Highlights from Science, Strategy and War by Frans Osinga

This network is the seat of scientific opinion; it is split into thousands of fragments, held by a multitude of individuals, each of whom endorses the others’ opinion at second hand, by relying on the consensual chains which link him to all the others through a sequence of overlapping neighborhoods.

The practice of science/engineering and the pursuit of technology permit us to continually rematch our mental/physical orientation with that of the changing world so that we can continue to thrive and grow in it.

Analysis means taking something apart to understand it; systems thinking means putting it into the context of the larger whole.

The goal, again, is to survive, and to survive on one’s own terms, or improve one’s capacity for independent action.

Orientation shapes the character of present observations-orientation-decision-action loops – while these present loops shape the character of future orientation.

Enmesh adversary in an amorphous, menacing, and unpredictable world of uncertainty, doubt, mistrust, confusion, disorder, fear, panic, chaos.

Boyd finds fault with the separation of inductive and deductive approaches.

Armed forces are like autopoietic systems, continually making efforts to maintain their distinctive character despite the turbulent environment.

War is like the non-linear clash of two Complex Adaptive Systems.

An armed force is by design a fairly robust system. It is designed to cause change within an opponent’s system and oppose the need to do so itself.

Because an error in response or a slower response will magnify in impact over time through the feedback loops, it is basically only necessary to create an initial advantage and prevent the opponent from compensating for it.

Fortunately, there is a way out. Remember, as previously shown, we can forge a new concept by applying the destructive deduction and creative induction mental operations.

It may be advantageous to possess a variety of responses that can be applied rapidly to gain sustenance, avoid danger and diminish an adversary’s capacity for independent action.

All revolve around maintaining cohesion among one’s own units, creating confusion and disrupting cohesion in the enemy camp.

The defense should have better intelligence, operate faster, be more mobile, move even more inconspicuously.

Diminish adversary’s capacity while improving our capacity to adapt as an organic whole, so that our adversary cannot cope while we can cope with events/efforts as they unfold.

This, combined with shattered cohesion, paralysis, and rapid collapse demonstrated by the existing adversary regime, makes it appear corrupt, incompetent, and unfit to govern.

Consequently, the name of the game becomes one of consciously shaping the opponent’s perception of the pattern of operations unfolding before him, while hiding the real picture.

He who is willing and able to take the initiative to exploit variety, rapidity, and harmony – as basis to create as well as adapt to the more indistinct – more irregular – quicker changes of rhythm and pattern, yet shape focus and direction of effort – survives and dominates.

Get inside adversary observation-orientation-decision-action loops (at all levels) by being more subtle, more indistinct, more irregular, and quicker – yet appear to be otherwise.

The Art of Success Appear to be an unsolvable cryptogram while operating in a directed way to penetrate adversary vulnerabilities and weaknesses in order to isolate him from his allies, pull him apart, and collapse his will to resist; yet Shape or influence events so that we not only magnify our spirit and strength but also influence potential adversaries as well as the uncommitted so that they are drawn toward our philosophy and are empathetic toward our success.

Orientation, seen as a result, represents images, views, or impressions of the world shaped by genetic heritage, cultural tradition, previous experiences, and unfolding circumstances.

Orientation is the Schwerpunkt. It shapes the way we interact with the environment – hence orientation shapes the way we observe, the way we decide, the way we act.

The pay-off is ‘a command and control system, whose secret lies in what’s unstated or not communicated to one another (in an explicit sense) – in order to exploit lower-level initiative yet realize higher-level intent, thereby diminish friction and compress time, hence gain both quickness and security.’

Leadership Implies the art of inspiring people to cooperate and enthusiastically take action toward the achievement of uncommon goals.

Survive, survive on own terms, or improve our capacity for independent action.

That is what strategy is about. It is: ‘a game in which we must be able to diminish an adversary’s ability to communicate or interact with his environment while sustaining or improving ours’

Morally our adversaries isolate themselves [!] when they visibly improve their well being to the detriment of others (allies, the uncommitted), by violating codes of conduct or behavior patterns that they profess to uphold or others expect them to uphold.

Here the expected pay-off is: vitality and growth, with the opportunity to shape and adapt to unfolding events thereby influence the ideas and actions of others.

Put another way, ‘one should preserve or build-up moral authority while compromising that of our adversaries in order to pump-up our resolve, drain away adversaries’ resolve, and attract them as well as others to our cause and way of life’.

The central theme is one of interaction/isolation while the key ideas are the moral-mental-physical means towards realizing this interaction/isolation.

