Friday, May 30, 2008

The New Networks

Human beings are social animals. Long before we became human – or even recognizably close – we became social. For at least 11 million years, before our ancestors broke off from the gorillas and chimpanzees, we cultivated social characteristics. In social groups, these distant forbears could share the tasks of survival: finding food, raising young, and self-defense. Human babies, in particular, take many years to mature, requiring constantly attentive parenting – time stolen away from other vital activities. Living in social groups helped ensure that these defenseless members of the group grew to adulthood. The adults who best expressed social qualities bore more and healthier children.

--Mark Pesce

...humans are manageable and our behavior is stochastic.

They never know which particular rat is going to do whatever. But they have a pretty good idea as to what proportion of the total rat population will do whatever or something very close.


Monday, May 26, 2008

The binary trap of us vs. them thinking ensures that victory will be both difficult and temporary. Playing a zero-sum game, like “King of the Mountain,” is ultimately a losing proposition for the winner. The United States of America has been playing at the top of the hill for a long time—although that means we’ve enjoyed an insane standard of living that whole time, it also means every other opponent in the game has been studying and preparing for conflict with the King of the Mountain.

The imperative for Invisible War is to recognize that we’re all intimately attached to our “enemies” and “opponents.”

Abundance is equal to freedom. Look at the most free people in the world these days and it doesn’t really matter what country you’re in; it just matters if you have more than enough of the things you need.


Up to 100 repeaters are needed per square mile, depending on the density and height of nearby buildings. As many as 100 people can comfortably share a DSL line; Meraki calculates they're getting 1 megabyte per second on average. As with any network, speed drops as more people log on, but heavy traffic automatically reroutes to nearby, less-trafficked connections. Six months into the project, Meraki had installed upward of 750 repeaters, covering about 10% of San Francisco; they'll need at least 10,000 -- and many more DSL lines -- for the entire city. (If you're in the city and looking for a Wi-Fi signal, the network is called "Free the Net.")

I’m frequently amazed how easy it is to break some pretty big-name security systems. There are a lot of reasons for this, but the big one is that it’s impossible to prove that something is secure. All you can do is try to break it.—if you fail, you know that it’s secure enough to keep you out, but what about someone who’s smarter than you? Anyone can design a security system so strong he himself can’t break it.

Think about that for a second, because it’s not obvious. No one is qualified to analyze their own security designs, because the designer and the analyzer will be the same person, with the same limits. Someone else has to analyze the security, because it has to be secure against things the designers didn’t think of.

--Bruce Schneier

Friday, May 23, 2008

"So in a sense, (John) Boyd saw conflict not just as a contest between two (or more) knowledge / novelty-generating systems but between dissipative structures."
--Chet Richards

NOTES: Isolate your opponent from the external environment to prevent energy acquisition and trap entropy (force them towards thermodynamic equilibrium and "heat death"). Increase your own connectivity to acquire energy and expel entropy faster (movement farther away from thermodynamic equilibrium and greater structural complexity).
--John Robb

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The key requirements to become "superempowered" are comprehension of a complex system's connectivty and operation; access to critical network hubs; possession of a force that can be leveraged against the structure of the system and a wilingness to use it.

Because guinea pigs require much less room than traditional livestock and reproduce extremely quickly, they are a more profitable source of food and income than many traditional stock animals, such as pigs and cows; moreover, they can be raised in an urban environment. Both rural and urban families raise guinea pigs for supplementary income, and the animals are commonly bought and sold at local markets and large-scale municipal fairs. Guinea pig meat is high in protein and low in fat and cholesterol, and is described as being similar to rabbit and the dark meat of chicken. The animal may be served fried (chactado or frito), broiled (asado), or roasted (al horno), and in urban restaurants may also be served in a casserole or a fricassee.

The guinea pig is able to breed year-round, with birth peaks usually coming in the spring; as many as five litters can be produced per year The gestation period lasts from 59–72 days, with an average of 63–68 days. Litters yield 1–6 pups, with an average of three. Males reach sexual maturity at 3–5 weeks; females can be fertile as early as four weeks and can carry litters before they are adults.

--thanks to Duke Whitey

Idea of fast transients suggests that, in order to win, we should operate at a faster tempo or rhythm than our adversaries -- or, better yet, get inside adversary’s observation-orientation-decision-action time cycle or loop.

Why? Such activity will make us appear ambiguous (unpredictable) thereby generate confusion and disorder among our adversaries—since our adversaries will be unable to generate mental images or pictures that agree with the menacing as well as faster transient rhythm or patterns they are competing against.

--John Boyd, Patterns of Conflict

Monday, May 19, 2008

Discussions of Israel's military trade usually focus on the flow of weapons into the country--US-made Caterpillar bulldozers used to destroy homes in the West Bank and British companies supplying parts for F-16s. Overlooked is Israel's huge and expanding export business. Israel now sends $1.2 billion in "defense" products to the United States--up dramatically from $270 million in 1999. In 2006 Israel exported $3.4 billion in defense products--well over a billion more than it received in US military aid. That makes Israel the fourth-largest arms dealer in the world, overtaking Britain.

Much of this growth has been in the so-called "homeland security" sector. Before 9/11 homeland security barely existed as an industry. By the end of this year, Israeli exports in the sector will reach $1.2 billion--an increase of 20 percent. The key products and services are high-tech fences, unmanned drones, biometric IDs, video and audio surveillance gear, air passenger profiling and prisoner interrogation systems--precisely the tools and technologies Israel has used to lock in the occupied territories.

