheless, his role is to manage people and their careers, not to make technical decisions.

And the argument is that those with domain experience are better at managing the people - because they understand what and how those people need to to their job properly.

The problem then is knowing what constitutes a good "what" to decide upon. This can end up with them listening only to their favorite subordinate who may well be offering bad advice when other underlings know better.

Their job is similar to that of a Symphony Conductor. They should absolutely have intimate feedback with their immediate subordinates, but only really need a high level overview of what's happening and to have open dialogues with those that are more domain expert than they are.

Having said that, //never// used a computer? To my mind this is like hearing someone say they haven't ever cooked at all for themselves. Not even really basic simple things.

It makes you question just how sheltered and insulated from every-day life this individual is.

Right, but you wouldn’t want a conductor who has never listened to any music. You can have an expert orchestra, but if the conductor is just waving his arms around like he saw in a photo once, they’re just going to ignore the conductor and do their own thing.

Companies are made, overwhelmingly, of people. Managing those people is quite literally the definition of management.

What if I told you that you could be a charismatic influential leader of a tech company without knowing how to program. It's definitely not what the developers on hackernews want to hear but it's true. Yes you can be both. EQ is a thing.

If your employees are managers, then it's (sometimes) okay to have no domain experience in whatever it is your company does, because the people you're managing aren't doing that thing. You only have to understand how those people think, and those people think—at least part of the time—like managers.

The job of the team leads—those managers whose only subordinates are domain-worker leaf-nodes—to act as a translation layer between your thought process and their subordinate domain-workers' thought process. They need the experience. (And they're the only "managers" that most people on HN seem to think have any value, given HN's love of flat org-charts like those of Valve and old-Google.)

But to be clear, while "EQ is a thing", for team leads, it's not enough. And in certain sectors (mostly industries where people are promoted into management roles by seniority), that continues to apply all the way up the org-chart, since in those organizations, the middle-managements will be ex-workers and will share the workers' views. So you, as a CEO, can't can't make any top-down decrees that conflict with those views.

For an example: any manager in a hospital, all the way up to the CEO, cannot get away with walking in off a stint at an F500 with no previous hospital experience, and succeed solely because they have high EQ. They need to also understand—deeply and intuitively—that their whole organization is run by people who think saving people's lives is more important than making a profit, and that any changes intended to increase profit at the expense of lives-saved-per-day will either be left unimplemented by the people on the ground, fought, or result in low morale and staff leaving. (Usually all three!)

Companies are also made of non-people systems, indeed the system is what distinguishes a company from just another collection of people. People don't need management so much as systems do. Management's job has to be to improve the system. You can optimize your people as much as you please, dealing with incentives, bonuses, punishments, team placements, making sure everyone is "doing their job", "getting along", etc., but none of that matters in the end for quality and efficient production if the system itself isn't stable.

Deming understood this, his management ideas that transformed countries have yet to break into software. https://maaw.info/DemingsRedbeads.htm is a starting point into the primacy of the system.

I'm sure it's possible. But in my experience, nontechnical people are generally not the best people to lead companies where the technology itself is a primary success factor. In such a business, I believe it is essential for top management to have an instinctive feel for the potentials and weaknesses of the technology.

Admittedly, such companies are a minority, perhaps a small minority, of what are called "tech companies". A lot of "tech companies" are simply applying relatively-well-understood technology to business problems. But when the mission of the business requires pushing the edges of what's possible, it needs leaders who understand what that means.

I've worked for 6 tech companies. Only in 2 did the owner know how to code. Only one was the owner an ex professional coder. They were all charismatic to some degree. Although the less charismatic were more pleasurable to work for, for whatever reason.

But there's a difference between not knowing how to program, and having never even used a computer!

Coding experience might give a leader more empathy for their employees, but the latter gives them an understanding of their customers and users.

But Steve Jobs himself didn't do any of the engineering or design either, so...isn't he a people manager himself? And didn't he bring success to his company?

I think the point of discussion is about decision making. Steve wasn't involved in detail design, programming or engineering but he made decisions. It was his vision, not their subordinates'. He rallied support for his vision of personal computing.

When managers don't make decisions, and instead leave up to their staff to make decisions, what is their job then? "Managing"? Meaning, sitting down on 1:1s every week and act as a face of the team, do yearly reviews and assign safety training courses?

Intelligent and skilled workforce should not waste their time reporting to these people who have no vision or spine of their own.

> Then what the hell is their job!?

Their job is to let people do their job without interference from an "application architecture group" and pointy-haired bosses, as Joel Spolsky once pointed out: https://www.joelonsoftware.com/2006/04/11/the-development-ab...

> These people defer everything to their subordinates including major technical decisions. Then what the hell is their job!? To "people manage"?

Their job is to shield their developers from the rest of the company, so that the developers can focus on development. That means pushing back on dumb feature requests, helping gather requirements, and going to bat for their team when a project blows its budget or its deadline.

Which leads us back to square one, because to do that efficiently they need experience. If they can't tell a dumb feature request from their ass, they're part of the problem.

It depends what role the manager plays. Some of the best managers I've ever had were not "tech people". Their job was to ensure that we had what we needed to do our jobs effectively, and that we were delivering the level of service upper management wanted.

Somebody once told me that the true definition of a great manager is someone who can clear a path for their team to be able to focus and do the best job they can, while protecting them from the political bullshit and stupid decisions being made around them. Someone who will fight for their team and nurtures their growth and productivity. You don't need to be a tech whiz to do that.

And even when I did have a tech whiz manager I could always learn and depend on for technical decisions, they were great managers in the aforementioned way first and foremost. That is the most important thing.

In addition to the point fermienrico made about the fake managers you discussed, I also think this:

> Domain knowledge is great, but it can actually make you less open minded and unbiased

Is a bit strange to say, since it also undermines your position. If someone has domain knowledge in "managing", then your quote would suggest that they could be "less open minded and unbiased", and as such, a person without domain knowledge in managing might be better - in fact, an acorn (without knowledge in any domain) would be least biased. I'd argue that while you will gain biases as you gain knowledge, you will also be more knowledgeable about relevant things, and that's important. Thus, the best person for a managerial position would be someone with knowledge about managing people and with knowledge about what those people are doing.

> hard to get hacked when you don't have a computer

This is true, but it's also hard to understand what's going on or stay in the loop when you don't have a computer

I'm sure he's aware of this article despite not reading it on his computer :)

I absolutely agree that you can have fantastic managers from a non-technical background if they're intelligent reasonable people with good people skills.


> I've seen some pretty scary discussions about underlying technology in executive management with seasoned industry veterans and it's the usually the person with no domain knowledge that asks the right questions that lead to a good decision.

I think the seasoned veteran in this example is not a seasoned veteran - well, depending on how you define the term. Because the people who are best at their jobs tend to "know what they don't know". If someone has bias, they were probably never any good at their job in the first place.

So I tend to think if you can find someone who has good domain knowledge and good people skills they will consistently outperform someone with just good people skills i.e. Managers gain nothing by not having proper experience in the domain they're managing.

It is not about being better than your teams. It is about knowing the field of work to ensure that you can use your teams to build something better (or at least supposed too).

I have the experience of an accountant who never knew how a software development was supposed to be done, the next is the typical non dev nightmare manager, unreasonable deadlines, confidently adding epic features each week because his team was delivering.

In the other hand I have seen people without any knowledge climb in the corporate, an aunt of mine could not finish high school so no university degree, patience and self learning in home for about 2 years and now she has 5 years of experience as consultant of environmental security for metal industries.

Both parts must be willing to work to ensure good works, but when one of the sides does not know and do not care to fit to the job, company objectives and field of work is when everything starts to break.

In the example of Japan's cyber-security minister... while he may be able to effectively manage people who might be able to make the right decisions... how can he competently decide who to hire/fire and manage their roles if he has fundamentally no experience in the domain of computers and cyber-security?

" are the ones that admit their teams are far better qualified to make those decisions than they are"

This is true but NOT if they have never done any of the work before themselves.

