[ by Charles Cameron — further thoughts on the advantages of seeing double ]
I’ve said before that when I was at The Arlington Institute, my boss used to ask me to watch out for “early indicators”, and joked that in my book, two is the first number — I don’t see an “indicator” until I see a pattern emerging.
Putting it bluntly, one point is pointless — things could go anywhere from there. Two points suggest a line, a link, a connection — a possible, maybe even plausible, trend.
And so it is with the two photos above. Here the point is not to compare and contrast the two images of surveillance cameras wearing party hats, but to see that they represent a class — the presence of two concrete instances strongly implies the higher level abstraction: hah! they’re watching us!
It’s that sense I have of two being the beginning of thought that makes me so fond of the DoubleQuotes format — and of Arthur Koestler‘s insight, which I’m always quoting, about creation occurring at the intersection of two spheres..
If I’m a fundamentalist about anything, it’s the notion that it takes two to tango!
[ by Charles Cameron — a highly interesting discussion, discussed ]
How to Write and Fight World War III:
This is the video of a terrific discussion of the future of warfare — peacemaking, too, if you see them as two sides of a coin — from the Art of Future Warfare project, to which I have contributed [two stories, 1, 2, a video appearance, 3, and even a DoubleQuotes reference 4]
I want to select certain phrases from the discussion above, and comment on them.
It’s a work of fiction, not prediction.
The thing is, a work isn’t just what its creators intend it to be, it can also be whatever its readers make of it. It’s my impression that the Hebrew prophets were not predicting so much as warning — that’s a distinction Wallace Black Elk made a point of mentioning when he was waxing prophetic — but todays “prophecy teachers” all too often read prophecy as a statement of future fact rather than as a warning of a dangerous path to be avoided.
So we’re dealing with this incredibly complex world – how do we grapple with it? How do we think about these problems?
There’s a class of answers to this question, ranging from complex mathematical models, sims and games to stocks and flows diagrams to Dialogue Mapping and my own HipBone Games. Most if not all of the items in this class are graph-based (node and link) networks.
My own vector is away from high tech and “big” data, towards “rich” data and human-sized graphs — ie graphs with few enough nodes that the human mind can fairly easily envision them, and nodes and links rich enough in anecdotal, visual, statistical, aphoristic, quotatiuonal and other forms of data to elicit full-spectrum human responses, emotional, cultural, mental, heart and mind in conjunction.
we hunger for creativity and intellectual agility in our national security leaders, and our military leaders
The usual routes to leadership significantly fail to provide such agility, although occasional good apples to manage to survive among the rotten throng.. That’s why it takes so long to go from John Boyd being a voice in the wilderness to his being lauded by SecDef.
how do we actually cultivate that kind of thinking, that creative, lateral thinking?
Again, my own practice draws explicitly on Arthur Koestler‘s insight that it is at the intersection of “planes of thought” — silos, anyone? — that creative insights arise.
My games accordingly, simply and elegantly make all moves consist, at some level, of such intersections. The HipBone move is a conceptual leap, regular practice of HipBone Games is the most focused way to train the mind in creative leaping, on or off the gameboard, in play or in life.
fiction, literature and the arts are a critical and often overlooked vehicle for exactly that
I fully agree, and indeed it turns out that the style of “creative leaping” I am talking about is richly found within the complex weavings of the arts — and indeed, my games were directly inspired by a Nobel-winning novel by Hermann Hesse.
I lack the competence to build a web-playable version myself, but a museum-oriented adaptation of my game ideas by Cath Styles can be played on iPads in the Australian National Museum, and its web implementation, also focused on visual artefacts rather than concepts, can serve as a proof of concept for the wider uses I envision — intelligence analysis included.
Paul Callaghan, a writer, game developer, and university lecturer who has played Cath’s Sembl game commented:
Sembl incredibly succesfully mixes competitive and collaborative play, creativity and expression, and exploration and inspiration. It’s the sort of game you think about when you’re not playing it, and it’s the sort of game that helps you see the world in new ways.