--via Naomi Klien

This is how this Golden Shield will work: Chinese citizens will be watched around the clock through networked CCTV cameras and remote monitoring of computers. They will be listened to on their phone calls, monitored by digital voice-recognition technologies. Their Internet access will be aggressively limited through the country’s notorious system of online controls known as the “Great Firewall.” Their movements will be tracked through national ID cards with scannable computer chips and photos that are instantly uploaded to police databases and linked to their holder’s personal data. This is the most important element of all: linking all these tools together in a massive, searchable database of names, photos, residency information, work history and biometric data. When Golden Shield is finished, there will be a photo in those databases for every person in China: 1.3 billion faces.

--via Rolling Stone

In a globalized environment, military technologies will be developed at an accelerating pace, some of which might have the potential to render established capabilities obsolete.

For example, a cheap, simple-to-make and easy-to-use weapon might be invented that is effective against a wide range of targets and against which established countermeasures are ineffective. Based on civilian developments, which have become widely available this could flood the world’s arms markets, from the OECD nations to the bazaars of Africa and Asia, altering perceptions about the use of force and power balances.

--source: Global Trends 2007-2036

Break any rule, sooner than lose the initiative.

In counterinsurgency, the initiative is everything. If the enemy is reacting to you, you control the operation and, provided you mobilize the population, you will win. If you are reacting to the enemy – even if you are killing or capturing him in large numbers – then he is controlling the environment and you will eventually lose. This is because, in counterinsurgency, the enemy almost always has the tactical initiative. He initiates most attacks, targets you unexpectedly and withdraws too fast for you to react. So instead, you must focus on the local population, build your own solution to the environment and its systemic problems, further your own game plan and fight the enemy only when he gets in the way. This helps you keep the initiative.

Wal-Mart maintains personal data – names, addresses, social security numbers – on its 1.6 million current employees; millions of additional former employees; and 47 million members of its Sam’s Club operations. It keeps records of anyone who has tried to use fraudulent checks or filed a claim against Wal-Mart; anyone who uses a Wal-Mart’s pharmacy; as well as the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), license plate number and home address of any motorist who has had his automobile’s oil changed at a Wal-Mart, said [David] Harrison [Wal-Mart's "first manager of 'threat assessments and collection, analysis and dissemination'"].

Blitzing the system
The key to unlocking the disruptive potential of cities within this new form of warfare, is to attack key points (systempunkts) within target infrastructure and social networks to force a change in the city's dynamic. Infrastructure attacks, particularly on power/fuel/water, negate the ability of the government to deliver political goods (for example, in October Baghdad only received 2.4 hours of electricity a day). This halts economic activity and forces the population to rely upon primary loyalties for daily survival (families, neighborhoods, religious organizations, gangs, etc.). It also damages the ability of the government to deliver political goods, which are the key to legitimacy. As a result, primary loyalties rise and nationalism falls. Next, attacks on the social fabric along fault lines (religious, ethnic, class, etc.), are then used to force these primary loyalty groups to arm themselves for security. Finally, as these manufactured groups naturally come into conflict (for access to resource, protection, or revenge), the city's intrinsic interconnectedness allows it to assume its own emergent dynamic, replete with feedback loops that accelerate conflict.

--via John Robb

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The global population has mushroomed from 2.5 billion to over 6 billion in the last 50 years. And more folks keep showing up at the party. We live on a planet of children, where almost 2 billion people are under the age of eighteen.

Roughly one-fifth of all U.S. households are disconnected from the Internet and have never used e-mail, according to research firm Parks Associates.A recent phone survey of U.S. households by Parks found 20 million households are without Internet access, approximately 18 percent of all U.S. households.

The insurgency will continue to improve over time Despite losses, the macro behavior of the Iraqi insurgency will become more complex (virulent) the longer it operates.….
Breakout is possible. While it is unlikely that the insurgency will spread horizontally to other countries in an incremental fashion, it is very likely that those trained in this environment will seed other movements (and inevitable that the knowledge of this will initiate activity). Further, this breakout can occur globally and in unexpected locales — since this neutral method isn’t tied to any single motive, it can be applied to any cause.

--John Robb

During the Korean War, American servicemen stationed in Korea and Japan invented the “speedball,” an injectable mixture of amphetamine and heroin.

U.S. troops in Vietnam preferred marijuana, but when subject to a sudden marijuana ban, they turned to heroin. Discipline problems quickly rose; as one commanding officer
lamented 2 years after the marijuana crackdown, “If it would get them to give up the hard stuff, I would buy all the marijuana and hashish in the Delta as a present."

--Paul Rexton Kan

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The affairs of man are conducted by our own, man-made rules and according to man-made theories. Man’s achievements rest upon the use of symbols. For this reason, we must consider ourselves as a symbolic, semantic class of life, and those who rule the symbols, rule us. Now the term ‘symbol’ applies to a variety of things, words and money included. A piece of paper, called a dollar or a pound, has very little value if the other fellow refuses to take it; so we see that money must be considered as a symbol for human agreement, as well as deeds to property, stocks, bonds. The reality behind the money-symbol is doctrinal, ‘mental’, and one of the most precious characteristics of mankind. But it must be used properly; that is, with the proper understanding of its structure and ways of functioning. It constitutes a grave danger when misused.

When we say ‘our rulers’, we mean those who are engaged in the manipulation of symbols. There is no escape from the fact that they do, and that they always will, rule mankind, because we constitute a symbolic class of life, and we cannot cease from being so, except by regressing to the animal level.


Billions of pounds spent on Britain’s 4.2 million closed-circuit television cameras has not had a significant impact on crime, according to the senior police officer piloting a new database.

Detective Chief Inspector Mick Neville said it was a “fiasco” that only 3 per cent of street robberies in London were solved using CCTV.

Britain has more CCTV cameras than any other country in Europe.

--source: Times Online