I feel the issue is that the hierarchical nature of Japanese society/business/government means few people will challenge a superior. If he declares that in the interests of Cyber Security all passwords should be the same so they are easy to remember will someone challenge him? Will the minister listen to the sage council of a 22 year old hacker fresh out of uni who has been hacking systems since she was 8?

>admit their teams are far better qualified to make those decisions than they are

But he still needs to know what they are talking about.

Here's a counterpoint: Lou Gerstner. He saved[1] IBM 25 years ago and had no relevant tech experience. I've also had personal experience with non-techie managers who were exceptional.

Moral of the story is I don't think it's wise to automatically overlook non-techies in the available pool of candidates who might do better at the job.

[1] - Arguably ruined it as well by turning it into a services company, but hopefully everyone agrees he exhibited competence in the turn-around despite the direction chosen.

All the truly non-technical managers I've worked under have been great. They know the bounds of their knowledge, and will either work to expand them if needed, or accept that they should take advice. Very technical managers are also generally fine (up to a certain layer, where business and people management fundamentals trump all). The scary ones are the pseudo-technical managers who think they know far more than they actually do, and so insist on getting into the weeds of technical discussions, and even overruling people who know what they're doing - my worst was a manager who in a post-mortem on a weekend outage after someone pushed "urgent" code on a Saturday morning came out with "well people just shouldn't write bugs, its that simple".

Can’t agree more about pseudo-technical managers.

In 2011 I warned a manager that we must go full JavaScript/HTML5 to be tablet friendly on a website we had to launch (lots of dataviz was involved). He overruled my advice, in front of the boss, and choose a hybrid flash/Wlanguage solution that only him master in the company. ‍️

Of course it’s 2018 and said site still haven’t transitioned out of flash. ‍️

I’m not frontend, theirs customers are not techs savvy, but I can’t help feeling ashamed everytime I need to interact with this site.

Sounds like he was effective in steering the bus away from the brick wall....and into the ocean.

Makes you wonder if a different person could have both turned the company around and steered it into the right direction.

I dunno. Getting a company of hundreds of thousands of people out of a death spiral and into an additional quarter century of prosperity seems like a pretty amazing achievement?

You shouldn't manage an auto manufacturer unless you've worked on the assembly line? You shouldn't manage an auto manufacturer unless you have engineered an automobile? You shouldn't manage an auto manufacturer unless you have been in marketing? You shouldn't manage an auto manufacturer unless you have been a personal injury attorney? You shouldn't manage an auto manufacturer unless you have been an accountant?

There are always exceptional individuals who can be effective managers without direct business-line experience. These people can incorporate the experience of others (by listening to them) and make good decisions.

However, in the general case, having direct experience in that industry's work brings a large amount of perspective on how the industry works. And this perspective can well inform decision makers for decades afterwards.

I think the key claim here is that the manager should have intuitive understanding of the core value adding functions of the company. Not of every function. Being intrinsically motivated about the core value adding process should be considered a superpower.

A stereotypical example: Nokia vs Apple. The Nokia leadership - just before Iphonegeddon hit all the incumbents - really weren't enthusiastic about their technology nor of their products. Where as in Apple the CEO was deeply involved at least in an editorial role and sourced key components himself, like the glass.

I really would love to hear a counterexample where the company with the aloof macroeconomist golfer at the helm beat the company managed by domain afficionados.

I presume it would be in the commodities, but I'm hoping to be surprised.

Example in the same vein, during Iphonegeddon, RIM CEO Jim Balsillie was consumed with buying an NHL team and told RIM's chairman "We'll be fine".

They should at least have been inside a car!

How about a bus? Or a train? Or a van?

Do you suppose that there is really a Japanese minister today that has never used a computer? A smart phone? A microwave? A TV? An MP3 player? A network-connected device?

They probably use a computer to enter their home or office. Their desk phone is probably a computer. Their car radio is a computer.

It would be quite a challenge to find a living person in Japan today who has not used a computer. I suppose nothing is impossible, but some claims are so hyperbolic as to be ignored.

I worked on a job rolling out a virtual ISP service for a bluechip telecoms company around 15 years ago.

The project manager was in his fifties and had not only never used a website, he had never touched a keyboard or mouse.

That was secretarial (female) work.

The three things he did in his job was to dictate documents, have meetings and cause utter chaos.

Sure, but the argument by lordnacho is an extreme overextension of the idea that the leader should have relevant experience.

The context here is a member of the national executive, so demanding detailed micro level experience is required is just silly, at that level nobody can have such broad detailed knowledge. The only practical way is that whoever is in charge learns what they need as they go along.

I think far more important is that whoever is in charge isn't an idiot so they can realize when they have to learn new things. The fact that this guy accepted a position for cyber-security without reading up on computers is plenty of evidence he is an idiot.

Carlos Tavares, who turned around PSA, is known to be crazy knowledgeable on all things cars and all things manufacturing. Call me bitter but being able to take complex fact based decisions beats taking decision based who got the best Powerpoint. I suspect Lisa Su is a bit the same profile. Extremely successful CEOs tend to be able to be able to understand the details of their operations.

Lisa Su got her BS, MS, and PhD in EE from MIT, so I'm sure she is very knowledgeable on making cpus.

On the other hand most of CEOs that "kind of" manage to perform or totally flop typically don't have any in depth knowledge of what their company actually does.

Compare the CEO of Verizon who built it into what it is today - Ivan G. Seidenberg against a CEO of Sprint or Global Crossing at the time. Notice that the CEO of GlobalCrossing at the time is the current CEO of T-Mobile. It is well known that he had no clue about products of GlobalCrossing or technology behind it and therefore could not realize its competitive advantages. On the other hand he clearly understands the mobile phones which is how he managed to take a T-Mobile from a pissant company that no one cared about to a company that forces ATT and Verizon to respond.

It also helps that T-Mobile (Deutsche Telekom) is the largest telecommunications provider in Europe and the fifth largest in the world.

Not discounting that their positioning in the states has improved in the last couple of years, but they should be to do (and finally are doing) more than just forcing ATT and Verizon to respond.

DT bought VoiceStream in 2001 and renamed it into TMobile. For 11 years TMO was a pissant company even with all that DT "knowledge" and money. Even Sprint and Nextel laughted at it.

It took Legere becoming a CEO 11 years later for anyone to start taking TMO seriously. And boy they do.

No you are wrong. Simply you shouldn't manage an auto manufacturer if you have never been in a car for at least a ride. Al least you should know the shape, the noise, the feeling. Otherwise you are just a puppet of the consultants. This guy is supposed to manage the networks security of the olympics! What does networks security means? Probably he thinks that we can change the locks and we are safe again? Or the passwords!! WoW like a movie!

Do you know this person's name? Have you seen their resume? Have you read anything they have written? Have you listened to any interview they have done?

How do you know what they are thinking?

Did you read a headline written by a source you don't know and assume it was true?

Architecture projects are managed by architects. In fact, non-architects don't get to play in "management" of the architecture firms.

Those with no experience in construction do not run around being managers of construction companies doing construction. Those that do won't account for rain delays or know that at certain wind speed one cannot operate a crane and that wind speed would need to come down before 11am. And that's why the projects end up slipping.

> You shouldn't manage an auto manufacturer unless you have been a personal injury attorney?

You will fail at managing a personal injury lawfirm unless you are someone who is intimately familiar handling ( and therefore laws ) of personal injury cases.

> You shouldn't manage an auto manufacturer unless you have been an accountant?

You will fail at managing an accounting firm if you have no idea about accounting process, deadlines, amounts of paperwork or different filing schedules.

with an aggregate function like an auto manufacturer, you'd want the executive in charge of each constituent function to be competent in that area. The CFO should be well-versed in accounts, the head of design should have been a designer, the head of factory ops should have experience and knowledge of how a factory works, and so on.

The CEO is an awkward one because they can fill different roles in different companies, but I guess CEOs are usually people managers first and foremost so it makes sense for CEOs to come from the management chain.

