Wiener on who and what we are

This was posted on CYBCOM by Bernard Scott:

We are but whirlpools in a river of ever-flowing water. We are not stuff that abides, but patterns that perpetuate themselves.…We are swimming upstream against a great torrent of disorganization….In this, our main obligation is to establish arbitrary enclaves of order and system….It is the greatest possible victory to be, to continue to be, and to have been. No defeat can deprive us of the success of having existed for some moment of time in a universe that seems indifferent to us.

This is no defeatism….The declaration of our own nature and the attempt to build up an enclave of organization in the face of nature’s overwhelming tendency to disorder is an insolence against the gods and the iron necessity that they impose. Here lies tragedy, but here lies glory too.

Norbert Wiener

The Cybernetic State

“The Cybernetic State” is a book written by Javier Livas and is available as PDF on request from the author. From the preface:

The emergence of a cybernetic State is now a real possibility, and most likely inevitable in the near future. This book sketches this information age organization and the cybernetic management principles on which it is based. As we shall see, many of its features are already present in embrionary form in the modern democratic State.

The description of the cybernetic State relies on the Viable System Model (VSM) developed by professor Stafford Beer and explained in several of his books. This model originates from control theory and the cybernetics of the human nervous system, and has been adopted and validated by management science. In this book the VSM is used to show the nature of the State.

The enormous explanatory power of this cybernetic map will show that Economics, Law, and Political Science, which have mostly been studied separately, actually refer to three different aspects of the same phenomena, namely the State. In this sense, the book attempts a synthesis of ideas that were born disconnected and remained so for a long time. Helpful insights about the evolution of economic, legal and political theory are a byproduct.

[via CYBCOM]

A vision so noble

Vasilis Katos at the 1st Athens Chapter ISACA Conference argued that we do not need cyber security experts, rather we need champions on the multitude of the different and complex areas that this domain encloses. He is not alone in believing this about experts. With the domain being new, hot and with commitment from Governments for financial backing of projects, the landscape is open for expertship claim. And since we are at the infant stages, many try to establish themselves as the strategists who set the pace, no matter how disconnected from reality they may be.

Whenever a new domain is introduced, until it is sufficiently comprehended people try to use analogies to make the connection. It is a no brainer then that since anything colored “cyber” starts to get a military approach, analogies with highly successful strategists of the past and relevant studies of them will appear. Think of it: Sun Tzu seems to fit every subject, from the battle ground, to sports, to (non military) management. I’ve seen efforts for both Sun Tzu (although far from a complete treatment) and Clausewitz and I am sure that others exist too. It is no wonder then that John Boyd and his OODA Loop would receive treatment too.

Since I found the OODA Loop concept interesting I set out to learn a bit more about it. This is not an easy task for a civilian for Boyd did not really leave much written work behind with the exception of a continually refined set of slides that when finalized took about 15 hours to present. To understand the loop, I read “A vision so noble” by Dan Ford. It’s chapter 2 contains a longer explanation of the OODA Loop than Wikipedia does and even includes a hand written sketch of it:

The OODA Loop as John Boyd sketched it toward the end of his life

For a more understandable version of the loop see the Wikipedia drawing and article.

Boyd is mostly an attacker and not a defender and indeed one can find cyber similarites in his work, where in page 40 Ford uncovered from his boxes:

* Blitz and guerrillas infiltrate a nation or regime at all levels to soften and shatter the moral fiber of the political, economic and social structure. To carry out this program, a la Sun Tzu, Blitz and Guerrillas:

* Probe and test adversary to unmask strenghts, weaknesses, maneuvers and intentions.

* Shape adversary’s perception of the world to manipulate or undermine his plans and actions.

* To force capitulations when combined with external political, economic and military pressures.


* To minimize the resistance of a weakened foe for the military blows to follow.

Do not all the above match Cyber Warfare aims? So there exists value in studying Boyd and his tactics, but not a one-to-one mapping as many would hope that would make the transition to a cyber domain easier. The OODA Loop is there, one has to understand that it is not completely linear (OODA means Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action but you are constantly in an observation state that provides feedback) and is valuable.

