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Threeness games — some back-up materials

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — ternary logic is of special import because it upsets binary oppositional thinking ]
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In a recent comment, I said that to connect with my various posts on three-player games, there’s this from an episode of Designated Survivor:

transnational three-way spy trade

For the record, that’s a win-win-win strategy.

**

While we’re on the subject of threeness games, there’s Brett Kavanaugh‘s explanation of Devil’s Triangle as a drinking game in his testimony:

Sen Whitehouse: Devil’s Triangle?
Judge Kavanaugh: Drinking game.
Sen Whitehouse: How’s it played?
Judge Kavanaugh: Three glasses, in a triangle..
Sen Whitehouse: And?
Judge Kavanaugh: You ever play Quarters?
Sen Whitehouse: No.
Judge Kavanaugh: It’s a Quarters game.

Here’s a more conventional explanation:

A “Devil’s Triangle” is a widely used term for an act of sexual congress between two men and a woman; but during his hearing, Brett Kavanaugh nonsensically insisted that this was some sort of drinking game.

Okay, these matters are interesting not because they deal with threeness as in friend or foe games in which temporary alliances (twos) can overcome single ones while new alliances can switch losers for winners — nor as in Konrad Lorenz‘s goose pecking order example, where a > b > c > a — but simply because threeness is involved — three players, three cups &c.

**

For good measure, from MIT Tech Review, The first “social network” of brains lets three people transmit thoughts to each other’s heads:

In recent years, physicists and neuroscientists have developed an armory of tools that can sense certain kinds of thoughts and transmit information about them into other brains. That has made brain-to-brain communication a reality.

These tools include electroencephalograms (EEGs) that record electrical activity in the brain and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), which can transmit information into the brain.

That — apart from the brains themselves — is the basic tech involved.

In 2015, Andrea Stocco and his colleagues at the University of Washington in Seattle used this gear to connect two people via a brain-to-brain interface. The people then played a 20 questions–type game.

An obvious next step is to allow several people to join such a conversation, and today Stocco and his colleagues announced they have achieved this using a world-first brain-to-brain network. The network, which they call BrainNet, allows a small group to play a collaborative Tetris-like game.

That’s the gaming.

And here’s the pretty diagram that allows those like myself who have only the haziest of ideas where or what the occipital cortex is to nod sagely, acknowledging that we learn something new every day..

**

One isn’t, I’ve argued, even a number: one is one and all alone, and ever more shall be so. Two is the first number, standing as it does both for binary systems (duel and duet, competition and collaboration) and for many or all, as in the one and the many, or one and all..

But three — ah, three is the first differentiated number, neither two nor two plus two (aka two multiplied by two, two to its own power, two squared, four).. It stands in its own right: three.

In the number series, it offers us our first hint that there are shades of grey possible between none and one, yes and no, day and night, black and white..

Three is the tie-breaker, the umpire, balance, justice — three is the liminal number par excellence.

**

And one last scrap of detail:

The proof-of-principle network connects three people: two senders and one person able to receive and transmit, all in separate rooms and unable to communicate conventionally. The group together has to solve a Tetris-like game in which a falling block has to be rotated so that it fits into a space at the bottom of the screen.

The two senders, wearing EEGs, can both see the full screen. The game is designed so the shape of the descending block fits in the bottom row either if it is rotated by 180 degrees or if it is not rotated. The senders have to decide which and broadcast the information to the third member of the group.

This is all a bit primitive thus far, but then it’s also a beginning — a window on vast possibilities.

**

  • Zenpundit, Numbers by the numbers: three / pt 1,
  • Zenpundit, Spectacularly non-obvious, I: Elkus on strategy & games
  • Zenpundit, Spectacularly non-obvious, 2: threeness games
  • Zenpundit, Spectacular illustration of a game of three

  • & no doubt, more..
  • Three — watch out for it, in Hegel, in CS Peirce, in George Boole, in Clausewitz, everywhere!

    A chess tactic and its Trump/Putin similar

    Saturday, July 14th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — companion to A soccer tactic and its parliamentary analog ]
    .

    Trump and Putin are on their respective ways to a meet in Helsinki. This post offers a chess angle on the importance of symmetry as a technique Putin happily uses on Trump and others. Symmetry is already a keen interest of mine in the arts, where it is a prime key to beauty. In chess, too, and it would seem in diplomacy and strategy, symmetry matters.

    **

    Here’s the game in which Bobby Fischer kills Robert Byrne in an astounding 21 moves:

    **

    What’s of interest to us here is the symmetry at move 11, shown here in two diagrams:

    where the blue lines annotate the symmetries in files a, b, c, d, g, and h

    and here:

    where the red center-line serves as a mirror for those symmetrical files, their positions highlighted in green.

    And here’s the site’s comment on symmetry:

    It’s quite often the case that in very symmetrical positions such as this one, things go about very slowly, it’s often a bit of a maneuvering game, not a lot of, let’s say, great tactics, or fireworks, things of course can change, but there’s a great amount of symmetry here..

    **

    Well, chess is the game of strategy par eminence, isn’t it? Here’s a quote I just used in my metaphors collection:

    Brian Williams: Putin does the most rudimentary things, like mirroring, which communications experts will tell you is a way to kind of endearing yourself to your guest.
    .
    Clint Watts: [agreeing] Ingratiate and mirror.

    President Trump openly says If you say to me that you like me, then I like you. He’s just opening the door for this. Putin has done this with other world leaders. .. You want to build rapport with President Bush, talk about religion and the Christian Orthodox church. you do these things to build and ingratiate and build a mirror relationship with the target.

    I’m not saying there’s a direct parallel between the chess comment and the Brian Williams / Clint Watts conversation, which just scratches the surface of the communications stragegy of mirroring and similar techniques, and their relevance to the immadiate situation with Trump on his way to Helsinki to meet Putin

    with only two translators in the room

    — just that the emphasis on symmetry in the celebrated Fischer chess match gives us a clue to the possible importance of symmetry in crucial strategic situations in general — and thus to the coming week’s Trump / Putin situation.

    Chet Richards on “Who Still Reads Boyd?”

    Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

    [Mark Safranski / “zen“]

    Dr. Chet Richards had an excellent blog post on the continuing relevance of Colonel John Boyd’s strategic concepts:

    Who still reads Boyd?

    Apparently the Russians. In “The Moscow School of hard knocks: Key pillars of Russian strategy,” 17 Jan 2017,  CNA analyst and former NDU program manager Michael Kofman
    offers vivid illustrations of ideas that Boyd developed in his various papers and presentations (all available on our Articles page).  He doesn’t cite Boyd, but you’ll recognize the concepts.

    I have no idea of how Kofman came across these ideas — Boyd has nine pages of sources at the end of Patterns of Conflict, so he isn’t claiming that he thought most of them up. Regardless of how Kofman discovered them, he establishes that they certainly do work, but unfortunately not for us.

    For example, when describing Russia’s overall approach to strategy, he notes that

    Russia’s leadership is pursuing an emergent strategy common to business practice and the preferred path of startups, but not appreciated in the field of security studies. The hallmarks of this approach are fail fast, fail cheap, and adjust. It is principally Darwinian, prizing adaptation over a structured strategy.

    This should leap out at anyone even casually familiar with Boyd since Patterns of Conflict cites the theory of evolution by natural selection as one of its two foundations (war is the other).

    Boyd’s whole approach to strategy was emergent. This is clear not only from how he uses strategy but in how he defines the term, at the end of Strategic Game:

    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.

    In other words, there is an overall objective — it’s not just random actions, even very rapid actions, for action’s sake — and the pattern emerges as our “efforts” interact with the “unfolding and often unforeseen world.” You see a similar philosophy in Kofman’s description of the Russian approach:

    This is confusing to follow when Russia’s goals are set, and yet operational objectives change as they run through cycles of adaptation. It is also a method whereby success begets success and failure is indecisive, simply spawning a new approach.

    Compare to Patterns 132: “Establish focus of main effort together with other effort and pursue directions that permit many happenings, offer many branches, and threaten alternative objectives. Move along paths of least resistance (to reinforce and exploit success).”

    Why take such an approach? Right after his definition of strategy, Boyd suggests an answer:

    Read the rest here

    Military Reform through Education

    Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

    [by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. “zen“]
    Photo of Don Vandergriff instructing with a map

    Don Vandergriff facilitating Adaptive Soldier/Leader exercises at Fort Benning

    Fred Leland at LESC Blog recently had a guest post up by Dan Grazier from the Project on Government Oversight regarding the important work Don Vandergriff is doing to reform professional military education and training:

    Military Reform Through Education: From The Straus Military Reform Project, Something We In Policing Can Learn From

    ….I had the privilege of experiencing this process with a group of 30 soldiers and Department of Defense (DoD) civilians learning about adaptive leadership and mission command. All were teachers from various courses at Fort Benning sent by their senior leaders seeking to infuse new ideas into their organizations. They spent a week learning how to incorporate adaptability into their courses during a seminar taught by CDI military advisor Don Vandergriff and his colleagues with Yorktown Systems Group.

    The Adaptive Soldier/Leader Training & Education (ASLTE) seminar aims to move the Army away from outdated assembly-line training methods that teach soldiers to mindlessly execute checklists. Instead, the seminar shows soldiers how to incorporate creative and interactive methods that challenge both students and teachers. This results in empowered soldiers at all levels able to adapt to any situation. [….]

    ….Don Vandergriff, a retired Army major, has been on the front lines of personnel reform for many years. While he is most noted for his work at the service level, these seminars seek to transform the Army from the bottom up.

    Approximately 20 soldiers and 10 civilian educators spent the week learning various teaching methods through experiential learning, which flips the traditional method military students are used to. Most training today follows the “crawl, walk, run” theory all service members are familiar with. Students are generally expected to complete reading assignments, sit through a PowerPoint lecture, and then finally conduct field training to reinforce what they have learned.

    The seminar exposed students to new methods by putting the practical exercises first. For example, the seminar uses several Tactical Decision Games (TDGs) to encourage students to rapidly develop a plan for a military problem presented by the facilitators. TDGs can be created for nearly any kind of a situation, but this course mostly used actual battlefield problems like how to capture a bridge or defeat an enemy force entrenched on a hilltop. While working through these problems, the students are exposed to such concepts as Mission Command and the Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act decision cycle, commonly called the OODA Loop or Boyd Cycle.
    It is only after the practical exercises that they receive reading assignments about those concepts. Because they’ve encountered them during the exercises, the concepts become more tangible. The OODA Loop, for instance, explains an individual’s or an organization’s decision-making process. It is a difficult concept to truly understand, but it becomes easier when one first sees how it works and then reads about it. The idea is to give them a moment of discovery, that “Ah ha!” moment. Success using such methods is to have a student say, “So, that’s what you call that,” while reading.

    Don is making use of several powerful learning methodologies in his Adaptive Leadership philosophy – and I saying “learning” and not “teaching” because Don has properly put the emphasis on the student actively thinking and doing rather than on passively listening to a lecture or discussion. Lecture has a place in education, to explain or to set the student up for new learning experiences, but it should be used sparingly and in short bursts of time when the instructor has carefully set up a “teachable moment”. By having the students doing active problem solving first, they come to Vandergriff armed with their own questions, eager to have feedback.

    The use of games are also a very powerful learning tool, perhaps one of the most effective because the situational learning. tends to be transferrable rather than be compartmentalized and isolated information. The right kind of decision games are serious practice for life. This was noted by RAND social scientists way back during the early days of the Cold War:

    “The gamers argued that insights arose from immersion in play. In 1956 Joseph Goldstein noted that the war game demonstrated ‘ the organic nature of complex relationships’ that daily transactions obscured.War-gaming gripped its participants, whipping up the convulsions of diplomacy ‘ more forcefully…than could be experienced through lectures or books’.”

    ” A team from the Social Science Division [ at RAND ] posed a number of questions which they hoped the unfoldig month of gaming would resolve. Chief among them was whether gaming could be used as a forecasting technique ‘ for sharpening our estimates of the probable consequences of policies pursued by various governments’. Would gaming spark “political inventiveness“, and more importantly, how did it compare to conventional policy analysis? Did gaming uncover problems that might otherwise be neglected? And invoking the emerging touchstone of intuition, did the experience impart to policy analysts and researchers “ a heightened sensitivity to problems of political strategy and policy consequences?”

      Sharon Ghamari- Tabrizi, The Worlds of Herman Kahn

    Back to the article:

    ….Vandergriff’s teaching method incorporates recent research into adult learning, designed “to engage students in direct experiences which are tied to real world problems and situations in which the instructor facilitates rather than directs student progress.” This creates a situation where the students learn from one another. Unlike most other military classes, the ASLTE teachers use very few PowerPoint presentations. They also end up speaking far less than the students themselves.

    Vandergriff ran the class through the first TDG and led the discussion afterward. From that point forward, students took turns leading the class through After Action Reviews. Students gained confidence in leading such an exercise while the rest of the class bounced ideas off each other. The interactive nature of this kept the entire class engaged and gave all of them ownership of their own learning.

    The concept of ownership was a consistent theme throughout the seminar. According to Vandergriff, a good teacher “works to make his students better than himself and encourages them to take ownership of their development, to make them life-long learners.”

    Here Don is making use of the social pressure and reinforcement of a Peer to Peer (P2P) dynamic to maintain maximum student engagement while having them practice critical intellectual reflection, something that is a vital constituent of a professional culture of learning. A true professional embraces an honest discussion of ideas and both accepts and gives critical feedback on performance in hopes of learning and improving.

    Read more regarding Don Vandergriff’s adaptive leadership methods here and here.

    T. Greer on Sun Tzu the Radical

    Sunday, January 4th, 2015

    [by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. “zen“]

    T. Greer at Scholar’s Stage had an outstanding post on Sun Tzu and his classic The Art of War the other day in which I learned a number of things that were new to me, which is the best kind of blog post!

