UPDATES AND COMMENTARY ON SUPEREMPOWERMENT:

A number of worthy bloggers were kind enough to link to my post on super empowered individuals, comment or send in some thoughts via email which I would like to highlight. Much thanks to everyone who took the time to comment, your ideas sometimes send me off in new directions.

LINKS:

Dave at the Glittering Eye has Napoleonic commentary on super empowered individuals.

Dan of tdaxp launches a systempunkt on the concept of systempunkt.

John Robb is pleased.

COMMENTS:

From Dr. Von:

“This post is one of the natural extensions of what we have been discussing. I don’t think there is any doubt that it is inevitable. I suppose the ‘when’ depends on what system is perturbed/attacked. It will be done as our understanding of network theory and complexity advance; to have, say, an individual do tremendous damage, that person will need the means of mapping out and understanding the levels of connectivity inherent to the system, whether that system is social, electronic, environmental, industrial, etc. Even with a lack of understanding of the system’s multi-dimensional topology in whatever relevant phase space, I can imagine someone developing and using one of these newer adaptive genetic computer algorithms…this type of program can ‘learn’ as it crunches data, and can adapt itself to the system. It is along the lines of the programming being tried for intelligent robots, etc. That is probably the scariest scenario to me”

From Fabius Maximus of DNI:

“I’ll stake out an extreme position on this (there is a first time for everything). Not much time, so I’ll sketch out some thoughts on this, however incoherent and ill-supported.

1. I disagree with the foundation assumption of Robb’s, the instability that result from modern systems higher levels of dynamic interconnectivity. In general, modern systems are more — far more — stable than pre-networked systems.

There is a large body of expert discussion on this, in various fields. No room in the margin here to prove this (or even discuss with the depth it serves). In fact, no proof is possible, we’ll just have to see.

The accompanying disadvantage of modern systems is that, although they have greater stability and adaptability, they often fail catastrophically — instead of degrading gracefully (service declines, or fails locally).

Also — as you note — we are working to make our essential systems more resilient. Including the human element. Note the boom in first aid and disaster prep courses and organizations.

2. American culture has possibly lost its balance between the needs/focus on the individual and the group. Note the focus in comic books and movies on individual action — as opposed to groups. X-files shows this taken to the logical extreme, the isolated individual — who is of course powerless.

The overemphasis on the individual actor is a snare, a significant but delusional belief resulting from overdevelopment of one aspect of American culture — built on a false assumption.

Strength, the ability to create the future (the past and present being, of course, frozen), come from groups.

There are two concepts here. Leaders of deep and wide movements — like the NAZI party are distinct from individual actors — like the mythical super scientist who saves the world, ie. Archimedes and the mirrors.

The first are important. But would the movements occur without the leader? This is the great man of history debate.

The second is in my opinion a topic most suitable for fiction. Individuals can destroy dozens, hundreds, thousands — perhaps millions … but nothing of significance from a historical perspective. “

From T.M. Lutas:

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