Open Source Warfare

DownWinger John Robb believes that crises will continue and that recognizable middle-class life will collapse. Nation states around the world will decay from the inside, keeping the vestiges of legitimacy but becoming, in reality, hollow states. Alternative forms of organization, such as the narco-state in Mexico, will propagate.

Robb’s interest in resilient communities is very clearly related to his interest in the next generation of warfare on Global Guerrillas. Both the new guerrilla groups and his proposed new communities borrow tactics of the decentralized, networked organization. It’s a construct that Nassim Taleb would immediately recognize as antifragile. I haven’t written anything about Antifragile in this blog yet, but I would consider it another inductee into my list of canon works.

(Note: Robb has since left Resilient Communities and started a new blog, HomeFree America).

In what ways are Robb’s ideas in the Antifragile universe? Look at his Open Source Warfare (OSW) Standing Orders from 2009:

  1. Break Networks
  2. Grow Black Economies
  3. Virtualize your organization
  4. Repetition is more important than scale
  5. Coopetition
  6. Don’t fork the insurgency
  7. Minimalist rule sets work best
  8. Self-replicate
  9. Share everything that works
  10. Release Early and Often
  11. Co-opt, don’t own, basic services

Many of the orders involve a very evolutionary-sounding imperative: self-replicate your organization, release new innovations early and often, and realize that attack repetition is more important than attack scale. Instead of meticulously planning expensive one-off attacks, Robb’s warriors enable newcomers to be able to cheaply and remotely learn the skills, absorb the moral worldview, and assemble the tools to fly the flag of an organization he may never personally coordinate with. These guerillas quickly learn from each other’s successes and failures and replicate themselves and their processes. Their organizers keep rule sets as minimal as possible to keep flexibility. They “share everything that works”. They exist in physical and in virtual space. They feed off of the larger power they’re fighting, and they technically cooperate with other insurgents without ever necessarily coordinating, even if the other insurgents are ideologically at odds.

I don’t know exactly what to call these groups, but the decentralized organization as a concept has seen rich and interesting stories in the last decade or so, with Al Qaeda and Anonymous being symbols of mystery and pervasiveness, and open-source becoming an increasingly mainstream concept in the civilian, non-techie world.