Open source warfare, like what we see in Iraq and increasingly in other locations, relies on networks of peers rather than the hierarchies of command and control we see in conventional militaries. This structure provides an open source movement with levels of innovation and resilience that rigid hierarchies can't match. Unfortunately, these attributes are likely not constrained to merely local tactical activity. Open source movements can exhibit emergent intelligence that guides the movement's collective actions towards strategic goals.
Emergent IntelligenceWhat is emergent intelligence? It is a form of macrointelligence that arises from local interactions. It isn't merely the simple stigmergic interactions (Stigmergy is a term used in biology -- from the work of french biologist Pierre-Paul Grasse -- to describe environmental mechanisms for coordinating the work of independent actors) necessary for the coordination of the swarm activities of local autonomous agents. Rather, it is a form of group intelligence that learns, achieves goals, and engages in self-preservation. There are five simple requirements for emergent intelligence (a good starting point for those that want to dive deeper into this subject is Steven Johnson's book "Emergence"):
- A critical mass of participation is necessary. A certain minimum number of participants, either individuals or component groups, is necessary for micromotives to translate into macromotives. It also means that without a minimum number of interactions between these participants, the statistical nature of macrointelligence won't emerge. More is different.
- A local focus is useful. Open source actors are mainly focused on local activity. The simplicity of this focus is a feature and not a bug since it prevents activity that may upset the entire organism's operation. Local action, global impact.
- Random interactions are necessary. Random interactions between groups and individuals outside is a necessity (this assumes a certain level of mobility and communications capability). These interactions provide a fluidity to the learning process that finds and responds to new information quickly.
- Pattern matching from stigmergic communication. The ability to see patterns of activity from simple signs is a necessity. Gradients of activity provide "maps" to areas of focus for individual actors or groups.
- An openness to interaction. A willingness to interact with others is required. This assumes some commonality between actors that bonds them to each other.
What does this mean?Analysis of the Iraqi insurgency indicates that emergent intelligence is evident. A complex series of local interactions has led to shifts in its behavior that reflect complex learning, goal attainment, and self-preservation despite a lack of a leadership hierarchy. What this means to the outcome of the war is as follows:
- The insurgency will continue to improve over time. Despite losses, the macro behavior of the Iraqi insurgency will become more complex (virulent) the longer it operates. As a result, it will be difficult to dislodge with each passing month. We will see less activity where it has little impact and more where it matters. Further, this activity will become more efficient.
- Breakout is possible. While it is unlikely that the insurgency will spread horizontally to other countries in an incremental fashion, it is very likely that those trained in this environment will seed other movements (and inevitable that the knowledge of this will initiate activity). Further, this breakout can occur globally and in unexpected locales -- since this neutral method isn't tied to any single motive, it can be applied to any cause.
- It is impossible to discern the motives of this movement (UPDATED). The motives of individual actors are easy to discern. A global motive is impossible to uncover, particularly since it is the culmination of thousands of local interactions. Even observations of the movement's global pattern of activity might be fruitless, since the time horizon is likely too short for accurate measurement. The movement is in a constant process of maturation in response to evolving environmental conditions.