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Recommended Reading

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Top Billing! Adam Elkus Do Ideas Matter? A Clausewitzian Case Study

This article is, in my opinion, Adam’s finest work as a writer and strategic thinker. It even merited an enthusiastic and deserved “Excellent article. We need more like this!” comment from arch-clausewitzian defense consultant Wilf Owen.  Elkus asks sophisticated questions of competing interpretations of CvC and applies the understanding to analyze the cognitive culture of the defense community. Highly recommended.

The leaked Quadrennial Defense Review Report merits a look.

Metamodern The importance of seeing what isn’t there

This is also a stellar post IMHO:

….Absence-detection boosts the growth of shared human knowledge in at least three ways:

Development of knowledge: Generally, for shared knowledge to grow, someone must invest effort to develop a novel idea into something more substantial (resulting in a blog post, a doctoral dissertation, or whatever). A potential knowledge-creator may need some degree of confidence that the expected result doesn’t already exist. Better absence-detection can help build that confidence – or drop it to zero and abort a costly duplication.

Validation of knowledge: For shared knowledge to grow, something that looks like knowledge must gain enough credibility to be treated as knowledge. Some knowledge is born with credibility, inherited from a credible source, yet new knowledge, supported by evidence, can be discredited by arguments backed by nothing but noise. A crucial form of evidence for a proposition is sometimes the absence of credible evidence against it.

Destruction of anti-knowledge: Shared knowledge can also grow through removal of of anti-knowledge, for example, by discrediting false ideas that had displaced or discredited true ones. Mirroring validation, a crucial form of evidence against the credibility of a proposition is sometimes the absence of credible evidence for it.

Charles Cameron at SmartMobsA most remarkable conversation

….Ayman al-Zawahiri, for instance, has twice quoted Will McCants and Jarret Brachman’s Stealing al-Qaida’s Playbook report for the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, once in a video and once in his book, The Exoneration. Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi too has cited material from the CTC, comparing it favorably to that of his challengers within the jihadist environment…

Jeff Carr – Don’t be a Cyberista. We can’t afford it.

….You may have heard the term “Fashionista”; i.e., people devoted to the creations of a select group of fashion designers and who only wear their designs. I have adapted the term to reflect what I’m seeing happen in Washington DC as well as in major U.S. corporations. Decision makers are being swayed by whatever novel term, concept, or strategy is popular at the moment. Right now that term is APT (Advanced Persistant Threat). Tomorrow it will be something else. And the politician, policy maker, General, and C-level executive who makes an information security decision based solely on what’s hot at the moment is the cyber equivalent of a slave to fashion – a “Cyberista”.

Abu MuqawamaQuants and COIN

A little quantitative analysis goes a long way 😉

So the quants, not content with mucking up the financial world, have turned their attention to the dynamics of irregular war. I may be a PECOTA guy when it comes to baseball, but I am wary of many quantitative efforts made to “explain” the dynamics of war. Strategic studies scholars I admire like Steve Biddle show the utility of quantitative analysis in their own work, and Steve in particular makes a strong case for why policy papers and academic research backed up by quantitative analysis have more of an impact than do papers based on strictly qualitative or theoretical work. But I think the pressure PhD students and junior professors in political science and international relations feel to check the three magic boxes — qualitative, quantitative and theoretical — when writing their dissertations and papers has contributed to the growing irrelevance of their fields in policy discussions. You shouldn’t need two semesters of statistics to understand a policy paper on strategy or military operations. Acquisitions or budgeting, fine, but neither this book nor this book nor this book nor this book — all enduring classics in the field of strategic studies — rely on quantitative analysis

Speaking of quants…..

Registan.net (Joshua Foust, Drew Conway, Thomas Zeitzoff)A comment on `Common ecology quantifies human insurgency’

….In reality, this ecological model can only be considered one of several competing theories to describe the dataset. BGDSJ try to preempt such criticis by saying, “any competing theory would also need to replicate the results.” But creating a model to fit one’s data is an inversion of the scientific process, reducing the study to mere deduction. When respected newspapers write stories claiming ten percent of all Chechens live in South Waziristan, we must seriously question just how one goes about creating a useful model of behavior based on media accounts.

That was a very elegant bitch-slap, by blogospheric standards. Nice.

Dr. VonSome Posts on STEM: Early Childhood, Part I, Where are we with STEM Education? How to Fix STEM Education , Summary of STEM Posts

STEM stands for “Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics”. Von is a physicist, researcher, teacher, school board member and author of 70 published papers on particle physics and methodology of science education. He is writing here on the state of science in pre-K through postsecondary in the United States, where schools discourage inquiry and real science in favor of rote memorization, where science is not being sidelined entirely by NCLB mania ( as an aside, the dowstream effect of NCLB will be the steep decline of America’s edge in technological innovation and science research, starting in about 15 years when our science-lite, making AYP memorizers begin to matriculate. I guess we will try to keep importing foreign talent rather than developing our own)

The first item to put out there is a necessary change that is needed as far as what our pre-school children are capable of with regards to science. An article from Education Week deals with this, and a new curriculum designed for those 3-4 year olds. Keep in mind, if you have kids or young siblings, think about how they learn. They are scientists! They actively investigate everything. They experiment. They go through trial and error, learn from mistakes, and actually try to predict what will happen as they ‘play’ with new toys. They are natural curious about everything, and over time make connections between different items and experiences. They learn language through intense observation and build off of what others do. Through group play, they teach and learn from each other. Is this not what we want from our high school graduates?! Is this not how successful research programs behave and operate?

As is stated by a researcher in this article,

“Most teachers will have a science area in their classroom, … and if you look on plans, you would see something listed as science but, in reality, there would be some shells, some magnets, and maybe a pumpkin, or a book about animals in winter,” said Nancy Clark-Chiarelli, a principal research scientist at the Education Development Center, a research group based in Newton, Mass. “But those items are not conceptually related, and they don’t promote children’s independent exploration of them.”


That’s it.

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