Boyd believed that People not weapons win wars. Not very far from the observation that a good friend has made that people and not machines get hacked or my belief that people are the actual cyber weapons.

A good 70 page book based on Ford’s MSc Thesis that definitely helps expand our thoughts on the matter.

Off to read “The Dynamic OODA Loop: Amalgamating Boyd’s OODA Loop and the Cybernetic Approach to Command and Control” now.

PS1: An earlier version of Ford’s book seems to be available on Lulu as PDF.

PS2: Boyd on management

cybernetics and cyber war

My favorite cyber crime story is still from 1994: “The Technology Secrets of Cocaine Inc.“. Mostly because of this:

The traffickers have the advantages of unlimited funds and no scruples, and they’ve invested billions of dollars to create a technological infrastructure that would be the envy of any Fortune 500 company — and of the law enforcement officials charged with going after the drug barons. “I spent this morning working on the budget,” the head of DEA intelligence, Steve Casteel, said recently. “Do you think they have to worry about that? If they want it, they buy it.”

I’m going through a lot of the current literature on cyber war, cyber crime and how the cyberspace is the new dimension.Strategies and tactics are being published and there are even people who write about regulation of cyber weapons (go figure).

With all this noise generated on the subject from all kinds of people, maybe it is time to make the leap and start thinking about moving from cyber space to cybernetic space. War (and organized crime) is a lot about management (and many aspiring management suits recite “Art of War” seeking enlightenment and higher ground) so it seems natural to me that cybernetic management deserves a chance as a strategic tool.



Πρωτοδιάβασα για το Cybersyn σε αυτό το blog post του Mike Trick. Πρόκειται για ένα τηλεπικοινωνιακό δίκτυο που έστησε στη Χιλή η Κυβέρνηση του Αλιέντε με μηχανές telex (που βρήκε σε αχρηστία από την προηγούμενη Κυβέρνηση). Project manager του έργου ήταν ο Stafford Beer (ένας πρωτοπόρος της Επιχειρησιακής Έρευνας που πίστευε στο συνδιασμό Cybernetics και managemet). Το έργο έτρεξε από το 1970 έως και το πραξικόπημα του 1973.

Όπως φαίνεται και από το άρθρο του Guardian η μεγαλύτερη επιτυχία του έργου ήρθε στην απεργία του 1972 με 50000 φορτηγατζήδες να κλείνουν δρόμους:

Food and fuel supplies threatened to run out. Then the government realised that Cybersyn offered a way of outflanking the strikers. The telexes could be used to obtain intelligence about where scarcities were worst, and where people were still working who could alleviate them. The control rooms in Santiago were staffed day and night. People slept in them – even government ministers. “The rooms came alive in the most extraordinary way,” says Espejo. “We felt that we were in the centre of the universe.” The strike failed to bring down Allende.

Θυμίζει κάτι αυτό; Το Cybersyn και 200 φορτηγά πάντως τα έβγαλαν πέρα. Στη δικιά μας περίπτωση τα φορτηγά και τα βυτία επιτάσσονται, αλλά ακούω πως δεν είναι εύκολο να ελεγχθεί εάν θα τηρηθεί η επίταξη καθώς δεν υπάρχει ο κατάλληλος μηχανισμός (δεν ξέρω, μπορεί να είναι και λανθασμένη η εντύπωση αυτή).

Μέχρι να εκδοθεί από το MIT Press το “Cybernetic Socialism“, το οποίο και θα περιγράφει την ιστορία του Cybersyn, ίσως θα είναι χρήσιμο να μεταφραστούν από κάποιον τα τμήματα της τεκμηρίωσής του που είναι στα Ισπανικά.

Μπορεί να μάθουμε και κάτι.

Update: Ένα λεπτομερές blog post για το Cybersyn.

The Phenomenon of Science

Internet Systematics is a blog maintained by Yannis Corovesis (a well known Engineer from the stone ages of the Greek Internet) and is the result of his observations as well as of his participation into the process of building the global Internet over the years.

In his latest post he mentions Turchin‘s book “The Phenomenon of Science” which apparently is out of print. But thanks to the Internet, not out of availability: You can read it from Scribd, or even download it from here.