In this sense the practice of science/engineering and the pursuit of technology permit us to continually rematch our mental/physical orientation with that changing world so that we can continue to thrive and grow in it.

Furthermore, novelty is produced continuously, if somewhat erratically or haphazardly. Now, in order to thrive and grow in such a world we must match our thinking and doing, hence our orientation, with that emerging novelty.

Uncertainty associated with the unconfinement, undecidability, incompleteness theorems of mathematics and logic. Numerical imprecision associated with using the rational and irrational numbers in the calculation and measurement processes. Quantum uncertainty associated with Planck’s Constant and Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. Entropy increase associated with the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Irregular and erratic behavior associated with far from equilibrium open non-linear processes or systems with feedback Incomprehensibility associated with the inability to completely screen, filter, or otherwise consider the spaghetti-like influences from a plethora of ever-changing, erratic, or unknown outside events. Mutations associated with environmental pressure, replication errors, or unknown influences in molecular and evolutionary biology. Ambiguity associated with natural languages as they are used and interact with one another. Novelty generated by the thinking and actions of unique individuals and their many-sided interactions with each other.

The hidden message for his audience is that, if organizations want to survive in a highly dynamic environment, in peace-time as much as in war, they need to embrace uncertainty and novelty.

To that end we must effectively and efficiently orient ourselves; that is, we must quickly and accurately develop mental images, or schema, to help comprehend and cope with the vast array of threatening and non-threatening events we face.

Significantly, whereas the D and A of the OODA loop generally are seen to stand for Decision and Action, in this model Boyd offers his own view on the meaning of both words by tying Decision to Hypothesis and Action to Test.

The OODA loop is much less a model of decision-making than a model of individual and organizational learning and adaptation in which the element of orientation – made up of genetics, experience, culture – plays the dominant role in the game of hypothesis and test, of analysis and synthesis, of destruction and creation.

Boyd instead argues that the aim is to create and perpetuate a highly fluid and menacing state of affairs for the enemy, and to disrupt or incapacitate his ability to adapt to such an environment.

Moreover, Boyd emphasizes the capability to validate the schemata before and during operations and the capability to devise and incorporate new ones, if one is to survive in a rapidly changing environment.

At the strategic level adaptation is more indirect and takes longer time intervals. It revolves around adjusting doctrines and force structures and disorienting the opponent’s orientation patterns, or mental images. At the grand-strategic level it revolves around shaping the political and societal environment, including an attractive ideology, and selecting a form of warfare.

Boyd advocates an agile cellular organization – networked through ideology, experience, trust, aim and orientation pattern – that thrives in uncertainty and fosters innovation, creativity and initiative.

Higher command levels must restrain themselves in their desire to know all that is going on at lower levels and to interfere. Higher commands must shape the ‘decision space’ of subordinate commanders. They must trust and coach. They must encourage cooperation and consultation among lower levels. They must accept bad news and be open for suggestions, lower-level initiatives and critique.

In an abstract sense, Boyd regards these schools of thought as alternative modes of behavior, and the theories as orientation patterns. He regards strategic theories and strategic concepts, like doctrines, as part of the repertoire of a strategist’s orientation pattern, integrating them in the cognitive dimension and in the discovery of fundamental similarities when he strips the theories to their bare essentials and expresses them in systems-theoretical/neo-Darwinist terms.

His very starting premise is that the world is fundamentally uncertain, truth is an arena of combat, knowledge is a weapon, as is the capability to evolve one’s knowledge base.

In the ‘Information domain’ the force must have the ‘capability to collect, share, access, and protect information’, as well as ‘the capability to collaborate in the information domain, which enables a force to improve its information position through processes of correlation, fusion, and analysis’.

Also the reasons for fighting cannot be understood within the nation-state framework: ‘more fundamental is the clash over different conceptions of community and how these conceptions should be reflected in political arrangements and organizations’.

The distinction between combatant and non-combatant is irrelevant. Deliberately ignoring and destroying this distinction is an explicit part of strategy in these conflicts.

Thus, academically they open the possibility of being engaged in a war, employing non-military methods to achieve their aim, while the West would not recognize that it was engaged in one.

Regarding war not as a military but as a political struggle, they focus on the political will of western politicians and polities; exploit their impatience and casualty-sensitivity.

Highlights from Master and Margarita by Mikhaíl Afanasyevich Bulgakov

Riukhin sat in complete solitude, hunched over his bream, drinking glass after glass, understanding and recognizing that it was no longer possible to set anything right in his life, that it was only possible to forget.

‘Yesterday, in your office, I saw this individuum briefly, but it only takes a fleeting glance at his face to understand that he is a bastard, a squabbler, a trimmer and a toady.’