How about you shouldn't manage an auto manufacturer unless you have some previous experience in auto industry? You need to know the game...

You shouldn't manage an auto manufacturer unless you have relevant experience in auto manufactoring, yes, correct, absolutely.

Great response! I love talking in terms of analogies so this is great! Unfortunately, I don't think your assembly line manager analogy really gets to the heart of what the problem might be. Lets unpack the original cyber security argument:

1) Cyber security is really hard, and it might normally take someone a full university degree, plus several years of experience before they might understand at a high level what kind of strategies are often employed.

2) This minister has no education or experience.

3) Without any education or experience, the minister will not understand exactly what they are responsible for, fail to make good decisions, or otherwise perform poorly.

There are a few key difference between your assembly line analogy and the argument above.

1) The existence of a reasonable best-alternative. It is possible for one person to obtain domain knowledge on cyber security, as well as the knowledge required to perform ministerial duties. In your auto manufacturer example, it is near impossible for any one person to have experience on an assembly line, engineering, marketing, law, and accounting. Lacking this, it might be more reasonable with auto manufacturers to try and select someone who has reasonable breadth, or maybe depth in a couple domains, but might not have depth across all domains.

2) Certain jobs such as that of an assembly worker, do not require as much education and experience as working in cyber security, and as such, it is easier for a manager to have a conceptual model of what is required from their role, without having performed the job themselves.

Jaguar Land Rover engineering employees do work on the manufacturing line for this reason.

I studied mechanical engineering and we had to spend more than 3 months in the shop building stuff. This made a huge difference in my understanding of issues when I worked in production management for a while.

So I think if you run a car company you should at least like cars, know how they work to some degree and have worked at a car company for a while. When I came to the US in the 90s and rented a Buick I wondered if the CEO of that company even had tried that car once. It was so bad that I couldn't imagine that anybody who knows a little about cars would have allowed this car to ship.

Agreed 100%.

> If you’re not a lawyer, don’t run a law firm.

Fun fact: the ethics rules of most state bars prohibit lawyers from becoming partners with non-lawyers in a business whose business model involves providing legal advice.

See ABA Model Rule of Professional Responsibility 5.4(b). https://www.americanbar.org/groups/professional_responsibili...

No it is not because you are a bitter old techie. You're right. The world has gone mad.

Look at the most competitive industries: Software, automotive manufacture, film, news, energy, finance, accounting, law.

What do they have in common? The principles of the major corporations all have deep, deep backgrounds in multiple areas related to their business. They often don't even come with a mere CS degree, they've layered it with a masters or PhD or have a degree in a useful field like law.


This is what happens when I rush out the door before proofing a comment. Thanks.

As an engineer turned manager, I disagree with this.

While it is absolutely essential that the person managing the domain area needs to be capable of understanding the technical details surrounding it, it's not a requirement to have to have done the exact same work as the team.

What's much more valuable and preferable to me and my team is for the person to understand how to build trust and push/prod/coach/enable folks to do their jobs in ways that are best for the team and for the company while having thought through the strategy of the direction we're heading into, and of course, take responsibility for the execution. In order to do that, being able to talk shop is important, but it's only part of the picture.

From being a good engineer to being a good manager is analogous to going from being a good runner to being a good tennis player: some relationship between the two exists (both are athletes), but it's a different set of skills.

> While it is absolutely essential that the person managing the domain area needs to be capable of understanding the technical details surrounding it

Having been a developer who worked his way into management. I cannot see how a manager has time to get to understand the technical details. Between meetings, HR duties and one on ones there isn't much time to get to the technical detail. You need loads of uninterrupted time to get to grips with technical details. As a manager, you don't have that time.

Emphasis: "capable". Mapping one concept into another and between abstraction levels is something displayed by all the strongest leaders I've met.

This depends on what you think a manager's job is. If you think it is to "be the boss", to run things, to make decisions, to tell people what to do, then yes, relevant experience matters.

But there's another view of a manager's job, and that is to create an environment where they can get their work done without having to worry about bullshit like schedules, budgets, and politics. For that kind of a role, a non-technical person can be a great fit, possibly better than a technical one.

The tech manager is an apt analogy for me because I am currently working on hiring a new boss for (myself and) a team of programmers, high performance computing consultants and geographic information systems specialists. Each applicant has different levels of experience in these areas, but I think its safe to say that there are few people in the country that have good GIS and HPC experience.

Different groups need different managers/leaders. I could argue that I need a manager that understands my work so that they can guide me appropriately choosing techniques/languages/architectures. I could also argue that we have a diverse team of experts that self-manage well, and that we need a manager who is a good advocate for the group and good at dealing with the politics of university management, who won't micro-manage, and can deal with all of the admin requirements so that our team can program, make maps and support HPC customers. I agree that they should probably have some kind of a tech background, but I don't think you need to have been a professional programmer to manage me.

* Hopefully no one from HR, and none of the candidates read this.

* * Actually if a job candidate gets an advantage by reading a HN comment then I would consider that in-bounds for their interview prep in this case :)

Just go raid the BCIT GIS program. Find the ones who have management success.

I'm not sure they need to code and know every detail but...having actually USED a computer and having a basic understanding of how it works would be a good start.

It is totally possible for a non-technical person manage a technical team well. There are even certain downfalls (trying to make technical decisions that they are not knowledgeable enough to make) that a manager with a technical background is MORE likely to make.

That doesn't mean this particular one is good at it, of course. But the role of management is often to manage external relations, with the non-technical world. They can either do that by having a few trusted technical direct reports who advise them, and they have the bureaucratic and political skills to manage relations with the outside world, or they can do it the other way. But virtually no one is good at both. The most important thing is if you are self-aware of which one you are not good at.

let's say this Cyber Security Minister has trusted subordinates who do actually understand the technical aspects. how do they even begin to communicate with a person who's never used a computer? purely in metaphors?

there needs to be at minimum some common language between managers and what they're managing. otherwise it worse than broken telephone.

without a certain level of understanding, it's just a useless abstraction level for the sake of filling a govt position.

In a more sane situation the minister would read up to gain some basic literacy in the field, the fact that he hasn't is strong evidence that he is an idiot.

But you can be an idiot regardless of experience, and selecting an idiot as minister is arguably the graver error.

>How do they even begin to communicate with a person who's never used a computer? purely in metaphors?

They don't. It's a bureaucracy, not a meritocracy. The first business of a bureaucracy is to maintain the bureaucracy, and the second business of a bureaucracy is to reward party loyalty, and the third is for the bureaucrat to maintain and enhance personal power.

He will listen to people of his own social class and party whose word and sponsorship lends political merit, take orders from above, and his subordinates will do as they're told.

Why would they need to understand any technical aspects? Ultimately it comes down to making a decision between several alternatives, those alternatives have tradeoffs. If the technical people can't explain what those tradeoffs are in terms the non-technical decision maker can understand, then either they don't understand them themselves, or they aren't worth being concerned about.

> It is totally possible for a non-technical person manage a technical team well. There are even certain downfalls (trying to make technical decisions that they are not knowledgeable enough to make) that a manager with a technical background is MORE likely to make.

We will see it play out in front of us again:

AMD v Intel

Have you ever tried working for someone who didn’t have relevant experience

Many times.

You get people deciding that...

Literally never happened. I've had a few bosses/managers who'd be the first to admit they knew nothing about programming. And in every case they defer to team experts when it comes to specific technical questions.

On the flip side I've had managers who where deeply technical and spent all their time getting involved with every little technical detail and completely neglecting their job as manager.

A government minister isn’t a tech. Honestly, not having experience with computers may be an advantage from a policy perspective — having no dog in the fight may be useful.

Let's say a minister talks to two groups, which give him two different pieces of advice. Each group is an industry body with supporters that includes some companies the minister has heard of.

Group A says he should ban IoT devices that don't come with a guarantee 5 years of security updates.

Group B says he should ban cell phones that don't come with antivirus software.

How would you propose a minister weight the advice of the two industry bodies?

