Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cyberspace as Social Science

by Jack Holt

This is a bit of a different take on Cyberspace, but I've always believed it is less about technology and more about the behavior that technology enables.

I attended a National Association of Public Adminstrators meeting yesterday morning discussing “Creating a Culture Where Employees Thrive and Agencies Succeed.” Speakers included Marlise Streitmatter, Deputy Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of Transportation and Toni Dawsey, Assistant Administrator for Human Capital management and NASA’s Chief Human Capital Officer.

Focal point of the discussion was the Partnership for Public Service and American University’s Institute for the Study of Public Policy Implementation’s “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government” 2010 survey results. DoT ranked dead last in the last survey and was voted “Most Improved” in 2010, and NASA has consistently been in the top 10 in every “Best Places to Work” survey.

This discussion was almost a reiteration of the WaPo interview with Gregory B. Jaczko, Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which was ranked the #1 overall best place to work in the federal government.

Main take-aways are that listening and engageing the workforce makes all the difference. Not a new concept to be sure, but woefully under-exercised. I’m reminded of the Cherokee proverb my grandfather taught me: If you listen to whispers, you’ll not hear screams. Also points out what I’ve been saying; there is a difference between managing, directing, and leading. Rear Adm. Grace Hopper once astutely noted: “You manage things, you lead people.” A leader’s role is to strengthen and unify the workforce by managing the workflow, directing the action and meeting the needs across the spectrum of the force. One of Jesus’ leadership lessons is: “The first must be last and the last first.” A leader’s focus and effort should be toward strengthening the weak points. These three thoughts have always guided my efforts when in leadership positions.

Social media played a very large part in making the dramatic turnaround in both the DoT and NRC and is what has kept NASA at the top. Inside the firewall employee communication and engagement are essential; but the tools are of little effect without leadership. It is the engagement piece that is most important.

DoT focused on leadership and supervisory training as part of a strategic plan to address the previous survey results which placed them dead last. Yet two of their agencies rated very high in the survey, the Federal Railroads Administration and the Federal Highways Administration. Marlise Streitmatter engaged them to learn how they did it. Finding ways to stay in communication were the keys. She found that the DoT, as a whole, was experiencing the siloed effects of an isolated, dispersed workforce. Subcultures developed because of the lack of communication between the hierarchies as well as between management and employees. This gave rise to a lack of trust compounded by a question of supervisory competence. Sound familiar? The DoT Secretary and agency administrators developed a strategic plan to address the failings. With a series of townhall meetings, luncheons, and other face-to-face meetings with employees and building a communication infrastructure, dialogue opened across the DoT encouraging ideas and innovation. Lead, show action, and listen is what Ms. Streitmatter acknowledges brought the DoT the “Most Improved” award.

NASA has for some time, been working to improve employee satisfaction with a focus on recruiting and retaining a younger workforce. The average age of the NASA employee in 2001 was 48 years. The question was, to whom do we hand this mission? Where is the succession management? In 2008 NASA produced the “Gen Y Perspectives” done by Gen Y employees for the NASA leadership to understand what needed to happen in order to cultivate the next generation workforce. The influencers for NASA, and I’ve seen this in other organization as well, are:

1. The Mission – understanding the importance of the mission at all levels and how every employee contributes.
2. An engaged leadership – (you cannot lead if you are not engaged – jh)
3. Engaged employees – (as a rule they won’t be engaged if leadership is not engaged – jh)
4. Progressive programs – Strategically thinking about how you engage and address the needs of the workforce in a human capital strategy.
5. Communication – multiple venues. (Communication is a human development activity. It is the tie that binds one to another and each to the whole. – jh)

Some of the tactics of NASA’s Human Capital Strategy are:

1. Leadership benchmarking – sharing lessons learned and best practices in leadership across the enterprise. When mission changes cause confusion and uncertainty, leaders communicate with each other to help unify the needed vision of the future and openly share with the dispersed workforce to create the common direction of the organization.
2. Opening avenues and encouraging “alternate views.” Even the terminology is chosen to be inclusive. Consider “alternate views” rather than “dissenting opinions.”
3. “Skip” luncheons. Brown bag lunchs or dinners where employees meet with the next higher level in the organizations. Basically informal meetings with your bosses boss.
4. Beginning leadership training at lower levels. Cultivating the leadership you will want and need in your organization.

It is not the "network" but "people networking" that makes the difference. Facilitating the access to information for better individual situational awareness, enabling the sharing of knowledge to create and enhance corporate wisdom and leadership that leads allows for employees to self-synchronize around the ideas, topics and events as needed to contribute to the corporate mission.

For the federal government as a whole performance management has always been a problem. NASA has addressed this by constant evaluation of their processes, constant evaluation of the workforce, and constant evaluation of the leadership. It is NOT pro forma, but a focus on a consistent process of improvement. In a word, management. Consistency is paramount in expectation management. Expectation management is paramount in leadership and leadership should be exercised at every level of the organization.

There is nothing new in any of this but these are good examples of what cultivating a culture of success looks like.