Today I’m an unofficial person, and tomorrow, lo and behold, I’m an official one! And it also happens the other way round — oh, how it does!’

The counting-up took place, interspersed with Koroviev’s quips and quiddities, such as ‘Cash loves counting’, ‘Your own eye won’t lie’, and others of the same sort.

It was necessary at once, right on the spot, to invent ordinary explanations for extraordinary phenomena.

Love leaped out in front of us like a murderer in an alley leaping out of nowhere, and struck us both at once.

‘Can they be crooks?’ the magician asked worriedly of his visitor. ‘Can there be crooks among the Muscovites?’

Never ask for anything! Never for anything, and especially from those who are stronger than you. They’ll make the offer themselves, and give everything themselves.

Highlights from Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion

That is one last thing to remember: writers are always selling somebody out.

The future always looks good in the golden land, because no one remembers the past.

a place where little is bright or graceful, where it is routine to misplace the future and easy to start looking for it in bed.

Joan Baez was a personality before she was entirely a person, and, like anyone to whom that happens, she is in a sense the hapless victim of what others have seen in her, written about her, wanted her to be and not to be.

Now, at an age when the wounds begin to heal whether one wants them to or not,

As it happens I am comfortable with the Michael Laskis of this world, with those who live outside rather than in, those in whom the sense of dread is so acute that they turn to extreme and doomed commitments; I know something about dread myself, and appreciate the elaborate systems with which some people manage to fill the void, appreciate all the opiates of the people, whether they are as accessible as alcohol and heroin and promiscuity or as hard to come by as faith in God or History.

Our favorite people and our favorite stories become so not by any inherent virtue, but because they illustrate something deep in the grain, something unadmitted.

I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not.

The dismal fact is that self-respect has nothing to do with the approval of others—who are, after all, deceived easily enough;

However long we postpone it, we eventually lie down alone in that notoriously uncomfortable bed, the one we make ourselves. Whether or not we sleep in it depends, of course, on whether or not we respect ourselves.

They are willing to invest something of themselves; they may not play at all, but when they do play, they know the odds.

If we have been taught to keep our promises—if, in the simplest terms, our upbringing is good enough—we stay with the body, or have bad dreams.

Of course we would all like to “believe” in something, like to assuage our private guilts in public causes, like to lose our tiresome selves; like, perhaps, to transform the white flag of defeat at home into the brave white banner of battle away from home. And of course it is all right to do that; that is how, immemorially, things have gotten done.

Because when we start deceiving ourselves into thinking not that we want something or need something, not that it is a pragmatic necessity for us to have it, but that it is a moral imperative that we have it, then is when we join the fashionable madmen, and then is when the thin whine of hysteria is heard in the land, and then is when we are in bad trouble. And I suspect we are already there.

She is an open and trusting child, unprepared for and unaccustomed to the ambushes of family life, and perhaps it is just as well that I can offer her little of that life.

It is hard to find California now, unsettling to wonder how much of it was merely imagined or improvised; melancholy to realize how much of anyone’s memory is no true memory at all but only the traces of someone else’s memory, stories handed down on the family network.

Misinformation about rattlesnakes is a leitmotiv of the insomniac imagination in Los Angeles.

That was the year, my twenty-eighth, when I was discovering that not all of the promises would be kept, that some things are in fact irrevocable and that it had counted after all, every evasion and every procrastination, every mistake, every word, all of it.

the canker, you see, was already in the rose

Everything that was said to me I seemed to have heard before, and I could no longer listen.

All I mean is that I was very young in New York, and that at some point the golden rhythm was broken, and I am not that young any more.

Highlights from Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

There was something immodest about her modesty: it announced itself.

But Ifemelu had always sensed, in Sister Ibinabo, a deep-sown, simmering hostility to young girls. Sister Ibinabo did not like them, she merely watched them and warned them, as though offended by what in them was still fresh and in her was long dried up.

the easy relationship between two people who carefully avoided conversations of any depth.

He was tall and rangy, with the easy manner of the entitled.

She had always liked this image of herself as too much trouble, as different, and she sometimes thought of it as a carapace that kept her safe.

With him, she was at ease; her skin felt as though it was her right size.

If you are not careful in this country, your children become what you don’t know.

Afterwards they would return to America to fight on the Internet over their mythologies of home, because home was now a blurred place between here and there, and at least online they could ignore the awareness of how inconsequential they had become.

It had to be that Americans were taught, from elementary school, to always say something in class, no matter what.