Ideally the minister would troll[1] the universities for security experts and defer those type of decisions to them so that he would have more time to play the politics game and secure funding and resources

In actuality he would probably try banning keyboards in the organization after learning USB devices could carry viruses

[1] fishing definition

Do whatever the one that donates more money to him wants him to do.

Right, but for government agent in charge of cyber security, they would need a pretty high level of IT knowledge for it to make any difference. I don't see how that's feasible for career politicians. I also don't see how it's necessary, they in the end are just managing people.

> I don't see how that's feasible for career politicians

Goes to show that's not who should fill the position

> I also don't see how it's necessary, they in the end are just managing people.

But not empathizing with them, a trait most would say effective management requires. Also, you are completely ignoring the decision making aspect. It's not like 100% of decisions will be deferred.

It depends on many things.

The lady who manages my gym spent 8 years doing cybersecurity in the U.S. Army. If you were trying to fill this kind of role in today you could definitely find somebody who has technical experience in the military.

The military was an early adopter of computers (in the 1970s my high school science teacher was an air force officer who managed computers. He would, with trepidation, board an Army Helicopter to go to an Army base and help them out with their computers.) Same for police, intelligence, and other careers.

There is a social conflict between I.T. professionals and other professionals.

A bank like "Ally Bank" is entirely an electronic operation with no branches, no cash, etc. Even the areas that require a bank officer to get involved could be best done by a bank officer who knows how to make Jupyter notebooks. You could take an extreme fintech point of view here and have all the C-level people be techies and put VCs who invest in blockchain and pot on the board, etc.

But you won't. You'll put down the bong and find some bankers to fill the C-level slots because the C-levels have job #1 of being down with the regulators. That way you can get your service in front of customers.

Thus bankers stay in the driver's seat and the bank that was so innovative in 1928 went bust the year after and inexplicably has been bailed out ten thereafter still has the gall to do business under the same name and (like most established businesses) is able to use influence to establish a 'moat' that keeps competitors out.

I was once a full-stack dev-ops programmer/analyst level G embedded in an academic library and saw similar conflicts.

Library science is about ontology and modelling things; Dewey doing by hand what Knuth would do with a computer decades later. I took to library science readily and found it went together with my blue collar appreciation of data structures and algorithms like peanut butter and jelly.

From the viewpoint of the union, however, the library is a machine for employing people with MLS degrees and when budget cuts came my division got the squeeze and I was out.

There was no way, however, I got have gotten to pay band H or I at that organization even if we were crammed with cash because librarians came first. (We could avoided a diplomatic incident by sending me to Germany instead of the meanest physicist in the world but they told me they only had a travel budget for Librarians!)

I concur. I worked for awhile in a software company where the CEO was literally the boss who had his secretary print out his email so he could read it.

it's perfectly possible for techies to do the managing and politics.

The trick is finding those who can do it well.

Elon Musk gets a lot of props and he was never been an automotive worker or a rocket engineer before founding the technical companies he is famous for.

Are you arguing that he succeeded at running a rocket company because he once programmed for a computer game?

Except Elon Musk is notorious for diving deep into any subject he's involved with.


Christian von Koenigsegg taught himself how to make Hypercars.

This Japanese minister has no interest in learning the topic he's responsible for on a national scale.

I am not making an argument about an idiot minister, I'm objecting to the notion put forward by the GP that only those with explicit previous experience of a process can manage people performing it.

Your analogy is too literal. GP is saying some relevant experience has value, not experience in every little aspect. So, with that in mind, GP is arguing he succeeded at starting/running a technical company because he once started/ran a technical company.

No, he literally said

> If you’re not a lawyer, don’t run a law firm

and then never climbed down, just adding detail about why it was bad.

You are defending a more reasonable position than the one GP expressed and I attacked.

Stop straw manning. Thanks.

GGGP never said that to run a law firm, you had to have practiced in every area the firm does. He never said the law firm should outsource its HR and payroll and travel, unless the managing partner had experience in those functions. He said the manager of the law firm should be a lawyer.

Elon Musk has a degree in physics and began a Ph.D. program in materials science, which is probably the second-most applicable field to automotive engineering generally (after mechanical engineering). For someone doing solar cell and battery work, materials science might be the most relevant field. So tell me why you think Musk proves your point and contradicts GGGP.

Individuals running private companies can do whatever they want, as long as they can convince others. This is a public postion.

Reasonably sure EM has also used a computer and managed technical companies. Someone who hasn't used a computer in 2018 is not suitable for most jobs, short of digging ditches.

In 2018, there are plenty of people who don't own a computer and have no real experience using one (other than their phone). And they are employable, because there are jobs (other than digging ditches) that don't revolve around computers. But when they apply to a sizable company, they are told that they need to come in to the employment office to fill out their application on a computer there. So I think it's pretty hard to avoid computers entirely because most things are paperless.

> If you can’t code, you shouldn’t manage coders.

It should be, if you're not technical, you shouldn't manager coders. I've met many a manager that couldn't code, but had a very good understanding of architecture, systems, logging, etc. Engineering is more than coding and arguably the actual coding part isn't very important.

It's not bitter, or old. I'm neither!

It's hard to keep on top of technological possibilities and capabilities. Especially for someone non-technical making and overseeing technical decisions.

Tech folks can learn business easier than business folks can learn tech... Time to get to it.

I see a lot of comments arguing "you don't need to be an expert in the field to be a minister".

That's pretty right, IMHO, but we're now talking about him not being an expert, we're talking about him not having the slightest clue.

Not knowing what a USB drive is for, is akin to a minister of defence not knowing what a bullet is for, or a minister of health not knowing what medication is (or what it's used for).

These are key, basic elements, and most mid-level education citizen will understand what they are. It's hard to understand how he can represent their best interest in that scope.

Well, the selection of someone who never has used a computer does speak pretty loudly of how important the post is considered, so I expect the best interests of the people was never a big concern.

Just compare it to the current German minister of defense, previously family and education minister, physician by education.

to be fair that what she says about our troops is most often pretty on point. I mean I do not like her and she also says a lot of bullshit.

also it's not really hard to see the weak points of our "bundeswehr" and trying to make it better.

Modernization is basically the right thing to do, but you didn't need to be an expert to see that our bundeswher needed that.

Appreciate this is to a pretty ridiculous degree, but isn't this pretty much the story across the board?

Anecdotally I heard about some of the conversations with the government and adult industry regarding the UK porn filter. It was something along the lines of: Industry: "OK, we get you want to put a block in front of adult sites. But what about all the porn Twitter?" Govt: "There's porn on Twitter?"

When we're all getting angry about encryption and privacy and backdoors (and whatever else), it's probably prudent to remember these are the kind of people we're dealing with.

I know and work with a lot of millionaires and a couple billionaires, once you get to that level of eliteness they view using a computer as a boring chore for a technician, like fixing the plumbing or paying the bills, something they are far too important for and delegate to staff.

Surprisingly, this seems to be true regardless of age

Had an opportunity to labour for 1 year for a "start up" ran by a 40 years old guy with rich papa when I was back in Canada. The dude opened the company with 7 mln cash out of his pocket, hired lots of big name consultants as directors, and never been seen since, until the company flopped.

The man was said to employ a personal typist.

Since then, saw the very same thing everywhere you can expect it; rich and powerful men I knew personally rarely even had a cellphone, and they didn't read news.

With regard of that, I think stories of officials from 3rd world countries claiming to be learning more about their own countries from words of foreign diplomats, or when they flee to the West themselves, don't sound so unbelievable anymore.

There is a lot of "don't read the news" comments in typical self-help books/speeches. I am divided. I have "not read the news" before, and I was totally out of the loop in a lot of conversations. On the other hand, 99% of what I read in the news isn't helpful in any way that is directly evident.

Most "rich" people I know are religious, "family", sort-of-upper-class-rednecks. They usually run small businesses worth several million, donate to the Church, and focus on their family life. It's hilarious how poorly I fit in here. Anyway, they do all get intricately involved with the technical details, even if they don't understand all of it.