That’s very precisely what any HipBone derived game aims to do, and if we want creative leadership, getting the HipBone Games up and running online and using them in analytic and decision-making training would be a pretty useful step to take.
it was basically this Army / Marine Corps answer to a zen koan, right
a theological and religious scholar
It may seem strange to find zen buddhism, theology, and religious scholarship mentioned in a discussion on the future of warfare, but they’re areas of the human conceptual spectrum with a great deal to teach us about insight. And fwiw, I read Theology at Oxford, and have recently been “sitting zen” with koans after a brief but brilliant afternoon with the zen roshi John Tarrant.
Playing a HipBone move and “solving” (resolving, dissolving?) a zen koan have a great deal in common. Haiku, likkewise.
But that’s enough for one post.
Here are the selections I’ve been responding too, at greater length:
Peter W Singer
We have been very clear. It’s a work of fiction, not prediction. That’s the opening line of it. It is based on real world trends and technologies, but it is not a prediction – but hopefully it can be something that maybe ends up being preventative, by identifying certain issues, trends, even mistakes we are making right now, it helps us to avoid those from happening so that the scenario actually doesn’t come to pass. ..
We’re grappling with an increasingly complex and interdependent world: globalization, climate change, urbanization, population migration, resource scarcity, all of these are trends that are intersecting with the re-emergence of geopolitics on the one hand, and the erosion of what we’ve known as the sovereign state on the other. So we’re dealing with this incredibly complex world – how do we grapple with it? How do we think about these problems? How do we advance US and global security in a world plagued by wicked problems and unintended consequences?
As Dan mentioned earlier, we hunger for creativity and intellectual agility in our national security leaders, and our military leaders—but how do we actually cultivate that kind of thinking, that creative, lateral thinking? And crucially, how do we communicate how we are thinking about these problems and what we think we should be doing about them – how do we communicate that to our public in a way that resonates.
And I submit to you that fiction, literature and the arts are a critical and often overlooked vehicle for exactly that, the creative contemplation of matters of statecraft and national security.
One of the interesting things about that manual [Field Manual 3-24, Counterinsurgency] was that it actually proposed these intellectual puzzles, these constructs, like, “the more you secure your environment, the less safe you can be” – when you’re operating in a local tactical environment. Instead of having a tactical check-list of, you know, this is what we need to do in these particular operations and this is the logic flow for how you do x, y or z in these environments, it was basically this Army / Marine Corps answer to a zen koan, right – like how does this non-logical, really intuitive way to creatively grapple …
This is no accident. The point of a zen koan is to inspire a deeper, non-logical level of contemplation. But we haven’t always used koans to access that part of our psyches, and that way of thinking about things.
Karen Armstrong, who is a theological and religious scholar, who wrote a book that I just love, it’s called A Short History of Myth – she argues that ever since we were cavemen, sitting round camp fires, we have been using stories and myths as ways to communicate truths to each other, ways to communicate meaning. Myths were not an expression of religious beliefs per se, rather they were an imaginative, non-logical way to understand who we are and how we fit in the world. ..
And then you get to the ancient Greeks, who had two very different, equally important ways of looking at the world, Mythos and Logos.
Possible koans from the COIN Manual, p 1.27:
Sometimes, the More You Protect Your Force, the Less Secure You May Be
Sometimes, the More Force Is Used, the Less Effective It Is
We have seen various conversations online in which its is plausibly suggested that YESness leads to upward mobility across an array of silos and disciplines, specifically including the intelligence community and the military — the end result being risk-averse group-think that is pretty much “inside the box” by definition.
Similarly, we have noted that serious and nuanced issues are frequently debated in the media by those who are known for their general-purpose punditry or seniority, rather than by those with specific knowledge of and insight into the particular issues of concern.
Question:How shall we get outside the box thinking from inside the box thinkers?
It has been some time since I have touched upon this topic. Recently though, I initiated a discussion at work on ways to enhance and stimulate creativity and creative thinking and presented a suite of methods for generating and refining ideas. I didn’t get into the insight-based aspects of creativity, nor the high-level kinds of synthesis you see with people who have genuine mastery over a field or domain. My focus was more on developing people’s ability to think divergently, generate or recognize novel ideas and then refine or develop them.