The wind blowing across the British Isles was odorous with fear of asylum seekers, infecting everybody with the panic of impending doom, and so articles were written and read, simply and stridently, as though the writers lived in a world in which the present was unconnected to the past, and they had never considered this to be the normal course of history: the influx into Britain of black and brown people from countries created by Britain.

They would not understand why people like him, who were raised well fed and watered but mired in dissatisfaction, conditioned from birth to look towards somewhere else, eternally convinced that real lives happened in that somewhere else, were now resolved to do dangerous things, illegal things, so as to leave, none of them starving, or raped, or from burned villages, but merely hungry for choice and certainty.

She wished she believed in the devil, in a being outside of yourself that invaded your mind and caused you to destroy that which you cared about.

He was left-leaning and well-meaning, crippled by his acknowledgment of his own many privileges.

They were the sanctified, the returnees, back home with an extra gleaming layer.

The best thing about America is that it gives you space. I like that. I like that you buy into the dream, it’s a lie but you buy into it and that’s all that matters.

But of course it makes sense because we are Third Worlders and Third Worlders are forward-looking, we like things to be new, because our best is still ahead, while in the West their best is already past and so they have to make a fetish of that past.

Highlights from Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

When you shoot a person, you say why and do it, without excuse. This is how the Radchaai are.

She was old enough to know firsthand that we had, indeed, shot people in the past. She could hardly be blamed for fearing we might do so in the future.

There had been a time when a property owner like her would have been shot early on, so someone’s client could take over her plantation.

And within the gravity well of the planet Shis’urna itself—or for that matter any planet—lay the Underworld, the land of the dead from which humanity had had to escape in order to become fully free of its demonic influence.

And you don’t like my saying that, but here’s the truth: luxury always comes at someone else’s expense. One of the many advantages of civilization is that one doesn’t generally have to see that, if one doesn’t wish. You’re free to enjoy its benefits without troubling your conscience.”

Human bodies to make into ancillaries weren’t exactly a scarce resource.

Among the wealthy, clientage was a very hierarchical relationship—a patron promised certain sorts of assistance to her client, both financial and social, and a client provided support and services to her patron. These were promises that could last generations. In the oldest, most prestigious houses the servants were nearly all the descendants of clients, for instance, and many businesses owned by wealthy houses were staffed by client branches of lower ones.

“Only criminals, or people who aren’t functioning well, are reeducated. Nobody really cares what you think, as long as you do what you’re supposed to.”

Others took longer to leave, testing my authority, perhaps, though not far—anyone with the stomach to do such a thing had been shot sometime in the last five years, or at least had learned to restrain such a near-suicidal impulse.

You see murder and destruction on an unimaginable scale, but they see the spread of civilization, of Justice and Propriety, of Benefit for the universe. The death and destruction, these are unavoidable by-products of this one, supreme good.

To noncitizens, who only ever see Radchaai in melodramatic entertainments, who know nothing of the Radch besides ancillaries and annexations and what they think of as brainwashing, such an order might be appalling, but hardly surprising. But the idea of shooting citizens was, in fact, extremely shocking and upsetting. What, after all, was the point of civilization if not the well-being of citizens? And these people were citizens now.

Justice, propriety, and benefit, isn’t it? Let every act be just, and proper, and beneficial.

Highlights for Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

Memory is redundant: it repeats signs so that the city can begin to exist.

Perhaps, Kublai thought, the empire is nothing but a zodiac of the mind’s phantasms.

the emperor is he who is a foreigner to each of his subjects,

that the more one was lost in unfamiliar quarters of distant cities, the more one understood the other cities he had crossed to arrive there;

By now, from that real or hypothetical past of his, he is excluded; he cannot stop; he must go on to another city, where another of his pasts awaits him, or something perhaps that had been a possible future of his and is now someone else’s present.

Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.”

“Memory’s images, once they are fixed in words, are erased,”

“You return from your voyages with a cargo of regrets!”

Kublai reflected on the invisible order that sustains cities, on the rules that decreed how they rise, take shape and prosper, adapting themselves to the seasons, and then how they sadden and fall in ruins.

There is the city where you arrive for the first time; and there is another city which you leave never to return.

“I speak and speak,” Marco says, “but the listener retains only the words he is expecting.”

Traveling, you realize that differences are lost: each city takes to resembling all cities, places exchange their form, order, distances, a shapeless dust cloud invades the continents.

The catalogue of forms is endless: until every shape has found its city, new cities will continue to be born.

Convinced that every innovation in the city influences the sky’s pattern, before taking any decision they calculate the risks and advantages for themselves and for the city and for all worlds.

I recognize only cities and cannot distinguish what is outside them. In uninhabited places each stone and each clump of grass mingles, in my eyes, with every other stone and clump.