These people aren't really "rich" though, just very well-off.

Don't know any really "rich" or "wealthy" people. Have never even talked to one.

rich and powerful men I knew personally rarely even had a cellphone, and they didn't read news.

Why do you use your cellphone or read the news? Probably for entertainment or gain knowledge about current events. Rich and powerful men can do stuff way more entertaining than what a cellphone can provide and honestly, don't need to be up on current events.

>>personally rarely even have a cellphone, and they don't read news.

I built my company from nothing - and still clean the toilet as part of the team.

I however don't give out my cell phone number as 99% of the time the resulting conversation would not be the best use of my time.

I don't think you can separate it from age, because having a lot of money and having an elite position are both highly correlated with being near retirement age.

There was an earlier generation that had secretaries to type things for them, and computer operators were essentially the same thing to them, before or after PCs were invented.

My mother was a computer programmer in the 50s through the 70s, and she started out as an engineering assistant. It was considered a low level position compared to an actual engineer.

I wouldn't give up being able to use a computer for a billion dollars!

I love computers and I absolutely would. Do you really think computers are improving your life that much? Think of all the skiing you could do instead.

Is it because you expect to make more than a billion dollars using your computer, or because you value lifetime computer usage at over a billion dollars.

If I had the option of never having to check another email in my life, I’d go without internet for sure. I imagine there is a great deal of calm and focus when you unplug.

> I know and work with a lot of millionaires and a couple billionaires

Yeah.. ok. [citation needed]

Not that exotic. I've met a couple of billionaires myself (although I haven't worked for them). Just live somewhere that billionaires are (ie Silicon Valley) and do work they find valuable.

> "Since I was 25 years old and independent I have instructed my staff and secretaries. I have never used a computer in my life"

I think that Yoshitaka Sakurada lie: he used PC in school before he was 25 years old!


>> he used PC in school before he was 25 years old

At the age of 15, in 1965

So he can buy a current phone and have more computing power than the world had in all its computers combined in the 60’s. He is in for a treat if he uses one now. https://www.quora.com/When-was-the-last-time-all-the-computi...

> "Since I was 25 years old and independent I have instructed my staff and secretaries. I have never used a computer in my life,"

What golden cage was this man born in that he had a staff and secretaries at 25?

More importantly, how independent can he be if he has to rely on a staff and secretaries.

Isn't Hacker News supposed to celebrate young entrepreneurs? Would it be weird for a 25 year old Silicon Valley CEO to have a staff?

A 25 year old Silicon Valley CEO, by definition, is weird, so whether or not they have staff is irrelevant.

> Would it be weird for a 25 year old Silicon Valley CEO to have a staff?

To handle sending and receiving all of their email? Yes.

If he was 25 in '75 I doubt that his staff was sorting his _e_mail.

Not quite, but that is orders of magnitude less likely in Japan, and even less likely during the time this man was 25.

Following the normal path he’d have been slaving away at a large corporation.

Japan has it's own ol boys club

Its not unrealistic .. western society has generally gotten less mature, not more. In my 20's I did stuff that none of the kids of today even consider feasible ..

In a lot of cases it simply isn't feasible today.

Remember; a Denny's waitress in 1980 has as much or more spending power than the medium salary with a college degree in 2018.

[citation needed]

1980 minimum wage per hour: $3.10

1980 median house price: $47,200 = 15,225 hours of labor

2018 average out of college wage per hour: $20

2018 median house price: $320,000 = 12,800 hours of labor

Rough calculations with numbers plucked off google, if one wants to quibble over the numbers/data source/proportion of taxes in the calculation/importance of state where one resides/cost of university/etc. we certainly go that route; but the numbers certainly do not seem that dramatically far apart.

At age 23 Horatio Nelson was the captain of a warship leading hundreds of men in combat, and did a pretty fair job of it too.

Nelson also had 10 years of experience in command at that point, starting as a midshipman at 13.

Its beneficial for people in leadership roles to have some experience in the grounded disciplines; But it is not mandatory.

Historically, there have been many kings and emperors who were not professional soldiers or strategists. Yet many of the states they headed were successful in warfare. Many of the kings or emperors were great soldiers, but not good governors; yet still the kingdoms were governed. A leader has one job, to lead. It includes taking advice from specialists and make a decision.

In representative democracy, the true job of a representative is to convey the decision making to the people they represent. This includes heeding to the advice of specialists who have been assigned to help the "people", through that representative. A representative in that case is just a messenger. A messenger does not need to understand the contents of the message.

The representative is from among the general populace and the general populace in plural is hardly specialist.

Edit(1): I understand that this situation is unforgivable. A minister of Cyber-Security must at least be used to the "Cyber" part. I actually commented because in Representative systems which I am used to, the specialty of Minister does not matter much. The minister is a part of the cabinet, which is just simple power sharing for rubber stamping the decision making process. The minister generally comes from the parliament. Its function is to legitimize a bureaucrat's decision, which the rep always does. It does not hamper the actual cyber security program (It also does not improve it at an accelerated rate, this just proves that cyber security is not a relative major priority for the current Japanese government, but that's beyond the point), which is run by specialized bureaucrats (most probably). Friendly Americans, the Minister does not hold much power, but just legitimatizes "people's agreement" to the actual officer in charge.

Edit(2): Please forgive my English! I am not a native speaker.

Sure, but smart kings who aren't soldiers delegate to experienced generals. In America, an elected president may not be an expert, but the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff sure will be.

So it still seems weird to me that the problem of cybersecurity would be delegated to somebody who a) doesn't know beans about it and b) has spent his life avoiding learning a thing.

This seems vastly worse than "kings who were not professional soldiers" or "...not good governors".

If the minister had never done cyber-security work, I would understand. If he had never done any kind of technical computing at all, I would basically understand.

But to have never used a computer? That's like administration by a king who has never seen uncooked food or left his palace. Past a certain point you have so few referents that expert advice becomes unintelligible. There's precedent here too, but it's the precedent of puppet kings and court intrigues - leaders who either do nothing at all or make their decisions without regard for any concrete facts.

My mom still thinks her computer will get a virus (all by itself) if she leaves it running when she's not around. Even with my explanations. So she shuts it off completely every time she's done. I can imagine her running a cyber security company and telling her employees to shut down the servers when they leave for the night ;)

And one of the reasons no one competent will allow her to run a cyber security company is that she disregards the advice of people more knowledgeable than she is, not because she doesn't have a deep knowledge of how computers work.

I guess that if her computer does end up being part of a botnet she would at least be mitigating damage by doing that :)

Yeah it's why I stopped trying to convince her otherwise. At most an attacker would have 60 minutes a day to do something :P

> Its beneficial for people in leadership roles to have some experience in the grounded disciplines; But it is not mandatory.

This isn't the Prime Minister or the Emperor. It's the cyber-security minister.

Right? They (PM and emperors) are kinda mandatory to have some experience in leadership too.

Onboard with the instinct to fight HN snark about management, but I think this is a different category. Representatives shouldn't be expected to be experts in _solutions_ to problems, but they should be expected to understand the public experience of the problem. (You know, in order to _represent_.).

Cybersecurity exists because of the ways people use computers; it's impossible to evaluate trade-offs that will affect the public without being in the user role. It's also an error of judgement not to have sought that experience.

Agreed, he won't know the ramifications of burgeoning security issues without someone else telling him what to think.

I think what you are describing is OK for leaders like CEO, President, a king or whatever. But their second level people (e.g. cyber security minister) should be subject matter experts in my view. Why would would you become cyber security minister or any minister if you know nothing about the subject matter?

In my company the CEO doesn't know much about tech or IT which is OK. But the CIO is also basically just a well spoken people manager who can't really judge any new initiative and it shows with a lot of stuff that gets started but set up in a nonsensical way so everything fails. And they keep hiring more managers who talk well but don't understand much either so things perpetuate because nobody in leadership knows how things could work if run by competent people.

What we've got here is... a typical Peter Principle. Japan being such an efficient countru, just took the Peter Principle to a whole new level.

I hope this guy gets the job done and we enjoy safe and secure Olympic Games.

Historically, there were no standing armies, so naturally the monarch could not be a professional soldier. But quite a lot of them since, including current royals, have military training. Before the age of standing armies they’d have had training in warfare and politics as well.

Even if you are going to delegate it to the generals, you need some appreciation of how it works and who seems like a good general.

I’m not saying people need to have phd’s and 20 years experience to manage. But probably more than a couple of years.

> there were no standing armies, so naturally the monarch could not be a professional soldier.

In medieval Europe, after the fall of the Roman Empire, monarchs and noblemen were supposed to be trained knights - unless they wanted a career in the Church (and even there, you have the Borgia...). The whole vassalage setup was built on the assumption that civilians would defer to rulers precisely because they could defend them in lawless times - something that required money (for horses, armour etc) and long and specialized martial training. That's why quite a few princes died or were captured in battle, or why disabled or physically-unfit rulers were extremely despised: they were supposed to "get stuck in" on the field. A lot of non-firstborn nobles ended up as professional mercenaries simply because they had the skills and training already. There was no standing army at what we would consider "national" level just because there was no concept of "nation": a ruler would own as much territory as he could afford to physically defend at any given time with his most direct vassals.

This is also part of the reason why they fought all the time: because that was all they knew.

Maybe he's the guy in this story https://www.reddit.com/r/WritingPrompts/comments/9qyhic/wp_o...

The fact is that somebody that was deemed worthy to appoint government ministers appointed him to the role. If he can do the job great call if not questions should be answered.

> In representative democracy, the true job of a representative is to convey the decision making to the people they represent. This includes heeding to the advice of specialists who have been assigned to help the "people", through that representative.

I'm not familiar with the structure of the Japanese government, but it seems like he's not a representative. Isn't this something like a cabinet level position in the US like secretary of defense or agriculture, etc?

In that case wouldn't he be the expert that the representatives are supposed to depend on to understand the things they don't?

A cabinet is filled by elected representatives (diet/ parliamemt/senate) in a representative depocracy, unlike the US..

Par for the course unfortunately.

I remember the hearings after the problems with the Obamacare web site where the lady who ran Health and Human Services made it clear she was a believer in getting health care to people but seemed to think there was nothing she could do to make a software project succeed and that's completely untrue.

(Turns out the editor of my college newspaper was a project manager on that one... An astrophysics professor told me not to get involved in a 'science-in-politics' program that he did and look what happened to him...)

Healthcare.gov is a fascinating study in what can go wrong, and what can go right.

There's a fascinating article on how it was rescued here: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/07/the-s...

Ministers are all about government functions. As long as he has the right people below him and is able to listen to them and exercise judgment, that's what really counts.

What's weird though is "never" having used a computer. I mean, doesn't everyone write/edit with a computer these days? Do people at that level just verbally stream-of-consciousness dictate their memos and secretaries enter them? THAT is weird.

You can't really exercise judgement about a context you can't fathom.

It'd be like a person who's never been to Japan, never studied Japanese, and only read about Japan in popular magazines or seen news reports on tv exercising judgement about how Japanese society should be run.

Sure, he'd have the right people below him. But he'd have no idea if what they're telling him makes any sense, and often his intuition about what he's hearing would be wrong, because he'd be using analogies that don't/can't fit.

That's how you get into "internet is a series of tubes" territory.

    > But he'd have no idea if what they're telling him makes any sense, and often his intuition about what he's hearing would be wrong, because he'd be using analogies that don't/can't fit.
That all depends on how much trust and responsibility he puts into the hands of his subordinates.

In a way, it's like dividing a role into several people. He handles the government-side, the domain experts handle their sides. A micro-manager, of course, would be a disaster in such a position but it can work with the right people and organizational structures.

> As long as he has the right people below him and is able to listen to them and exercise judgment, that's what really counts.

So he's a puppet then? Different people just pull on different strings and he makes a call arbitrarily?

While nobody expects the minister in charge of e.g. nuclear power to be a nuclear engineer, we do expect them to understand how the plants basically operate, and common failure conditions.

In this case we have someone expected to make calls about computer security who not only lacks expertise in that area, but even in the broader area of computing. The issue isn't that they aren't a subject matter expert, the issue is that they lack such core foundation that they cannot listen to different subject matter experts and contextualize that information.

I'm all for less technical managers as a concept but there are degrees. If the manager cannot even understand the context, that's a legitimate problem.

    > Different people just pull on different strings and he makes a call arbitrarily?
I wouldn't say it was "arbitrary", but yes, he would have to assign responsibility to others for decisions and then trust them. It's not that uncommon.

Assuming we're talking about a functional department (and not a Trump-cabinet-like dysfunctional mess), I think we can safely assume the guy understands the concepts, problems and capability of computers and more importantly how these relate to government.

I once worked with a physics postdoc who LITERALLY never used a computer for his role in the Russian institute in which he worked back in the early 90's. All computer work was allocated out to computing professionals and he just relied on them to do the work in consultation with him. It was kind of strange, but I would say he "understood" computers very well. A similar thing could apply here.

> and exercise judgment

This is specifically the part he will probably struggle with if he is responsible for cybersecurity but has never used a computer.

Sometimes things sounds crazy simply because they really are.

In a brief encounter with a very high profile executive of a 5000+ employee company, I was explained that the more he got closer to the top, the less he caries on him, to the point that currently he only brings his wallet, his phone, a pen and a mini notepad.

Bringing more than that for him meant something went wrong.

Cool story but I bet he knew what a USB device was and had used a computer at some point.

Someone sent me this link with the description "Japan's cyber-security minister doesn't use computers" and I thought it was some elaborate way to prevent being hackable... boy I didn't expect this.

I mean, not using computers is the only completely reliable method of cybersecurity.

So the Olympic Games will be ran with pen, paper and hourglass!!

That's one way to stay secure... If you don't have a computer your computer can't be hacked :P

that's kinda the approach that intelligence agencies take nowadays, they are back to paper for the important stuff

Citation needed


Granted, it's Russian and not American, but I'd be surprised if other intelligence agencies weren't taking similar measures

Thanks for the reference!

The theatre of the Absurd has reached New Heights. If you don't understand something, you shouldn't be running the department that focuses on it. The legislature should have vetted his expertise before even proposing him as a candidate.

I mean, there is a precedent of people being completely unqualified and still becoming the president of the most powerful country in the world.

In comparison this is just a minor issue.

I think Putin is very competent and qualified. What are you talking about?

I don't think it matters because ministers are so very rarely subject experts on the department they run.

What annoys me more is when specialists give governments expert advice and then the government still goes off and does the complete opposite because of some predefined agenda they had. Or worse still, because of coercion from lobbyists.

The woman who NTT hired to create DoCoMo had never used a computer, and that was one of the most successful tech products of all time.

Or maybe other people these days don't understand when you don't actually need a computer, something which he is clearly an expert in!

It’s pretty rare, and has been for a long time, for a domain expert to be in charge of a government department. Like St Mattis is the first SecDef in a long while and it still took an act of Congress to get his appointment in.

It might be wrong though, even if common. That might explain a few things in fact.

There's a name for everything, isn't there?

I wonder what is the name of the Law that dictates that there is a name for everything?

well, there is not a name for everything. In English, there are missing words (like the word for "the day after tomorrow").

Haha I thought that too!

Sakurada blamed one particularly unimpressive performance in parliament on the opposition MP Renho Murata, complaining that she had not given him her questions in advance.

“Since there was no prior notice about the questions, I had no idea what would be asked at the session,” the Asahi quoted him as saying.

When Renho asked him how much funding the central government would contribute to the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, he responded: “1,500 yen”, which works out at just over $13, some way below the actual sum of 150 billion yen.

He meant "1,500 億". 1,500 oku yen = 150 billion yen.

I don't know about the rest of your post, but that part is cherry picking something out of context.

