Open Source Warfare and the Networked Republic
Parallel Lines Will Always Meet
This post from September breaks down the parallels between the insurgents and the humble developers of the GCC compiler. John has also graphed the insurgent attacks; they follow roughly the same long tail distribution as book sales on Amazon.com. He treats recent Al-Qaeda franchise terror attacks using the same framework.
This kind of sucks for advocates of open source software - we were only just getting over being called communists.
The Sovereign Mob
Of course open source insurgency sucks even more for the unfortunate people being killed and maimed by their local warfare entrepeneur.
Open source and long tail approaches are both made possible by a dramatic deflation in the price of information and shipping, in real terms, over the last 150 years. Anyone who's read the Art of War will recall how obsessed Sun Tzu was with knowing the movements and motivations of the enemy, so it should be no surprise to find parallels.
Parliamentary democracy as such doesn't deal with this problem. The genius of constitutional democracy is in its slowness and deliberation, inclusiveness and due process tempering the dangerous weight of collective decisions. These insurgents - and the smart policing mobs being grown to combat them - are by contrast highly flexible and autonomous groupings within the state. The instinctive response of rich world governments to these recent terrorist acts has been to try to lock down and track its citizenry further. This effectively raises the cost of information, shipping and the actions of everyday life for everyone, while giving everyday citizens less power to stop the attacks.
((Those Iraqi insurgents who are part of the Al-Qaeda franchise, rather than more conventional civil warriors, are in the bizarre position of insurging in order to establish a "caliphate" - far removed from the political autonomy they now possess. Please, hand me my straightjacket - I can't be trusted!))
The networked terrorist is a new, cheap and successful piece of military tech. Historically, responses to new military tech with old - especially when the new tech is cheap - fail. Democracies instead need smart policing mobs able to inform and if needed act to protect their own communities from threat.
((More analysis and the original heads up for Global Guerillas is at the addictive uber-development blog Worldchanging)).