The Vegas security conferences used to feel like diving into a river. While yes, you networked and made deals and talked about exploits, you also felt for currents and tried to get a prediction of what the future held. A lot of this was what the talks were about. But you went to booths to see what was selling, or what people thought was selling, at least.
But it doesn't matter anymore what the talks are about. The talks are about everything. There's a million of them and they cover every possible topic under the sun. And the big corpo booths are all the same. People want to sell you XDR, and what that means for them is a per-seat or per-IP charge. When there's no differentiation in billing, there's no differentiation in product.
That doesn't mean there aren't a million smaller start-ups with tiny cubicles in the booth-space, like pebbles on a beach. Hunting through them is like searching for shells - for every Thinkst Canary there's a hundred newly AI-enabled compliance engines.
DefCon and Blackhat in some ways used to be more international as well - but a lot of the more interesting speakers can't get visas anymore or aren't allowed to talk publicly by their home countries.
If you've been in this business for a while, you have a dreadful fear of being in your own bubble. To not swim forward is to suffocate. This is what drove you to sit in the front row of as many talks as possible at these two huge conferences, hung over, dehydrated, confused by foreign terminology in a difficult accent.
But now you can't dive in to make forward progress. Vegas is even more of a forbidding dystopia, overloaded with crowds so heavy it can no longer feed them or even provide a contiguous space for the ameba-like host to gather. Talks echo and muddle in cavernous rooms with the general acoustics of a high school gymnasium. You are left with snapshots and fragmented memories instead of a whole picture.
For me, one such moment was a Senate Staffer, full of enthusiasm, crowing about how smart the other people working on policy and walking the halls of Congress were - experts and geniuses at healthcare, for example! But if our cyber security policy matches our success at a health system we are doomed.
I brought my kids this year and it helps to be able to see through the chaos with new eyes. What's "cool" I asked? in the most boomery way possible. Because I know Jailbreaking an AI to say bad things is not it, even though it had all the political spotlights in the world focused on examining the "issue".
The more crowded the field gets, the less immersion you have. Instead of diving in you are holding your palm against the surface of the water, hoping to sense the primordial tube worms at the sea vents feeding on raw data leagues below you. "Take me to the beginning, again" you say to them, through whatever connection you can muster.