At face value it seems ridiculous, but really, what benefits would it bring had he been a run of the mill e-mail and web user?

Assuming he's generally a competent person, he will now be forced to listen to and be informed by smart people in his department instead of putting his foot down and saying "I've used outlook all my life, so obviously I'm an expert. I've never been hacked, so policy is now that everyone should use Outlook."

It reminds me of the shadow home secretary falling for a Microsoft technical support scam.

[1] https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/11/08/abbott_pc_support_s...

Well, I guess no one can hack his computer at least. Most secure minister in Japan perhaps even.

Since he doesn't have an online identity or footprint so to say, wouldn't that make him a prime targt for identity theft?

Since now everyone knows this guy is not using a computer, anyone posing as him must be a fake. I think that should help.

He simply operates on a higher level of abstraction, above the low level interface which constitute a mouse and keyboard.

That's actually the most secure way to use a computer, so maybe he's on to something? ;-)

All joking aside, color me shocked a policy-maker has 0 experience with $thing they are writing policy for.

This is the end result of the 'old boy network', where the aged rise to the top on the basis of how many ticks they have groomed off the fur of the silverback's fur, in the USA/Japan, with no fur, it is the ass licks ledger that counts. Sadly, this is fully operational in the USA military, where billions are spent on old weaponry whose life in a modern war will be measured in minutes when they meet modern drones. (by drones, I mean land based drone attack tanks etc, with costs only 5-10% of the cost of the manned equivalents, air based drones, surface water drones as well as submarine drones) We see China and Russia unfettered by this old boy network that are allowing their brains unfettered freedom to make modern stuff. This has happened before, when the blitzkrieg fought horse drawn gun carts at the start of WW2, when allied armies in Europe were prime examples of the old boy network.

Why do we have it? We have a bribery and feedback mechanism in Congress that quantifies bribery and ass licking to perfection. An elected representative HAS NO SECRET BALLOT!!. We can all see how he votes, as can all the bribers, who can call him to account. We say this exists to allow the voters to see that there rep did their bidding YADA-YADA-YADA - we all know it allow the bribery effectiveness to be watched and measured, so you can threaten to cut them off if they do not dance to the briber's tune. RANT/ How to get a better way? Empower all, with online voting of all eligible voters, in the style of the original Greek democracy. Pay people for their votes, hold back tax refunds for people who do not vote etc. This needs to be fine tuned. Chance of success = zero, as all the well bribed elected officials do not want their gravy train to end. /RANT

> (by drones, I mean land based drone attack tanks etc, with costs only 5-10% of the cost of the manned equivalents, air based drones, surface water drones as well as submarine drones)

Don't you mean guided missiles and torpedoes?

The whole unmanned weapon concept is much older than toy quadcopters.

> We see China and Russia unfettered by this old boy network that are allowing their brains unfettered freedom to make modern stuff.

What? Are you familiar with the terms "oligarch" and "guanxi"?

> Empower all, with online voting of all eligible voters

Online voting is a bad idea. It's far more easily and cheaply subverted than most paper-based analog voting systems.

Wel, AI guided and long loitering capabilities, more or less evolutionary from current designs - butb Russia is ahead in many respects. We tend to forget that Russia focusses their education on applied engineering to a higher degree than in the USA = more engineers per capitac and their level is quite high on average

Oh grasshopper, how little you know.

Just to pick one point, the allied forces in WWII were led by men who had fought in WWI, just a generation earlier. WWI was a technological arms race that moved along just as fast as technology moves today. For example, warships built less than a decade before WWI were obsolete, unable to compete range-wise with ship artillery built just a few years later. Technologies like tanks got introduced midway through the war, and the most important technology was arguably barbed wire.

Why use horse-drawn artillery in WWII? Because it was there. Because they still had it, and they weren't fully recovered from WWI yet. Because cars and trucks and tracked vehicles were unreliable and dependent on imported fuel - fuel that everyone remembered would be very hard to get once war blockades started. Because they needed every gun they could get.

The blitzkrieg was the result of very modern technology, and new strategic and tactical thinking to go with the technology. A couple of years later, it was obsolete...

It's a little funny how we have this picture of the Wehrmacht as blitzkrieg and super-nazis in Panther tanks, crushing everything in lighting advances. Most of the german army slogged along on foot, with the same Mauser 98k bolt-action rifles that their fathers carried, with horse-drawn artillery and supplies. Motorized equipment was concentrated in the elite Panzer and Panzergrenadiere formations, of which there were never many.

Right. Elite units did "blitzkrieg" and quickly broke holes in defensive lines, and then the regular army poured through those holes. Fundamentally, it wasn't that different from how armies used mounted cavalry units centuries earlier.

Awesome name, tho.

They had the same problem in WW1, the name tank was a code word for a mobile steel bunker, and it broke the trench stalemate. After WW1, the old boys ruled. Hitler broke this mold and pioneered new mobile armored warfare. We are lucky that most of the German army was the old style

Repealing the Minimum Bribe Quota is a necessary first step in solving any political issue where a monied interest opposes the will of the people.

Should a minister always have hands-on experience with what they are minister of, though?

Yes, always. A minister of a diplomatic department should have diplomacy experience. A minister of a justice department should have justice experience. Anything else is ludicrous.

> "But Mr Sakurada responded that other officials had the necessary experience and he was confident there would not be a problem."

Then why is he the one taking the job?

> Anything else is ludicrous.

Usually, ministry posting is about politics, not competency: a minister post would be proposed to political allies in exchange for support during the campaign. It's how, in France, we ended up with Taubira as minister of justice (here called "guarde des sceaux") under president Hollande, in exchange for the support of her radical left party during the 2012 elections. And she was mostly incompetent in that role, since she had no prior qualification, other than being a politician.

So you're saying politics in France are ludicrous?

Yes. I used that example because of how it's clear example of a political nomination.

A minister is a manager. We don't expect our managers to be good at programming, because that's what they hired us for. I expect them to be good at managing their ministry and relegating to their subject knowledge and specific members' experiences on subject matter.

I think there’s a delta between “good at X” and “reasonably familiar with and knowledgeable about X.” If you know nothing about X, you can’t speak the same language as the people you’re managing, nor understand the issues they’re tackling, reasonable priorities, reasonable obstacles, etc.

You don’t have to be an excellent pulmonologist to manage pulmonologists, but if you have no experience in healthcare, you’re going to make terrible decisions. You won’t know what’s realistic and what isn’t.

But a Scrum master can do scrums without knowing anything detailed about the project.

I was for a project ( some backend server stuff ) in a company. The scrum master was a former gardner who did a scrum course. He was good, could solve a lot of issues and keep us on track. But he had no idea of the technologies and IT in general.

> But he had no idea of the technologies and IT in general.

Leaders must have the respect of the team in order to be effective. With no knowledge or experience, earning this respect from the team is a tall order.

Actually, I do expect my manager to be good at programming. How could he reasonably manage me otherwise?

So far I haven't been disappointed.

I suspect you will continue to be disappointed with that expectation. Management of resources, motivating employees, and political savvy are all very distinct skills from writing code.

"motivating employees"

I don't think it's possible to motivate somebody in a discipline that you have never tried. If anything, it is hugely demotivational.

It reminds me of a dialogue I had once with a manager of technical writers. She said that she wanted to be a manager because she was bored as a technical writer, in order to motivate people. Really? She couldn't even motivate herself to stay!

So, feel free to claim that managers need different skills. But to motivate people, who can do something you don't know or don't like? Don't kid yourself, please.

He states that he isn't disappointed so far.

Same for me, all my managers so far have had engineering knowledge or held computer science degrees. It's not always been pure coding, but at least compsci.

You don't need to be expert, but at least be related to the thing you head... Would it be ok for minister of finance to say "Never went to a bank, never had an account. I have staff and secretaries they somehow get me things I want"?

A minister isn't a pure people manager though. They also make important decisions. And how are they supposed to know which of their staff to delegate to if they have no subject area expertise?

