OODA-PISRR, Part IV: System Perturbations

“You’re such an inspiration for the ways
That I’ll never ever choose to be

He did this
Took all you had and
Left you this way

It’s not like you killed someone”
Judith, by A Perfect Circle, from the Album, Mer de Noms

“It’s the meteor that will separate dinosaurs form mammals in defense. It will tell us what we need to know about war within the context of everything else. The impact on our community will unfold over years, but eventually this will change everything.
– Thomas PM Barnett, The Pentagon’s New Map, pg 260


The is a bi-stable system. It alternates between two attractors, high-intensity operations and low-intensity operations. High-intensity operations occur at the very end of the (Observe-Orient-Decide-Act) loop and the very beginning of the (Penetrate-Isolate-Subvert-Subdue-Reorient-Reharmonize) loop. As intensity falls, the PISRR Cognition Loop turns to the stability of low-intensity operations. Then, the OODA loop ratchets up intensity to complete the circle.

This cognitive circle:


can also be viewed as a cognitive wave:


Part of victory is going through the the cycle faster — increasing the wave’s frequency. But that alone is not enough. Creating a high-frequency waveform allows the adversary to know what we are doing, and guard against it.

Explaining one of his suggestions, the thinker wrote:

Why? Such activity will make us appear ambiguous (unpredictable) thereby generate confusion and disorder among our adversaries—since our adversaries will be unable to generate mental images or pictures that agree with the menacing as well as faster transient rhythm or patterns they are competing against.

In other words, victory requires that we break the stable OODA-PISRR cycle. Not just make the OODA-PISRR cycle go faster, not just increasing the frequency of our waveform, but breaking the waveform.

If one thinks of social cognition as a system, we know one of five things will happen if we break (“perturb“) the system. The system may:

  • Return to its original state
  • Settle in another stable state, perhaps after some period of unpredictable behavior
  • Bifurcate, that is, begin to oscillate among tow states, but not settle in either of them. It may bifurcate repeatedly, generating a collection of states among which it oscillates.
  • Wander among various states, but not settle in or even return to any of them
  • Become unstable, that is, lock up, disintegrate, or in any other way cease to function as a system

(from Page 45 of Richards’ . The passage draws on Beckerman’s The Non-Linear Dynamics of War, which has also been featured on ZenPundit).

Ff the OODA-PISRR social cognitive system is perturbed for a while…


There is not an equal chance that each of the five possible outcomes will happen. At least as far as social cognition goes, we know that the system will return to its original state.

Unlike non-linear systems that can display emergence, social cognition is closer to a pendulum. The waveform of an pendulum looks very similar to the OODA-PISRR waveform, and has two attractors:


A swing of a pendulum is “attracted” by both the maximum height and the minimum. (See Wikipedia for the mathematics).

Just as the pendulum-based intertial guidance systems maintain a form of repeated perturbations, human-based social cognition loops will also tend to the waveform. Over and over we see this. The cyclical patterns of football games allow knowledgeable observers to routinely predict, in detail, several plays out. In many countries, political cycles are also well documented. Even historical long-cycles have been observed.

The Social Cognitive Wave, the OODA-PISRR loop, can be perturbed for a while. Wise strategists will use this fact to their advantages. But in any system with two players (whether on the systemic, alliance, state, organizational, or individual levels), the attractors will win out over time. Wise strategists will use this fact as well.

The world is a system of systems. Some systems, such as the national defense system, have changed forever as a result of 9/11 and the Iraq War. Yet others, such social cognition loop between the United States and everything else, were just perturbed for a time.

Then the system is restored:


An event can be an inspiration for us – it can reorient us. It can even be an ideal which makes us want to change “everything.” It can throw us into unpredictability. But the old cognitive patterns will come back.

It’s not like we killed them. Or can.

OODA-PISRR, a tdaxp series in four parts
Part I: The Social Cognition Loop
Part II: The PISRR Cognition Loop
Part III: Formless Fast Transients
Part IV: System Perturbations