Therefore, many of these are active, intentional exercises or strategies. They tend to be productive but their creativity is not quite the same as what is produced, say, when a skilled musician is “jamming”, an inventor is tinkering or a painter or scientist is experimenting in the “flow“. The following are also not an exhaustive list:
Developed by Alex Osborn and Sidney Parnes, CPS seeks to harness Divergent and Convergent thinking in a holistic, multi-step, learning process. In essence, the students are sequentially alternating between Generating ideas and Focusing on refining, evaluating, applying them until the “problem” is solved. This is one of the older models of instilling creative thinking and has been widely used, particularly for well-defined or technical problems.
DeBono developed a system of forced choice and association exercises that are well suited to promoting critical and creative thinking at the same time as students address a concept or activity. Lateral Thinking exercises lend themselves naturally to being made into graphic organizers or as leading questions in class or group discussion. Some examples:
Related to Lateral Thinking, but not the same, is Horizontal Thinking. While the former are concrete exercises, horizontal thinking is using a familiar area of knowledge to look for analogies and patterns in less or unfamiliar fields. Both Lateral and Horizontal thinking differ from the traditional model of analytical-reductionist Vertical Thinking associated with critical thinking done within a subject matter field. Vertical thinking and Lateral/Horizontal thinking complement one another
We all have used brainstorming. There are some ways to make brainstorming more productive.
Ideational Pools – Ask a series of open-ended questions to a group that creates a much richer, single “pool” of ideas than simple brainstorming
Uses, Instances, Similarities – this is usually about a physical object and the purpose is to generate as many alternatives as possible – i.e. “How many different uses can you think of for a piece of rope?”. It is both divergent and lateral thinking as an activity.
Synectics – Extends brainstorming by taking the results and developing metaphors, similes, metonymy/synedoche that describe/explain them
Optimizer: Refines ideas with a view to action – the “How”
Implementor Takes action
Morphological synthesis works through decomposition and forced association, There are several variations but it works best with well-defined problems. Examples.
Define the problem or identify a thing. List all of the attributes.
Combine and re-configure attributes in new ways
Divide problem into parts
Develop a solution for each part
Critical Question Mapping
A system of fast learning, developed by friend of ZP Dr. Terry Barnhart, discovers the “what” of a situation by having everyone brainstorm all of the critical questions that must be answered to find a solution. No declarative statements may be made, only questions asked. After the group has exhausted the potential questions, the questions can be organized into clusters, a learning strategy, divided for research, etc.
The use of imaginative but realistic premises for a thought experiment and discussion. Popular in the fields of futurism, alternative history and physics, they allow the students to explore reasons behind making decisions, constructing hypothetical, framing problems or as an allegorical experience before exploring the real situation or problem. Scenarios come in different forms and draw on both critical and creative thinking:
Counterfactual: Ex- “What if the South won the Civil War?”
Futurist: Ex- Imagine a world entering a new ice age – how would Illinois ecosystems be impacted by the climate change?”
Physical: Ex- “Schrodinger’s Cat”
Paradoxical: Ex – “Could a man travel through time and kill his own grandfather? Could you drown in the fountain of eternal life?”
Juxtaposing opposing or incompatible authoritative views to encourage synthesis or reflective choice. This is a favorite technique of Charles Cameron in his Hipbone method of analysis that he employs regularly here at ZP.
Like Scenarios, moral reasoning and ethical dilemmas push people to think both creatively and critically. Example:
“A madman who has threatened to explode several bombs in crowded areas has been apprehended. Unfortunately, he has already planted the bombs and they are scheduled to go off in a short time. It is possible that hundreds of people may die. The authorities cannot make him divulge the location of the bombs by conventional methods. He refuses to say anything and requests a lawyer to protect his fifth amendment right against self-incrimination. In exasperation, some high level official suggests torture. This would be illegal, of course, but the official thinks that it is nevertheless the right thing to do in this desperate situation. Do you agree?”
Many ethical dilemmas and student solutions can be analyzed according to Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development but the value for creative thinking is in creating the conditions of a forced choice requiring a resolution.
Zenpundit is a blog dedicated to exploring the intersections of foreign policy, history, military theory, national security,strategic thinking, futurism, cognition and a number of other esoteric pursuits.