[Discuss] network centeric warfare and open source development

Ethan Chew spacefelix at gmail.com
Fri Mar 28 18:34:28 UTC 2014


      The current undertakings of Lt. Col Nathan Wiedenman at DARPA's
Tactical Technology Office come to mind (
http://www.darpa.mil/Our_Work/TTO/Personnel/Wiedenman.aspx).  He has been
the program manager for the DARPA grant to SpaceGAMBIT for the Hackerspaces
Space Program.  He and his DARPA department has worked with the open-source
development of various ground vehicles by the Adaptive Vehicle Make (AVM,
and the open development of software by the DARPA Open Catalogue (
      He would be a very good candidate to ask of the intersection of the
benefits of openness and of central control.

                 - Ethan

On Fri, Mar 28, 2014 at 10:07 AM, Matt Maier <blueback09 at gmail.com> wrote:

> I think I see an unexpected connection and I was wondering if it held up
> to scrutiny.
> Information Age Transformations, David S. Alberts
> http://www.dodccrp.org/files/Alberts_IAT.pdf
> Network-centric warfare, which is the high-falutin' paradigm the US
> military is using to organize its move into the information age, has four
> tenets:
>    - 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.
> -Matt
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