Friday, January 21, 2005

The Second Term

Tim Bray makes marvelous observations about the inauguration. Some replies from the voice of the resistance in the heart of the Red States:

  • The Americans tolerate the war and the criticism of the war because they don't want to lose it. Fear of losing is the heart of their viewpoint. They lost in VietNam. Regardless of what else happens, they don't want to lose again.

  • President Bush is becoming irrelevant. He is now in the second day of his last term and counting. Largely, I think most of us are ignoring him.

  • The bad thing will be if his lust for misadventure continues. If for example, Seymour Hersch is right and he and his have some design on Iran, he may have a much tougher time getting that past the Congress, and remember, we now know how to impeach a President without too much fanfare. Would the Republican majority allow that? They would if they thought it was going to cost them personally.

  • We aren't lusting for war down here. We don't like this war in Iraq, we know we were lied to, and we are looking for an exit strategy. The challenge in the Middle East will be to discover a means to keep its culture of monarchic and theocratic rule and still feed its people or its people will feed on it, because this is a world of growing interdependencies, particularly, economically.

    Where were the jihadhists when Saddam was torturing his people? In their mosques. Where are they now? In their mosques. Bush can't change that. Time to deal.

    Fish Herding: Open Source Management

    In a predator/prey ecology, the open source community are much like fish. Their schooling behavior is observable and appropriate. They use simple rules for collision avoidance and nutrient seeking, and they collect closely and densely to fend off predators. Over time, schooling prey tend to develop their lateral sensors exclusively because the behavior of managing position in a loosely coupled herd dominates their sensory evolution. The fact of genotypic crossover within the herd and a slow rate of mutation mean the herd phenotype converges quickly.

    So, as in boids of a feather, they flock and mate together. Because they are not isolated, they are increasingly homogenized. The effect of propinquity is to increase homophily. The rules for significaion and legitimization stabilize the relationships reflexively. They are well-protected and well-schooled.

    But the shape of the school in motion is shaped by the distance to and types of predators. The predators are solitary and diverse. Being large means they consume less and digest slowly. The 3/4 power law effect of their metabolic rate and the need for speed when culling individuals away from the herds drives their sensory systems toward forward looking stereo sensors. Their hearing is not as good because ears are used to control lateral motion and as a non-schooling network, lateral motion is deemphasized.

    Schools do not need leaders. Predator families do but predators do not school and emphasize an almost darwinian evolution based on a fitness function. They adapt quickly. Schooling systems do not need a fitness function; they use the simple rules and shared goals of consumption to effect direction. Their phenotypic change is very slow and their size can increase in an almost unlimited dimension.

    Neither form wins. The predators cull individuals away from the herd and consume them. The schools maintain formation and mate frequently so they always have a reasonable replacement rate as long as they remember where to find food and don't overfeed. Overfeeding slows their motion and because they are schooling, they slow the herd which leads to a rise in the rate of predation. A school that grows too small or fails to maintain close distance is ripe for rapid predation. A predator that exhausts a small school on which it depends for vital nutrition may starve or be forced into a rapid adaptation mode which reduces its size over generations as the metabolic rates rise to compensate for the loss. Catastropic loss may cause a predator type to disappear, but the relief effect on the prey school is short as this is an opportunity for a different predator.

    Predators learn to herd prey. Smart predators don't overfeed. If the open source community is to be a source of innovation, special care for culling and feeding must be taken by their predators. Of course, a prey society can evolve into a predatory society, but the need for balance remains the same. They will only be changing roles in the ecology of the games, not the rules.

    This is what Lawrence Lessig doesn't get.

    Wednesday, January 19, 2005

    Social Networks and The Innovation Challenge

    In researching network theories as applied to organizations, discourse, games, and identity, I've been pondering the power of the social network to dominate the other networks and asking myself, is this most effective way to run a company? It seems that the current position of the company in the cycles of event types determines the network that should be chosen for the most effective communications media. A company that is seeking stability relies on the social network. Why? Research indicates that the social network favors the oldest relationships as these have longer lifecycles and have settled into stable orbits. Social networks do provide a fast and efficient under the table messaging medium.

    What about a company that has evolved in a sub-optimum mode for innovation and now needs to make rapid changes to kick start innovation efforts?

    The social networks are deadly to this goal. The tendancy of the members to preserve status quo ostracizes any source of new ideas that threaten the social oligarchy unless that source reinforces the positions of the oligarchs.

    Social networks are necessary and where one doesn't exist, human resources and management will create one. However, without the challenge of learning and adopting technologies appropriate to the environment BEFORE it emerges, these networks only preserve power and often at the expense of adaptation and flexible response. Smart executives know that if the social network is the only effective means of communication, the company is dead and just doesn't know it.

    Schadenfreude as a concept has become a cliche, but it is the one really effective means to eliminate innovation. Humiliation drives out thought just as its close cousin, fear, kills it. White pigging is alive and well in the social networks of the companies dominated by the formerly successful innovators who cannot accept that just as pop artist must, they have to know when to get off the stage and let a fresh act take it. Even when we have fans, we may not be doing our business much good to keep on giving them the old hits.

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