One can argue that it is possible to successfully delegate what one cannot understand. But organizations in which managers have an understanding of the problem they are delegating are always going to have an advantage over organizations with managers who do not.

I think that this a question of basic computer literacy, and not expertise in technology.

Right? If anything someone in this position needs basic familiarity to avoid social engineering, reminds me of a scene in Hackers:

Security guard answers phone: Security, uh Norm, Norm speaking.

Date: Norman? This is Mr. Eddie Vedder, from accounting. I just had a power surge here at home that wiped out a file I was working on. Listen, I'm in big trouble, do you know anything about computers?

Norm: Uhhmmm... uh gee, uh...

Dade: Right, well my BLT drive on my computer just went AWOL, and I've got this big project due tomorrow for Mr. Kawasaki, and if I don't get it in, he's gonna ask me to commit Hari Kari...

Dade proceeds to get Norm to read him the number off of a modem at the TV station

This is just a bad idea. It's a pretty massive part of what's mostly wrong in the world today. The idea that people who are functionally incompetent should be managing people who are is just pretty fucked in the head.

No, people are being silly. Often people are kept away from their 'home turf' in an effort to make sure that when they absorb the brief (which they're usually given by political and civil advisors) it is in a way which is appropriate to the level they're working at. They're executives, not (eg) healthcare workers or train drivers etc. Their job is not to have a technical grasp of how to perform operations or drive trains, their job is to understand how to measure and influence the system they inherit.

In principle, this might not actually require that much pre-existing domain knowledge.

Agreed, hands-on experience does not equate to understanding. Should architects necessarily be skilled bricklayers, etc? Let alone housing-policy advisors.

And as others have pointed out, politicians are not known to be the most careful users of computers, so perhaps he is rather wise to abstain.

For the architect metaphor to work out he'd need to be a programmer, which I doubt because he'd likely mention that if he was. Also hard to be a programmer if you've never used a computer.

What he's saying applying to architect is "Never been in the building"

For finance minster: "What's a bank?"

For science minister: "I don't need to be able to read, staff can read for me"

For healthcare minister: "Homeopathy all the way, forget everything else".

Um, with things as technical as cyber security, yes.

What makes technical subjects different from, let's say, education, or defence, or the ministry in charge of environmental business?

All of those things you've listed as examples should also be managed by someone with a technical understanding of them.

I wouldn't want someone with no understand of the concept of inflation for example in charge of interest rates.

Equally I wouldn't want someone in charge of nuclear weapons that doesn't understand that if you let of a bomb in the next country you'll get covered in your own fallout.

it's harder to micro bullshit (be hands on) than macro (feign competence using "models") bullshit. If you are clueless about infosec or the hardware it relates to (using a computer) why are you a leader in the ministry of said field for a country?

He doesn't need to be an expert, but NEVER having used a computer, and not knowing what a USB drive is, is notably below what the average citizen knows.

This is akin to the minister of defence not knowing what a bullet is for. It's okay if he's never used a gun, but not knowing what a bullet is, is just way too much.

Should a project manager of a technology project know something about the technology? I had one once (in place where PMs were essentially dictators) who said "I don't need to know technology, I manage people"--and then made all the technology decisions without input.

Yes! A hundred times yes! Don’t let the fact that it’s common hide the fact that it’s absurd to have people with no relevant experience run departments (of governments and businesses).

Should a minister of cyber-security be able to answer questions about USB drives?

They should if USB drives are a vector for cyber attacks.

It's 2018, they should be allowed to drive if they want to and are trained.

It doesn't hurt to have hands-on experience, but it definitely isn't necessary.

The job of a department head is to navigate government bureaucracy and attain the budget, gather resources and hire experts for his department's needs.

The value of a minister of anything is his contacts/professional network, knowledge of government bureaucracy and his ability to marshal them for his department's needs.

It's why in the US, we've had Secretary of Defense who have never fired a gun or been in the military. Obviously most have had military experience, but it isn't a requirement.

People are mistakenly thinking that a minister of cybersecurity is a cybersecurity job. It isn't. It is a government bureaucratic job.

Given a choice between a cybersecurity expert ( with no bureaucratic experience ) and a bureaucratic expert ( with no computer experience ), it's a no brainer to go with the latter as minister of cybersecurity. Ideally, you want bureaucratic expert who is also a cybersecurity expert. But you only have 24 hours in a day.

My Algorithm professor in College had never used a Computer. He had a phd in Mathematics. Started off teaching Mathematics. When CS department was setup, he was invited to teach Maths in CS department. Then he switched to teaching subjects like Algorithms, Data Structures etc. He had never sat in-front of a Computer in life.

Ministers are figureheads; they take national policy and filter it down through their departments then report results back to the top.

Taking the UK as an example our health minister isn't a doctor and our education sec. isn't a professor. The executive branch of government acts no differently to any other large company.

clearly the head of cyber security should be someone who understands the risk of computers. and anyone who truly does would never use one, so perhaps it's a fit after all.

Sure for politics this is a bit different as the minister is probably more involved with budgeting and allocation of resources guided by his hopefully knowledgable advisors. It takes, however, special skill to be able to navigate through such deeply technical field as cybersecurity. While it's absurd to require him to be expert in the area, I would argue the ministry would benefit from him having a healthy curiosity towards technical innovation.

Otherwise it's my opinion as a technical person, that those knowledgeable in the cybersecurity matters will be frustrated by his inability to grasp even the basic concepts relating to the technical issues at hand. This will lead to poor morale and general apathy as technical ability is undervalued and instead political skill is preferred. Not a good mix for cybersecurity.

Let's equate this to sales for a second.

For success in sales, some would argue that salesmanship is vastly more important than nature of the salesman to the product.

iow, A great salesman is someone who can sell ice to eskimos.

Perhaps there is an equivalent argument to be made in management. A great manager is someone who can manage anyone.

I worked for a subsidiary of a very large telco.

The Director of IT had no idea what IPv6 was, had to get me to "configure" her home wifi router (i.e. turn it on), and on and on the list goes.

Plenty of people in high positions have no idea how to "do" anything more than run a meeting and summarize stuff for those above them.

So his interview didn’t involve a whiteboard then?

Not necessarily. I've seen people ace whiteboard interviews and then not be able to use a computer.

Imho this man is a terrible choice for cyber-security minister.

Which has little to do with the fact that he has never used a computer, and everything to do with the fact that he decided that it was a smart idea to admit so publicly.

brazil one-upped it.

soon to be minister of education is a high school dropout, porn actor, who won fame in a tv reality show some 10yrs ago

They have probably been to a school at some point though. This guy is on another level.

What's new[1]?

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPgZfhnCAdI (The Daily Show - Burn Noticed)

You don't have to be a mechanical engineer to lead a car company. However, you should at least know how to drive. This guy is basically saying he never drove a car.

I hope Japan is just playing with the Sun Tzu's idea: when far appear near.

They say he hadn't used a computer, but maybe he's a hacker instead.

On more serious note, I also support idea the person in charge has to have medium knowledge of all aspects of the subject he or she is appointed to lead, mixed with basic knowledge of overlapping subjects with the subject at hand, and finally hard earned high level leadership/people skills.

On the plus side, this guy is literally unhackable!

Ever heard of social engineering?

Does a defence minister need to have used a gun?

One would hope they had military experience which, yes, would have required the use of firearm at a minimum to qualify.

> One would hope they had military experience

Really? Why so?

I've seen ministers put in place with expertise in the actual area (doctor becoming minister of health for example) and it makes no difference. They're just managers after all, the "real work" is done by the civil servants.

>Really? Why so?

For a minister of defense/secretary of defense type role you would hope they had been a career military person, specifically an officer. Officers, at least in the United States, are taught many things from tactics to military history, they understand command structure, they understand procedure and policy, as a career officer they would have years of experience in various commands serving in various capacities.

If you take John Smith from ABC Corp that got a degree from Harvard and is your golfing buddy and give him control over it, sure he's great at handling the civilians and the fobbits but he has no understanding of how a military operates. When generals/admirals tell him things he has no good context.


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