    The Radical Sunzi

    When translated into English, the Sunzi Bingfa, usually titled Sunzi’s Art of War, is a fairly small work. When we take away the commentary and annotation added by its translators we are left with a sparse text indeed: Roger Ames’ translation is 71 pages long, the Denma Group’s translation is 66 pages, Victor Mair’s translation is only 56, and Ralph Sawyer’s translation clocks in at a mere 30 pages total. [1] The brevity of the Sunzi explains its staying power. The Sunzi only has space for a foundational discussion of abstract strategic principles, leaving no room for detailed discussions of either the tactics or the political realities of its time. This is what gives the Sunzi its transcendent feel. Great power competition between the kingdoms of Chu, Qi, and Qin faded into the realm of memory centuries ago; the proper way to deploy squadrons of crossbowmen and charioteers is now a question that interests only the historian. In contrast, the strategic principles outlined in the Sunzi endure. Their very terseness frees them from the historical context from which they came and allows them to be applied by men living thousands of years after they were first etched into bamboo.

    Timeless as it may seem, however, the Sunzi was the product of problems experienced at a specific time and a specific place. It is my belief that we cannot really understand the Sunzi if we do not first understand the world from which it came–the world of the Warring States.[2] A few historians and scholars of Chinese thought have written this sort of analysis; the best of these attempts to place the Sunzi within its historical context are usually focused on the broad, macro-historical trends that divided the Spring and Autumn period that preceded the Sunzifrom the Warring States period that gave birth to it. From this perspective the Sunzi and the other military manuals that followed it were the natural product of a world torn asunder by wars waged on an ever increasing scale between large infantry armies fighting in the name of territorial, bureaucratized states.[3] There is, however, more to the Sunzi‘s historical setting than the institutional history of ancient China. Just as important is the intellectual milieu of early Warring States times. The compilers of the Sunzi were not the first Chinese to write about war. When read as a response to these earlier voices, the Sunzi’s vision of war and politics is nothing less than radical. [….]

    Here comes the important part, one that demonstrates a curious symmetry with the cultural shift  between the post-Dark Age heroic-aristocratic Archaic Greece to the Classical Greece of the Golden Age that laid the foundations of Western civilization:

    ….The Sunzi that Meyer describes is radical–at the time of its compilation it was possibly the most radical attack on ancient China’s old aristocratic order etched in bamboo. The Sunzi‘s assault on the old regime begins with its opening line:

    The military [bing] is the great affair of the state, the terrain of life and death, the way of survival and extinction, it cannot but be investigated. [4]

    To modern ears this sentence may sound controversial, but it is hardly subversive. Its revolutionary nature only becomes clear when we see what it was written in response to. The place to turn is the Zuo Zhuan, China’s oldest narrative historical account and one of the few preserves of the old Spring and Autumn ethos. One of its better known dictums reads:

    The great affairs of state are sacrifice and warfare.[5]

    Meyer comments on the contrast between the two statements:

    [In the Sunzi] all mention of sacrifice is eliminated, telegraphing the text’s contention that martial matters must be viewed in purely material terms. Rather than “warfare,” the “military” is held up as the great affair of state, implying (as the text goes on to elaborate) that there are uses for military power beyond the ‘honorable’ contest of arms. Moreover, the word that the Sunzi uses by reference to the “military,” bing???, does not evoke the aristocratic charioteer but the common foot solider, who had become the backbone of the Warring States army.[6]

    The Sunzi‘s insistence that military methods were more important to the state’s survival than sacrifice was not merely radical–it was nonsensical. In the early Chinese world view, sacrifice and warfare could not be separated from each other. As with the Aztecs, Maya, and many other premodern peoples, for the Chinese of Zhou times, warfare was a sacrificial ritual. The Lost Book of Zhou, an early warring states record that chronicled the conquests of the semi-mythical King Wu, provides a clear picture of these views. It contains an interesting narrative account of the King’s return to his clan’s ancestral temple to report his victorious conquest:

    Read the rest here

    I just finished reading a book by the Israeli scholar Moshe Halbertal, On Sacrifice; here’s an enormous difference between a culture that “sacrifices to” and one that is worth or requires “sacrificing for“. It is not only a cultural difference, it is cognitive. Strategy is possible in a “sacrificing to” society only to the extent that it does not conflict with (often maximalist) religious dictates, which will often mean a rational strategy to achieve victory is impossible. The Jews at Masada or the Greeks of the Trojan War would have understood the precepts of warfare of the ancient Chinese of the Zhou era very well.

    In war, the bronze age peoples sacrificed to. We sacrifice for – and to spend our lives to best effect we need strategy.


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