[ by Charles Cameron — in lieu of a belated Sunday Surprise, and slightly more serious ]
Camels throw shadows — a fact brilliantly exploited by George Steinmetz in a rightly celebrated photo, to be found lower in this post — but first, a taste of Steinmetz’ methodology:
It is, I suppose, possible to argue that it is the shadows that throw the camels — but I suggest that only by way of saying that when I post here, fresh angles, not particular statements of opinion, are mostly what I am after.
Steinmetz’ photo illustrates my point nicely:
As you may know — and Snopes confirms — this image is an overhead view of shadows cast by camels in the desert. What’s not immediately obvious is that the black shapes are the shadows, while the camels themselves are the thin strips of white that accompany them.
As Steinmetz’ website explains:
His latest passion is photographing the world’s deserts while piloting a motorized paraglider. This experimental aircraft provides him with a unique physical perspective over remote places that are inaccessible by conventional aircraft.
The unexpected, perhaps even unique, perspective then is what I’m chasing — an “angle” that encourages a frehs view of the matter at hand.
[ by Charles Cameron — working my way towards that ever-elusive Grand Theory of Linkage ]
Ahem — not unlike my DoubleQuote format, these Taiwanese leg-irons offer another form of linkage
Here’s a cross-cultural DoubleQuote embedded in a Guardian paragraph — from Xiaolu Guo, writing on the Analects of Confucius in Ten Books that Changed the World:
If you are Chinese, lines from the Bible such as “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” can only bewilder you, as Confucius said nearly the opposite: “It is only the truly virtuous man who can love and hate others.” Hate is a necessary moral stance for a Chinese man.
More elaborately, Marcy Wheeler over at emptywheel has an entire post using what’s in effect a DoubleQuotes form of argument, comparing Buffalo’s ISIS Supporting Terrorist and Its Klan Supporting Terrorist as her title puts it, and including such quotes as these..
Concerning Michael O’Neill:
On January 21, 2015, the Niagara County Sheriff’s office responded to a report of an explosion at the house of Chair of the Niagara County Legislature, William Ross. They discovered that his stepson, former corrections officer Michael O’Neill, who lived with his mother and stepfather at the house, had blown off his leg while working with explosives in the garage. In addition to the one that exploded, there were 6 completed Improvised Explosive Devices in the garage, along with shrapnel, fireworks powder, and other explosives precursors.
That evidence shows that the work bench at which Ross’ stepson was emptying fireworks for powder and adding nails to IEDs was decorated with a Stormtrooper poster, a picture of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate flag, and a poster advertising, “The KKK wants you.” O’Neill also appears to have had a sword (most visible in Exhibit 14) not mentioned in any legal document.
Concerning Arafat Nagi:
A week later, on July 29, also in the Buffalo area, FBI Agent Amanda Pike arrested US citizen Lackawanna resident Arafat Nagi on charges of attempting to materially support ISIS. The complaint laying out the case against Nagi relied on trips to Turkey and Yemen (Nagi has family in the latter), a slew of tweets supporting ISIS, and some 2012 and 2013 purchases of military equipment — including body armor and a machete — and Islamic flags from eBay. The complaint also included pictures Nagi had tweeted out depicting ISIS and extremist flags and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
— and concluding:
Still, these two extremists were working their way through the same court room at the same time. The contrast between the two cases is instructive.
A DoubleQuote in my DQ format is intended to work as a sort of haiku, or perhaps a stem christie, incorporating in miniature a change of direction or leap of insight — they come to much the same thing.
A single, glorious gothic arch — you get the picture.
It is becoming ioncreasingly obvious, though, that the DoubleQuote method of comparison and contrast has far wider application — and as my collection of DoubleQuotes in the Wild has hopefully shown, that the basic idea continues to strike artists, writers and analysts as a powerful means of corralling and communicating concept and meaning.
It’s a naturally occurring form for thought, in other words, and at best my graphical DoubleQuotes format can bring a formal unity to many of its possible examples, and thus sharpen it — as a the general idea of a branch can be “formalized” into the concept of a fishing rod or baseball bat — into a tool.
[ by Charles Cameron — from artificial intelligence to the Council of Nicea in one easy blog post ]
It seems fairly easy for a human to tell likes from dislikes, but for a computer to tell likes from unlikes appears to be a far trickier business. Consider the following DoubleQuote in the Wild, which I found in David Berreby‘s Nautilus piece, Artificial Intelligence is Already Weirdly Inhuman:
You might think these two images are the same. Or that they’re a little different, as the images from your left and right eyes always are, but that if you squint at them just right they will merge into a single image with a vivid sense of depth, like a movie seen with 3-D glasses. You mivght even think the differences between them are a matter of steganography, encoding some IS battle plan under cover of a diggie pic.
