Tag Archives: metaphor

Terrorist strategy as an auto-immune response

terrorismAlex at the Yorkshire Ranter reviews The Accidental Guerrilla by David Kilcullen and discusses how the strategy behind Al-Qa’ida-inspired terrorism can be thought of in the same terms as an auto-immune disease:

Specifically, auto-immune war is a strategy, but its tactical implementation is the creation of false positive responses. Security obsession gums up the economy with inefficiencies. Terrorism terrorises the public; security theatre keeps them that way. As Kilcullen points out, every day, millions of travellers are systematically reminded of terrorism by government security precautions. Profiling measures subject entire communities to indignity and waste endless hours of police time. Vast sums of money are spent on counterproductive equipment programs and unlikely techno-fixes. National identity cards and monster databases are the specific symptoms of this pathology in the UK, just as idiotic militarism is in the US.

It is the best description of how terrorism actually works as a method of warfare I have come across. Interested readers might also be interested in Wasp by Eric Frank Russell, which deals with terrorism in a practical and humorous fashion.

[image from Dagfinn Ilmari Mannsåker on flickr]

The future is not a story

“The future is not a story to entertain you” says Michael Anissimov, back from a long blogging break. He’s tired of people viewing the future through the lens of science fiction, which he sees as being a “baked in” cultural response:

If I were in charge of a futurist seminar, one of the first things I would probably do is discourage anyone from mentioning any fictional story whatsoever. I do believe that fiction does have something to teach us about future possibilities, but the bias towards interesting stories is so overwhelmingly strong that most casual thinking about the future is thoroughly contaminated by it. No narrative can predict the future, because the future is a blur of uncertainties from our perspective, and will only appear like a narrative in retrospect.

I think I can see where Anissimov going with this, but history has demonstrated time and time again that the more you bludgeon people with reasonable rational thinking about what’s to come, the more they screw their fingers into their ears and sing “la-la-la”.

Stories and metaphor may be flawed methods of considering a non-fictional future, but they’re pretty much the only way you can get ordinary people with busy lives to think beyond the next financial year – and I’d contend a flawed method that reaches many people is better than a perfect one that reaches a few hundred.

In other words – don’t blame the tool for the mistakes of the workmen.