Thursday, September 30, 2010

Design and the Science of Cyberspace

By Carl Hunt
During the earlier part of this week, I had the distinct pleasure of attending the Highlands Forum (HF) meeting at Newport, RI. This was HF 42, which followers of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy know this should have been a most illuminating session for the organizers and sponsors of this group (if you don’t, you have only to look it up on Wikipedia to be illuminated yourself!). Rather than repeat the background on the HF and its associate organization, the Highlands Group, you can find out more at:, and I will get on with telling you about Design and the Science of Cyberspace.
The HF brings together speakers of diverse disciplines to transport ideas from the edge (and there are many edges!) to the core (DoD’s central repository of current problems, doctrines and operational pursuits: my definition, by the way). The current theme for the HF’s discussions is about shaping how “beliefs, behaviors and outcomes takes place in a massively interconnected world” (from the Agenda for HF42). If you’ve seen a SENDS briefing or read the SENDS Science of Cyberspace White Paper (available in the SENDS Substrate), you have come across that term, “massively interconnected world” more than a few times. This is a marvelous and central challenge for our nation in the age of cyberspace.
As we learned in HF42 this week, however, it’s probably best not to rely solely on the principles of pure emergence (see the 9 and 10 September discussion on emergence and exchange) to spit out “solutions” to these challenges. Rather, we should consider the contributions that principles of Design can make to a sustained progress within this new world. HF42 colleague Bruce Mau ( continuously challenged the participants throughout the 3-day meeting to think about how we can apply design principles to security as a “national experience.”
According to Bruce, the current problems we face in conflict and international relationships have changed what it is and what it means to have an American “national experience.” To recapture (or perhaps recreate?) an American way of life will require thoughtful design that accommodates the massive interconnectivity the HF and others are studying and assessing. The creation or adaptation of a Science of Cyberspace also requires this level of thinking in terms of Design.
In fact, we should be thinking about creating the conditions for Design and Emergence to coevolve, if you will, so that we aren’t completely surprised at the outcomes. Designs are probably akin to military planning in that no plan ever survives first contact with the enemy. But the process of planning, and designing I’m sure, brings about context for the coevolutionary (ecological, if you will) consideration of problems and solutions in ways that force us to think through relationships and interdependencies that better prepare us for the unknown future.
After this week, I’m quite certain we need to think through the design of the Science of Cyberspace and SENDS, and I will be scrambling to address it! It is my sincere hope that Bruce and others in HF42 will join this pursuit of design within the Science of Cyberspace and help us get it right, not only for America but for everyone. More on Design to come…

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