Evolutionary vs Revolutionary Adaptation

This section brings the threads of evolution and revolution together with those of the epistemology and cybernetics of strategic power in competition.

Entities in an externally changing environment of competition must continually adapt in order to survive the competition. As is well known to both evolutionary biologists and strategic analysts, adaptation in complex entities like biological species and human organizations is not necessarily a smooth process. Complex systems often behave non–linearly, where a small external change may produce a large and effectively unpredictable response (Beckerman 1999; Czerwinski 1998; Leydesdorff, 1997, 2001; Costantino, et. al. 1997; Levin, et. al. 1997). Complex systems often have unpredictable properties that emerge when a certain level of complexity is reached (Kirschbaum 2002). An example of the complexity that can emerge even from a non-dynamic World 3 algorithm is illustrated by the Mandelbrot set (Griffin ????). Kruger (????) provides a guided tour of the infinite virtual complexity that is inherent within this simple formula59.

Mathematical analysis and simulation of adaptation in such systems shows that under some regimes of small changes to an external variable, the corresponding adaptive response can be predicted in direct proportion to the external variable. However, as shown in Figure 3 , as the rate or extent of change in the external variable increases, a zone is reached where the simulation may predict two possible responses to the external variable. A further small change in the external variable may move the adaptive regime into a zone where there are four possible stable responses; and then eight... to the point where there is chaotic diversity of radically different responses to infinitesimal changes in the external variable. Such non–linear behavior is a well known property of complex adaptive systems and is studied under the heading of chaos theory.

Figure 4. An idealised picture of the development of chaos in a non–linear system (Beckerman, 1999).

As shown in Figure 4, a wide range of reasonably stable adaptive responses may be easily evolved by switching from one region of stability to another closely adjacent one in the region between the second bifurcation and the onset of complete chaos. In the linear (monostable) or bistable region, adaptation is relatively strongly constrained to the path already being followed. In the chaotic region, there can be no consistent relationship between adaptation and the external variable.60

The point here is that there are fundamental reasons to expect adaptive processes responding to external change to show periods of reasonable stability punctuated by periods of rapid and chaotic change. In the field of evolutionary biology, the fossil record for many lineages exhibits many examples of stability or gradual change, interspersed with periods of very rapid change known as "punctuated equilibria."61. Lineages showing short periods of rapid change may be have undergone grade shifts. Where human affairs are concerned, Kuhn (1962) argued that the growth of scientific knowledge in a discipline might exhibit long periods of stability and slow evolutionary growth with occasional chaotic revolutions, where many individual scientists could only accept the changes via irrational mental processes akin to religious reformation. This process could be another manifestation of chaotic change comparable to the punctuated equilibria of evolution.

Boyd (1976), and in his many unpublished presentations) recognised the value of working on the edge of chaos. By minimising the time required to observe, orient, decide and act; pilots and organizations can maintain their own adaptive responses in a region of control on the edge of chaos, while setting a pace that pushes entities whose OODA feedback processes take longer into an uncontrollable chaos. Fadok (1994) calls this a state of "'strategic paralysis".

[T]he key to winning in conflict lies in establishing a relative advantage over one's enemy in terms of both OODA loop speed and accuracy. Ultimately, this edge allows one to penetrate the opponent's 'moral–mental–physical being' to negate his capability and will to resist through moral alienation, mental disorientation [cognitive chaos], and physical deprivation [my emphasis].

Boyd's theory of maneuvering inside the enemy's mental process, as depicted by the OODA loop model, is ... philosophical, abstract, nonlinear. He recognizes the uncertainty of war and the subsequent need for mental agility and creativity –– in short, genius [or 'wisdom' in Coombe's terms]. He believes genius can be taught and sets out to do just that for his audience by means of the mental process of "destruction and creation." He preaches familiarity with many different theories, doctrines, and models so that, through the genius of "destruction and creation," the military strategist can build from the gems in each of them a plan of attack most appropriate to the situation at hand. Furthermore, through extensive training and practice, the strategist will be able to do so at a faster tempo than his adversary so as to fold [the adversary] back inside himself [i.e., force the adversary into a region of chaos] and ultimately defeat his will to resist. (Fadok 1994)

Tools and Applications that Extend Humanity's Cognitive Abilities

As noted above, humanity is currently in the midst of a major revolution in knowledge management technology enabled by the microelectronics revolution. In competitive environments in business or war where the management of knowledge by individuals or organizations plays any role at all, the strategic advantage will go to those who generate epistemic power more effectively and faster than their opponents and competitors, as is thoroughly elaborated in the US Air Force's 2025 study62. The following section, Episode 1, begins a review of how book and printing technology to produce persistent knowledge in World 3 contributed to evolutionary and revolutionary improvements in cognition that contribute to OODA loop speed and accuracy.

In the remainder of the work, I will describe the evolution of various information capture, processing, delivery and retrieval tools able to extend human cognition, and explore how these are presently causing truly revolutionary changes in human relationships to our environment. Through history until the last few years, knowledge has only ever been generated in the minds of individual people. Knowledge gained by one person could then be transferred to other people via cultural transmission: first by observation (copycat), then via an increasingly powerful use of World 3, with semantically structured language, by writing of pictures, words and mathematics; then print publishing; and most recently by electronic publishing and retrieval. Cognitive revolutions have been associated with each major shift in the mode of transmitting knowledge. 

Metaphorically, speech is one–dimensional. Writing on paper added a second dimension (i.e., columns, tables, drawings, etc.). Printing and publishing provided a third dimension enabling the replication documents across a wide geographic space and through time (Eisenstein 1983). The instantaneous publishing and retrieval of information electronically is now providing additional dimensions of awareness and intelligence - allowing individuals to retrieve knowledge from wherever it exists.

Current advances in tools for authoring, managing, retrieving and distributing documents are sparking a cognitive revolution likely to dwarf all preceding ones. Cognition itself is being moved into tools able to work directly with World 3 knowledge. The overall cognitive revolution is being driven by several tool–based revolutions. Referring back to the earlier discussion on the cognitive value of information, some tools add value in quantitative dimensions (i.e., by making it easier to capture information), while others help to increase the epistemic quality of the information through processing and retrieval along the data–power axis.

EPISODE 1 - Printing