But you are unlikely, I suggest, to think the image on the left is of a dog, while that on the right is of an ostrich. Which is what “artificial intelligence”, in the form of a neural net, figured out.
And how different are they “in fact”?
The middle image here shows the amount of variation in pixels between the two outer images:
The image on the right — the one the neural net iodentified as an ostrich — is an example of what the researchers, Christian Szegedy, Wojciech Zaremba, Ilya Sutskever, Joan Bruna, Dumitru Erhan, Ian Goodfellow and Rob Fergus, call an “adversarial example”.
It’s not my intent to dismiss neural nets by any means: I have one myself.
What interests me, though, as someone preoccupied with analogy and metaphor — with likeness and unlikeness — is the deep question of what likeness and unlikeness mean.
That question lies at the heart of my DoubleQuotes and HipBone Games.
Back in my Oxford days, my tutor in Dogmatic Theology had me thinking about the difference between the two words Homoousion and Homoiousion, homoousion meaning of the same essence, and homoiousion of similar essence. The distinction was important in Patristic theology, the questionn being whether the Son and Holy Spirit were of the same essence as the Father (one God in three Persons) or of similar essence (three Persons in one God).
You’ll see from the way that I’ve phased the distinction in brackets (one God in three Persons vs three Persons in one God) that I find the distinction itself less than helpful — and I said so in the essay I read my tutor. Those who hold the Three Persons are the same God (the homoousios doctrine) are saying they are both similar as to the recognition of their common Godness and dissimilar as to the recognition of their separate Personhood, whereas those who hold that they are of similar essence (homoiousios) are, perhaps unexpectedly, also saying they are similar but different: it’s all a matter of emphasis.
My tutor, much to my surprise and delight, mentioned that he had made the same point in a paper he had recently published in, if I recall, the Journal of Theological Studies, and gave me a signed offprint.
Similarity and dissimilarity, likeness and unlikeness appear to me to find themselves on a spectrum which approximates closely to identity at one end — but if two things are identical, how can they be two? — and absolute distinction at the other.
Yet the difference beween homoousion and homoiousion was decided in favor of homoousion at the Council of Nicea, a decision which one writer calls a “bloodless intellectual victory over dangerous error” and “of far greater consequence to the progress of true civilization, than all the bloody victories Constantine and his successors.”
[ by Charles Cameron — what hipbone thinking / gaming could and should bring to the natsec table ]
I have just been browsing the Institute for the Study of War‘s report on its ISIS wargame, and thought I’d wargame ISIS a bit myself, using my DoubleQuotes game.
The ISW report, in its 32 pages, barely mentions religious drivers, features one use of the word “apocalyptic” in a pretty non-specific sentence that implies nothing about what that word implies in terms of religious instensity — “ISIS intends to expand its Caliphate and eventually incite a global apocalyptic war” — and generally focuses on everything but “knowing” the enemy..
If they’d invited me and added a round or three of DoubleQuotes during a coffee break, I’d have been grateful for the coffee and the visit to DC, and very quickly played these two double-moves:
For wide context:
Upper panel: the Taiping Rebellion, an apocalyptic (in the true sense) movement in China, 1850 to 1864, with between 20 million and 30 million dead — as a reminder that apocalyptic movements can have, ahem, far-reaching consequences.
Lower panel: Refugees fleeing the Islamic State, a movement whose apocalyptic (in the true sense) strategy includes a focus on great end-times battle to be fought at Dabiq in Syria, Dabiq being the name of their English lnaguage magazine.
Read into the record in support of these two visuals:
here, on the brutality levels permitted in two rival jihadist groups in Syria:
Upper panel: the Islamic State brutally executes British aid worker Alan Hemming
Lower panel: AQ affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra points out that he was under an offer of protection binding on all Muslims.
There would be background reading to explore and expand that DoubleQuote too. But the main point is: the contest of ideas, not simply that of troop movements and materiel, would have been part of the picture.
The Atlantic Council has also held two wargaming sessions on IS [1, 2], but again the insights to be gained into the Islamic State’s end-times motivations and their implications are almost nonexistent:
ISIS carries the seeds of its own destruction primarily because it has an extremely small constituency within Islamist populations around the world, an apocalyptic vision, an unsustainable strategy of us-against-theworld, and a failed governance project.
And that’s about it.
McCants’ presentation at the Boston conference, and his forthcoming book (above), both make it clear that the apocalyptic stress of today’s “caliphate” has morphed significantly from the more immediate apocaypticism in IS’ Zarqawi-era predecessor, Al Qaeda in Iraq.
[ 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
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.