Friday, 21 July 2017


Meet the concept of super-empowered individuals (SEI's):


""There is a vast amount of infrastructure - transportation, communication, financing, production - openly available that, until recently, was only accessible to very large organisations. It now takes relatively little - a few dedicated, knowledgeable people - to connect these pieces into a powerful platform from which to act. Military strategists have been talking about 'super-empowered individuals' by which they mean someone who

- is autonomously capable of creating a cascading event, [...] a 'system perturbation'; a disruption of system function and invalidation of existing rule sets to at least the national but more likely the global scale. The key requirements to become 'superempowered' are comprehension of a complex system's connectivty and operation; access to critical network hubs; possession of a force that can be leveraged against the structure of the system and a willingness to use it.

There are a number real weaknesses to this concept, not least that it has thus far been exclusively applied to terrorism and that it reduces structural dynamics to individual actions. Nevertheless, it can be useful insofar as it highlights how complex, networked systems which might be generally relatively stable, posses critical nodes ('systempunkt' in the strange parlance of military strategists) which in case of failure that can cause cascading effects through the entire systems.2 It also highlights how individuals, or more likely, small groups, can affect these systems disproportionately if they manage to interfere with these critical nodes. Thus, individuals, supported by small, networked organisations, can now intervene in social dynamics at a systemic level, for the better or worse."



"Military operations have always been subjected to the effects of disruptive powers far beyond the control of the field commander. From the court intrigues of the past to today's domestic catfights, politics has definitely never stopped at the water's edge. Events such as the recent series of WikiLeaks scandals and Rolling Stone's expose on General Stanley McChrystal are evolutionary, rather than revolutionary in nature.

Nevertheless, analysts and pundits have pointed out that modern information technology and media have allowed elements beyond the military's direct control—so-called "super-empowered" individuals—greater opportunities to alter state policy through disruptive actions. However, neither WikiLeaks nor the McChrystal scandal significantly altered war policy. Momentary disruption, no matter how severe, does not matter if the basic policy remains unchanged. Both cases suggest that we ought to have a more tempered view of technology, individual influence, and change."

Fascinating comments under the abstract; given what subsequently happened (the Caliphate, in particular).


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