– Jack

The SENDS Academic and Educational Curricula Task

By Carl Hunt

We’ll return to Wicked Problems and Complexity Science in the next post, but I wanted to focus this entry on one of the four main tasks SENDS is undertaking in the first year Pilot: the Academic Curricula Task. Enough dust has settled on other SENDS tasks (including setting up the collaboration substrate, starting on SENDSim (the modeling and simulation task) and completing more mature drafts of important SENDS papers). We are now beginning to put more effort in the other individual SENDS Pilot tasks. None of these tasks has more immediate and longer-term impact than the Academic Curricula effort.

Yesterday, Craig Harm sent out an important email recruitment letter to several SENDS Consortium members who have expressed specific interest in this task and who want to help lay the foundation for long-term success of the project.

As Craig writes in his note, we are looking for those who are willing to and can “recommend educational curricula to help foster an understanding and a development of a Science of Cyberspace.” This is just a brief way of saying what we say in other parts of SENDS: we don’t understand cyberspace nearly as well as we need to given we have practically built the modern world’s future around it. Education for all ages and walks of life will be critical to helping us comprehend and grow into this marvelous massively interconnecting environment that has evolved around us. Education will be fundamental to the exploration and exploitation of cyberspace (see the blog entry for 8 September 2010: Addendum to Mission Statement for what I mean by exploitation).

Last week, SENDS Advisor Joe Cuenco from the Science Center of Pinellas County, FL, sent me a link to a space-related project the Center was doing with its students. The project involved some 300 or so young science scholars interacting with three US astronauts, while they were flying a mission. The students had the opportunity through a video downlink to the Center to ask questions of the astronauts and learn first-hand what goes on in the International Space Station and what our nation’s space team is doing to support the effort. As Joe points out in the interviews, these students were engaged and they were learning! I have to wonder how many of those students will grow up to be astronauts based on that 60-minute exposure.

This is only representative of the kind of thinking we are looking for in helping to assess and recommend the basis for an academic curricula that will support the “understanding and a development of a Science of Cyberspace.” In yesterday’s note, Craig is challenging our Consortium to think at least as big as our national space program to develop and refine the type of academic preparation our students (of all ages, by the way) need in order to help the nation thrive in cyberspace. As we learn what it takes to build the “secure social spaces” SENDS seeks to study, it will be our education system and our new generation of students who “fly the missions” related to cyberspace exploration.

This task offers us the opportunity to help articulate and refine what education for and in cyberspace should look like next year and next decade. Please help and get engaged on this task!

Monday, September 20, 2010

SENDS and the Wicked Problem Resolution Approach

By Carl Hunt

From the earliest versions of the SENDS White Papers and the SENDS Science of Cyberspace White Papers, we have proposed the study and adoption of the concepts related to Wicked Problem Resolution (WPR) in trying to understand and tackle issues related to the phenomenon of cyberspace and cyberspace security. In fact, several in SENDS Consortium meetings have confidently asserted that cyberspace security is a wicked problem. For that reason, the major SENDS papers have discussed WP in some detail, although to date we have not talked much about how to integrate WPR and the Science of Cyberspace. We begin to do that here.

Earlier this year, Australian academics/authors Valerie Brown, John Harris and Jacqueline Russell published a volume of essays they edited and co-wrote titled Tackling Wicked Problems through the Transdisciplinary Imagination (Earthscan, London, 2010). The principles embodied in the text reflect much of what is considered as complexity science: the multidisciplinary body of research that embraces challenges from diverse research perspectives (see for example: Waldrop, Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos, Touchstone, 1992; Kaufmann, At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity, Oxford, 1996; and Miller and Page, Complex Adaptive Systems, Princeton University Press, 2007).

Transdisciplinary approaches differ from the multidisciplinary perspectives of complexity science in the following way: transdisciplinary thinking is the “collective understanding of an issue…created by including the personal, the local, and the strategic, as well as specialized contributions to knowledge,” note the co-authors in the Introduction to Tackling Wicked Problems. They go on to write that such “open” thinking includes not only the scientific disciplines, but also includes “all validated constructions of knowledge and their worldviews and methods of inquiry” (p. 4). As documented throughout the book, imaginative inquiry is at the heart of resolving WP.

It’s also important to note that we don’t try to “solve” WP, but rather to resolve them due to their complex and dynamic nature. Resolving problems is a different tactic than solving them: "resolving" speaks to an iterative process in which there is a recognition that there is no final or "right" solution, whereas problem "solving" looks for the "right" or ultimate answer. Leveraging the power of cyberspace to accomplish resolution will be a powerful contribution that our budding Science of Cyberspace can make.

There’s much more to discuss when it comes to WPR and the Science of Cyberspace, and we will continue to present those observations right here in this blog. At this point, it’s important to set the stage and seek the beauty of convergence and synergy by identifying imaginative ways to proceed in dealing with wicked problems, harnessing the connectivity of cyberspace.

