[Discuss] network centeric warfare and open source development

Matt Maier blueback09 at gmail.com
Fri Mar 28 17:07:09 UTC 2014

I think I see an unexpected connection and I was wondering if it held up to

Information Age Transformations, David S. Alberts

Network-centric warfare, which is the high-falutin' paradigm the US
military is using to organize its move into the information age, has four

   - A robust networked force improves information sharing
   - information sharing and collaboration enhances the quality of
   information and shared situational awareness
   - shared situational awareness enables self-synchronization
   - these, in turn, dramatically increase mission effectiveness

What I see is a strong conceptual parallel to the open source philosophy.
If you think of a technical problem, or a particular capability, as "the
enemy" and solving or achieving it as "fighting" then the domain-specific
ideas in network-centric warfare suddenly describe open source development.

The core idea is that if everyone knows what the goal is, and everyone has
access to the same information, then conversations can flow peer-to-peer,
which is far more efficient.

It seems like the only important difference between these two theories are
where they're coming from. Open source has emerged bottom-up, so it only
grafts on a "head" when absolutely necessary. Network-centric warfare has
emerged top-down, so the "head' isn't interested in actually giving up any
significant power. The former wants to know how everyone at the edge
(because there is no center) can benefit from knowing what each other
knows. The latter wants to know how the center can benefit from having
better tools to give to the people at the edge.

NCW reminds me a bit of Quirky or Local Motors. They absolutely love
talking about openness and collaboration, but they are actually strongly
centrally controlled. However, they are also relatively successful.

So, how much of the benefit of open source network effects is it possible
to obtain without giving up the benefits of central control? A military,
and arguably a (public?) business, can't even consider the possibility of
"forking." They have to give up whatever benefits come with maximum freedom
of association, but still want to capture whatever benefits are left over.

The intersection could be studied by asking the corporate/military people
how & why they introduced some aspects of openness into their organizations
and by asking the libre-open crowd how & why they introduced some aspects
of central authority into their collective.

My guess at the moment is that it will hinge on whether or not there is an
accumulation of wealth that doesn't rightfully belong to any one person. I
suspect when that exists an artificial entity has to be created to be the
"person" to which the wealth belongs. But that's mostly an intuitive guess.

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.oshwa.org/pipermail/discuss/attachments/20140328/66f6f5f4/attachment.html>

More information about the discuss mailing list