I've finalized my keynote for the World War D conference in Melbourne, Australia at the end of the month.
iWar: How anybody can declare war on the world and win
Should be a fun conference.
I've also offered to be in two additional panels on the second day to discuss topics of interest. Should be lots of fun.
America has been in decay for decades (since the mid seventies).
It's a problem that has consumed a large portion of my thinking for nearly a decade.
I've read the analysis. Listened to the debates.
Very little of it resonated.
That was a bit depressing. Without any insight into the real problem, all we could do is accept inevitable failure and eventual collapse.
Fortunately, at that moment, I was able to find the clarity I needed to answer this question (due to the support of a great friend).
It was in front of me all of the time and I just didn't see it for what it was.
It was this simple idea.
I should have known, given my work on open source conflict, that only a simple idea would be powerful enough to change the world.
Nothing else would unite most of us in common purpose or connect with us at a deep level than a simple idea.
However, this idea wasn't just the US. It started before the US was built and it has now expanded to claim the hearts and minds of nearly 3 billion people around the world.
This idea was also powerful. It was the engine that built the modern world of the 20th Century.
Of course, you probably think this idea is socialism, capitalism, communism or some sort of ism. It isn't. Those complex ideologies are merely derivatives.
Engineered systems built to take advantage of the energy and innovation unleashed by this simple idea. Rules of the games built to exploit this idea, and sources of fuel for endless debate (and occasionally brutal conflict).
So, back to the original question. Why did the US decline?
The US declined because we spent the better part of four decades killing this idea, largely because we didn't acknowlege its centrality.
Trying to kill it, largely unsuccessfully, at the very same moment it capturing the hearts and minds of 2.5 billion people.
However, now something has changed that will actually kill the idea. Kill it dead.
What that will do to the world over the next couple of decades is potentially catastrophic.
What happens when the expectations of 3 billion people are crushed, in a world full of technologies that make it possible for one person to declare war on the world?
Fortunately, there is a way out. A way to head this off. We can come up with a new idea. A new motive force to drive the world forward.
We've done it before.
Here's a strong motive for open source warfare -- the model of warfare that has become the hallmark of 21st century conlfict, from potest movements to fullscale insurgencies.
It's the driver of the recent conflict in Ukraine.
A conflict we're going to see much more of. A struggle between the people that want the opportunity to earn some prosperity, and those that want to take all of it.
In other words, a growing number of people around the world now want to make the American Dream their own. Unfortunately, they face a kleptocracy of government, business, and finance that wants to prevent that.
Here's one story from that fight. One that you should know.
It's the story of a young man that pursued the Dream, only to have it stolen away from him.
If you've been reading Global Guerrillas for years, you'll recognize the type of attack I'm about to describe.
It's very similar to the easy (anybody can do it, as opposed to cyber) type of attack on critical systems that be became so popular in Iraq (and were so effective in preventing any meaningful economic recovery, which helped fuel the insurgency). For more: 1, 2, 3, just do a search on the bottom right.
Last year, one or two people shot up a electrical substation in central California that fed Silicon Valley. As is usual in this type of attack, it was successful yet nobody was arrested or hurt -- which makes attacks like this easier to recruit for and easier to repeat.
The attackers initiated the attack at ~1 AM on April 16, 2013 and ended it ~1 hour later. Here's what they did:
- Entered two different manholes and cut the communication landlines to the station area (911 service to security monitoring at the substation). ~Sawzall attack.
- Systematically shot up the substation. 10 transformers were damaged in on section of the station. ~100 bullets. Here's some surveillance video on YouTube of the attack.
- Three transformer banks were also damaged. Bullet holes caused the cooling oil in the banks to leak (52,000 gallons of oil), after that the transformers overheated and shut down to protect themselves. ~
The attack likely had three objectives:
- To test the security of the station. From how easily it was accessed (this station was 500ft from a residential area) to response times. Results: few security barriers. It took the police 10 min after shooting reported to respond, it was quiet when the arrived and they left. It took the power company nearly an hour to respond.
- To test the efficacy of attacking transformers with a rifle. Two approaches - direct damage and indirect damage via cooling systems. Results: midling. Not that efficacious, but it doesn't have to be.
- To estimate the impact of the loss of the station on the surrounding grid. Results: not much, but any more would have been surprising. It wasn't during the peak summer load (most of the rest of the year, the power system has excess capacity and is therefore hard to collapse)
PS: the black art of taking down a grid is network analysis. Find the right node at the right time and an entire region comes down. The more load on the system (afternoon + late summer + heat wave) or in combination with a denial of supply (from out of state based load suppliers) the bigger the cascade of failure.
PPS: I'm going to be speaking at the World War D conference at the end of March. I'm going to focus the talk on disruptions. I'm staying a second day (April 1) to engage in a couple of breakout sessions.
When I wrote Brave New War back in 2006, I made this aggressive projection on how rapid technological change would change warfare:The threshold necessary for small groups to conduct global warfare has finally been breached, and we are only starting to feel its effects. Over time, in as little as perhaps twenty years and as the leverage of technology increases, this threshold will finally reach its culmination -- with the ability of one man to declare war on the world and win.
It seems that we are on track with my projection. Recently, we saw individuals leveraging the power of computers and networks launch (open source) protests that toppled governments. It didn't end there. Edward Snowden (love him or hate him) proved it is possible to wage a one-man information war against the biggest, most powerful national security establishment in the world. The US government. A country that spends more than all other countries in the world combined on national defense. He was able to:
- steal the crown jewels of the US security system by himself,
- initiate an information war against the entire US national security bureaucracy while eluding capture, and
- initiate economic disruptions that have done billions of dollars in damage to US corporations (from Boeing to RSA).
However, his successes don't end there, he's winning the war. This support from the editors of the New York Times indicates that he's already achieved most of what it takes to achieve a "moral victory" against the US government. Of course, this type of revolutionary change due to technology isn't isolated to the world of conflict, terrorism, and war. It's also going on in our economy.
In the economy, this superempowerment is destroying something else. Jobs. More on that at HomeFree America ...
Ouroboros is the mythical snake that eats its own tail.
In this case, it represents how modernity ends. It eats itself.
Specifically, the technologies the modern system accelerated, are in the process of obsoleting it.
Eating its value, industry by industry. Job by job.
The end of this way of life is likely to be traumatic.
Here's more detail on this.
I'm still writing my next book online.
Today's pages might be of interest to GG readers.
It's entitled "The National Insecurity State"
There's also some thinking on the end of bureaucracy if you are interested.
I suspect the only thing the US national security bureaucracy can do is launch new arms races -- as we have done in cyber, drones, and genetics (if you count GMOs)~
- Weaponized computer worms/viruses/malware. Legal bot networks that control/manipulate society and markets (think in terms of quant hedge funds).
- Drones/robots. Weaponized drones that at first self-perpetuate by acquiring fuel from the environment. Weaponized drones that can self-replicate ala 3-D fabrication and scavanged materials (think rep-rap).
- Superbugs/superweeds (some may be aided by engineered modification, but all get their start due to the stupidity of growing food in monocultures). Organisms that can wipe out monocultures and cause the loss of productive farmland and crops ond a global scale.