If I tell you that the city toward which my journey tends is discontinuous in space and time, now scattered, now more condensed, you must not believe the search for it can stop.

The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of the inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space.

Highlights for Certain to Win by Chet Richards

War strategies, however, rest on a deeper foundation of people working together under stress and uncertainty, and good ones shape the terms of the conflict to their liking before combat begins.

What the commanders had, at best, was information about the enemy within a few miles of them.

Rather than dig in and “consolidate his position,” or otherwise savor the fruits of victory, he proceeded to use his advantage in time to neutralize his opponents’ forces and weapons.

Your other choice, if you believe that you do not have the resources to carry out the order, or that it is just plain dumb, is to challenge it. The German system encouraged this, but once agreement was reached, the superior could assume that the mission would be accomplished.

the greater risk is the loss of time that comes from always trying to be explicit.

He must observe the environment, which includes himself, his opponent, the physical, mental, and moral situation, and potential allies and opponents.

The idea behind strategy is to create chaos in the opponent, not in ourselves.

Strategy is a mental tapestry of changing intentions for harmonizing and focusing our efforts as a basis for realizing some aim or purpose in an unfolding and often unforeseen world of many bewildering events and many contending interests.

He starts blaming the customer, or insisting that his sales force “educate the customer.”

Basic Rule of All Competition (BRAC): You are not smarter than either the customer or the competition.

Another, and more insidious strategic effect of complex methodologies is that they can turn the attention of the company inwards. Most of them, for example, require extensive input.

As Musashi summarized it, in the translation by Hanshi Steve Kaufman, which was Boyd’s favorite:Practice is the only way that you will ever come to understand what the Way of the warrior is about . . . Words can only bring you to the foot of the path . . .”

Deming rails against organizations that don’t understand the importance of requiring first-line supervisors to have expertise in the jobs they manage. How can a supervisor have a “feel” for how his operation is going if he’s never done it?

Communications is the bottoms-up aspect of command and control, and the Marines define “control,” to be this stream of information.

Obviously it takes a lot of mutual trust to know whom to appoint to which missions and especially to admit and quickly communicate mistakes.

Concentrate instead on the essence of the concept, which is to devolve maximum responsibility onto the subordinate, in return for his or her pledge to use his/her initiative and creativity to accomplish the task, consistent with your ground rules.

You must try these concepts, practice them, create mechanisms for sharing experiences, develop common outlooks and orientations, and manage by them.

No probabilities here; you’ve made yourself certain to win.

Because you never know what will prod your creativity and the more widely you prospect, the more likely you are to find that something to set your offerings apart from all of your competitors.

Studies of innovation reveal that practically everything new consists of bits and pieces of other concepts, often from fields that appeared to be unrelated, that somebody had the genius to reassemble to form something new and exciting.

As Boyd pointed out, a plan is only an intention, and a strategy is merely a scheme for creating and managing plans.

If you want your system to run faster, what you have to do is change it in ways that decrease the time it takes to do the most important things you do, those that affect the customer.

Highlights for Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

“Whenever scientists say they’re Christian,” Sax said, “I take it to be an aesthetic statement.”

“You Americans would like to end politics and history, so you can stay in a world you dominate!”

Evolution is a matter of environment and chance, acting over millions of years. But history is a matter of environment and choice, acting within lifetimes, and sometimes within years, or months, or days!

Mutual professional respect, a great maker of friendships. And so nice to talk nothing but business.

It means rather fitting into it as it is, and worshiping it with our attention.

Beauty is power and elegance, right action, form fitting function, intelligence, and reasonability.

Only three who could even try, and Frank’s French was worse than no French at all, like listening to someone attack the language with a hatchet.

In practice, as last night had made clear, it had the U.N.’s usual toothlessness before national armies and transnational money.

Economics is like astrology in that sense, except that economics serves to justify the current power structure, and so it has a lot of fervent believers among the powerful.

They are richer than us. And in this system, richer is more powerful.

If any men in the world were treated like you treat your women, the U.N. would ostracize that nation. But because it is a matter of women, the men in power look away. They say it is a cultural matter, a religious matter, not to be interfered with. Or it is not called slavery because it is only an exaggeration of how women are treated elsewhere.

Young men and women, educated very carefully to be apolitical, to be technicians who thought they disliked politics, making them putty in the hands of their rulers, just like always.

Some of them defined ideology as an imaginary relationship to a real situation.

And as she cleaned the dishes, she felt her stiff throat move; she croaked out her part of the conversation, and helped, with her little strand, to weave the human illusion.