Quality 3, Seas

Note: This is a selection from Quality, a tdaxp series.

Photo Courtesy Despair.com

Continuing our epic discussion, which begun with my thoughts on neoconservatives and theoconservatives, continued with Mark’s initial and detailed reaction, and ebbed into my thoughts on friction, Mr. Safranski takes issue with my statement that “Friction is not an attribute of a single enemy. It is a quality or a relationship between two entities.” (My original version had a typo which, happily, didn’t change the meaning too much.)

This however is not really the case, not even in physics and still less in the domain of politics. While we may have to major, diametrically opposed adversaries – say the NRA and Handgun Control, inc. – they do not conflict with each other in isolation but within the context of all parties able to participate in the political sphere, most of whom have only partial or no real intrinsic interest in the conflict, yet can and will bring their influence to bear to affect the outcome.

I yield to Dan’s superior open source graphics capability in describing his model but the model itself is oversimplified to the point of error. Two variables in the political or geopolitical world is not enough. My crude powerpoint doesn’t even encompass all of the significant variables in Dan’s Pro-Life vs. Pro-Choice example.

Frequently, the Darwinian effect of single-issue contests is the adversaries evolve over time into evenly matched ( at least enough of an equilibrium state to deny victory to one another) entities and third parties must be enlisted or opportunistically intervene to tip the scales, for reasons of their own.

And, except for the defaced diagram….


.. Mark and I agree completely.

For example, take the Toyota Motors. It has friction (also called “a relationship” or “quality” or “a semantic internet”) with the American consumer


We see that Toyota and the American consumer are semantically related. Toyota has cheap cars and reliable cars, which the American consumer wants. Also, Toyota wants high prices and low service, which the American consumer dislikes. This is a typical business relationship in the free market. We clearly see the “friction” between Toyota and the American consumer.

In the interest of clarity, I will simply the friction relation to


We still have the two entities, Toyota and the American consumer, along with their Relation F(t,ac) (the friction between Toyota and the American consumer). The friction between Toyota and the American consumer, F(t,ac), contains all of the frictions we had listed above.

As Mark might say, two variables in the business world is not enough. So let’s add some other points of Friction for Toyota


so the Toyota’s total friction is the sum of its friction with the american consumer, big labor, consumer activsts, affirmative actionists, toyota workers, shareholders, american consumer families, and environmentalists. Mathematically:


Or more generally, assuming Toyota has k points of friction with other entities, T’s total friction would be the sum of all its points of friction, or mathematically


Now, even my the internet of Toyota’s friction is simplistic, because all the entities that Toyota relates to have their own relationship…


Networks are central to many fields of computer science. Some professors will call the above diagram a “network” or even “internet,” other call it a “web” or “world of discourse,” other just use the term “database”!

But really, it is a sea.

What are the qualities of a sea?

  • Seas are frictional. Swimmers and fish move by using the friction of their body on the water to generate movement.
  • Seas are vast. Even though a sea may appear clear, it is impossible to know everything that is in the great body of water.
  • Seas are part of the World Ocean. The Caribbean is part of the Atlantic, which flows by the Indian, Pacific, and Arctic.
  • Seas make “obvious” movement impossible. Crawling and walking, man’s mode of transport on land, is impractical in water. In the same way, an “obvious” solution in the world of complex business, politics, or war could backfire terrible.

With that in mind, take this except from the Clausewitz

Friction is the only conception which in a general way corresponds to that which distinguishes real war from war on paper [just as the complications of relationships make any model “oversimplified to the point of error.” — tdaxp]. The military machine, the army and all belonging to it, is in fact simple, and appears on this account easy to manage. But let us reflect that no part of it [a striving network] is in one piece, that it is composed entirely of individuals, each of which keeps up its own friction in all directions [Clausewitz is talking about the Sea of Friction — tdaxp]. Theoretically all sounds very well: the commander of a battalion is responsible for the execution of the order given; and as the battalion by its discipline is glued together into one piece, and the chief must be a man of acknowledged zeal, the beam turns on an iron pin with little friction. But it is not so in reality, and all that is exaggerated and false in such a conception manifests itself at once in war. The battalion always remains composed of a number of men, of whom, if chance so wills, the most insignificant is able to occasion delay and even irregularity [inadvertently superempowered individuals — tdaxp]. The danger which war brings with it, the bodily exertions which it requires, augment this evil so much that they may be regarded as the greatest causes of it.

Activity in war is movement in a resistant medium. Just as a man immersed in water is unable to perform with ease and regularity the most natural and simplest movement, that of walking, so in war, with ordinary powers, one cannot keep even the line of mediocrity. This is the reason that the correct theorist is like a swimming master, who teaches on dry land movements which are required in the water, which must appear grotesque and ludicrous to those who forget about the water. This is also why theorists, who have never plunged in themselves, or who cannot deduce any generalities from their experience, are unpractical and even absurd, because they only teach what everyone knows — how to walk.

Further, every war is rich in particular facts, while at the same time each is an unexplored sea, full of rocks which the general may have a suspicion of, but which he has never seen with his eye, and round which, moreover, he must steer in the night. If a contrary wind also springs up, that is, if any great accidental event declares itself adverse to him, then the most consummate skill, presence of mind, and energy are required, whilst to those who only look on from a distance all seems to proceed with the utmost ease. The knowledge of this friction is a chief part of that so often talked of, experience in war, [see parallelisms to the search for undefined Quality — tdaxp] which is required in a good general…

To conclude,

  • Friction is the relation between two entities
  • An entity’s total friction is the sum of its friction with every entity it is related to
  • Any frictional network diagrammed is just a small Sea in the great Frictional Ocean of the World
The World Sea
Home to the all the Friction of Humanity


Friction in War,” by Carl von Clausewitz, On War, AD 1832, http://www.bibliomania.com/2/1/61/108/20840/1/frameset.html (from CKR at ZenPundit).

A Question of Friction,” by Mark Safranski, ZenPundit, 13 June 2005, http://zenpundit.blogspot.com/2005/06/question-of-friction-yesterday-dan-of.html.

Quality, a tdaxp series, has five parts:
The First Part, Beauty
The Second Part, Friction
The Third Part, Seas
The Fourth Part, Inlets, Lakes, and Streams
The Fifth Part, The Magic Cloud

Global Guerrillas v. 4GW

Global Warriors,” by John Robb, Global Guerrillas, 14 June 2005, http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2005/06/global_warriors.html.

Without comment:

However, as tough as the the 4GW warrior is, it fails to account for the extreme resilience and innovation we see today in global terrorism and guerrilla warfare. We are fighting on many more levels that merely the moral one. This implies that something has been left out of this analysis. My conclusion is that it fails to account for the decentralized mechanism of improvement by which warriors improve their ability to apply violence. Warriors, in our modern context, are not merely lazy, monosyllabic, and violence prone as Peters implies. They are in the game to win and are wired, educated, and globally mobile. Their decentralized system of coordination/learning, something that I call open source warfare, has led to radical improvements that include: