It’s the decision making cycle within any organization as defined by the steps Observe – Orient – Decide – Act. This is how the military—and any organization—processes information. We observe events, orient our goals and intentions to the changes that these observations represent, decide what to do about it, and then act on those decisions. When two opposing groups are in direct competition with each other—whether military or otherwise—the group that can go through the OODA-Loop process both correctly AND more quickly than their opponent prevails (or at least gains the upper hand). Now consider two opposing groups with two different organizational structures both competing in this OODA-Loop game. Group one (
So that’s the shape of the problem: the
My solution to the problem is not to fight these fundamentals, but rather to change the structure of the larger organization to a decentralized one—what I call “rhizome.” I recognize that the
That’s a lot of fancy-sounding theory that probably comes off as gibberish. Let me run through three examples of this in action: guided emergence in biology, for a terrorist organization, for a national military (notice I’m not calling it a “Nation-State” military), and for a local community.
Guided Emergence in Biology
Guided emergence already exists in nature. As one example, consider DNA. That molecule effectively guides the emergence of a vast diversity of life while simultaneously ensuring its own propagation. Perhaps an even more interesting example is that of mitochondria, specifically mDNA. mDNA maintains its basic structure quite consistently (though not statically) while facilitating its own propagation through the dynamic, innovative system of carbon-based life. Talk about getting inside the opponent’s OODA-Loop. Sure, this is a pretty theoretical example, but one that’s worth keeping in mind as we move on to a very concrete example in human society next…
Guided Emergence and the Terrorist Organization
Al-Qa’ida already implements the theory of guided emergence in its organizational structure. Currently, al-Qa’ida’s senior leadership acts as a “doctrine center” as well as sometimes provider of training, direction, and financing. Al-Qa’ida does not, however, exert direct, hierarchal command and control of its forces in the field. In fact, it’s really impossible to say who al-Qa’ida’s forces are—some openly pledge allegiance, such as al-Qa’ida in
Guided Emergence and a National Military
So, given the problems of adapting a bottom-up, emergent, decentralized structure to a Nation-State military, is there no application of this kind of theory in the world of modern military affairs? I think that there is a very direct application, but that we must first remove “State” from “Nation-State” before attempting to apply guided emergence. “State” is an inherently centralized, hierarchal edifice erected (in theory, though never precisely in practice) upon the exact boundaries of an ethnic, religious, or cultural “Nation.” I’ve written before about the impossibility of erecting a state with Cartesian boundaries upon the inherently non-Cartesian space occupied by a Nation. However, if we dispense of “State,” it is very possible to apply a decentralized, emergent, bottom-up decision structure on a Nation’s military defense system. As I’ve discussed in “Defending Pala,” it is probably not possible to adapt this to a Nation’s offensive interests, but, that by confining the power of a Nation’s military to actual (as opposed to politically “spun”) operationally defensive engagement, the very problem of “blowback” and the current “need” for the very notion of “offensive defense” may be reduced or eliminated.
Guided Emergence and a Local Community
I find it interesting that John Robb has recently been applying much of his “global guerrillas” theory to local communities. I have long found this to be the foundational element of our post-Nation-State future, and think that developing a theory of guided emergence for local communities will pay great dividends. Communities may be the most appropriate place for guided emergence of minimally self-sufficient but cooperating and interacting individuals, families, and family groups to come together in the absence of some centralized, hierarchal structure organizing them. These communities, just like Nations in the Nation-State context, can function in a “guided emergence” environment with or without exclusive boundaries (where, for example, everyone in a geographic town may or may not participate in the guided emergence “game”). Traditional, hierarchal, and centralized “government-run” communities generally cannot function in this way, and therefore greatly inhibit the amount of innovation available to a community to essentially the “one organizational structure per geographic area” maximum. Guided emergence could, on the other hand, support multiple competing organizational schemes within a single geographic area (what might today be the boundaries of one “town”) without conflict arising—if people are drawn from one scheme to another, then it grows, but there would not necessarily (key word here—exclusive religious notions, as with al-Qa’ida, make motivation for conflict possible) be motivation to out-compete or eliminate other schemes.
It may be clear by now that this notion of guided emergence as applied to local communities nests nicely with my outline for resilient and self-sufficient communities from The Problem of Growth. It may be a bit difficult to understand outside that context. But consider the ability to use guided emergence to persuade, rather than coerce, others to pursue the exact program outlined in Problem of Growth: establish minimal self-sufficiency in extended family nodes (along with regionally-appropriate means of doing that, best practices, etc.), establish mutually beneficial but optional interaction between these nodes, drive innovation in both of these areas, and serve to advocate for collective courses of action that may require temporary leadership or that work best with greater unity of effort.
This may be the key benefit to guided emergence: to the extent that guided emergence is only available to bottom-up, decentralized organizations, and that these kinds of organizations are capable of getting inside the OODA-Loop of their centralized/hierarchal competitors or opponents, there exists a structural trend in favor of just these decentralized and bottom-up entities. I think that decentralized and bottom-up entities are more likely to be compatible with human ontogeny, to be environmentally sustainable, and to allow for resilience and diversity of practice within human society without oppression. Any theory that helps speed along the erosion of centralization and hierarchy and the rise of a decentralized replacement seems welcome in that context.Sign up: www.JeffVail.net is published Mondays, with occasional updates in between. Consider signing up for the RSS feed by clicking here.