It’s not about being wrong or right, either, as the academic definitions of the WP literature tell us: “Solutions to wicked problems are not right or wrong, simply ‘better,’ ‘worse,’ ‘good enough,’ or ‘not good enough.’” (Rittel, Horst and Webber, “Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning,” Policy Sciences 4, Elsevier, 1973 (this is the ground-breaking paper that began to formalize thinking about WP)).

The convergence of WPR literature, creative and imaginative inquiry, complexity science and a better understanding of cyberspace are all at the root of harnessing the power of mass interconnectivity to identify and better deal with the very hard problems we face now and in the future. Humanity is only beginning to see the benefits and the pitfalls of globalization and the connective power that is emerging from new technologies and social science-based understanding of these environments.

Here’s the closing point: the study of WP in the light of Complexity Science tells us that humans can be simply right or that we can be simply wrong, but we can’t be complexly right or complexly wrong. To appreciate this assertion, it helps to know how complexity science works (including exchange, self-organization and emergence), and it really helps to understand cyberspace theories (which we are only now exploring). The bottom line, however, is that WP are real and they’re tough to tackle because they are complex by their very nature, and the power of cyberspace (and cyberspace sciences) may present the best way to approach WPR.

The Importance of Modeling – SENDSim, Part 1

By Carl Hunt

In the previous blog of 10 September, I offered to provide a graphic to better explain exchange and emergence as these concepts apply to our study of cyberspace and the development of a Science of Cyberspace. Below is that graphic and narrative explanation. This addition also serves as a bridge between discussing the concepts of exchange, self-organization and emergence and the importance of modeling to better understand cyberspace.

We will have a lot to say about modeling and simulation in coming blog entries, and we will hear from the real experts such as Dr. Eric Bonabeau (Icosystem), Dr. David Davis (VGO Associates) and Dr. Greg Amis (Icosystem, and the modeling project lead on SENDS for Eric and Icosystem). All of these experts are significant contributors to SENDS and we will be delighted to hear from them.

Without further adieu, I present our first graphic depiction of exchange, self-organization and emergence as empowered by cyberspace (click image to enlarge).

As shown in the figure, interactions (or exchanges), self-organizing criticality and emergence thus offer us insightful clues as to what we should seek to explain and predict in this new science. If thought of in the sense of some sort of vehicle that moves us from processes to a “final” product, we can visualize the relationship of these components of behavior in cyberspace. Exchange takes place in any environment, of course, but cyberspace as a supporting infrastructure brings the process of exchange to many more people and information transactions around the world.

From this infrastructure, the participants of the exchanges (people, systems and information) self-select and self-organize, again greatly facilitated though the network-based interactions cyberspace empowers. This self-organization process is the transmission that moves exchange into emergence. Absent the unifying body of discipline we propose in the Science of Cyberspace, we are only beginning to visualize the outcome, or product of emergence.

As Morowitz and others have noted, we can only see the emergence after it has happened, but advanced models such as agent-based modeling and simulation, accompanied by evolutionary algorithms, allow us to observe and deduce these potential behaviors through visual interfaces the models provide. These models will likely be the key to better “predicting” emergence in the future. We will be discussing the application of these modeling capabilities to SENDS in much greater detail in future blogs.

While the above figure appears to be a linear movement of information from exchange to emergence, only the beginning and the “end” (the emergence) have relatively fixed points, considering the highly dynamic nature of emergence. As the bottom arrow indicates, the continuous dynamic feedback that is inherent in cyberspace almost ensures nonlinearity will permeate the flow of information. Emergence will lead to more exchange and the process will coevolve and continue.

Exchange and Emergence, Part 2

By Carl Hunt

What of emergence? We posit that emergence is an outcome based on processes and interactions between local nodes (particularly within a social context as it applies to cyberspace), and that this emergence can only be observed in the results of interactions. In hierarchical terms, an emergence is observed “one (approximately) level” above the interacting nodes or components. Biologist Harold Morowitz notes that emergence is manifested in “novel behaviors,” based on properties of the system or whole. “They are novelties that follow from the system rules but cannot be predicted from properties of the components that make up the system,” Morowitz writes (The Emergence of Everything, Oxford, NY, 2002).

In nature, Morowitz continues, emergence is a pruning action leading to the rise of the actual from the possible, and that these rules of nature that accommodate emergence are among the least understood of any science, but will in fact “be a major feature of the science of the future.” To reach its full potential, the Science of Cyberspace will have to make progress in helping us understand emergence and how we might better “predict” it. For that reason alone, emergence must be considered one of the two critical components to explore in this new discipline. The role that self-organizing criticality plays in these emergences is also important to consider, particularly in the massive connecting environment of cyberspace.

Individuals and collectives are connected more deeply, synchronously and asynchronously, and capable of generating more shared knowledge than at any point in the past. Consequently, the processes of exchange have evolved through the maturing of a set of rules and the interactions between “local” socio-technical “nodes” increasingly accommodated by connectivity that cyberspace now makes possible. In emergence, local nodes interact according to their own rules to create a global behavior, where such behaviors are typically very difficult to predict as explained by Morowitz.

Exchanges of information, goods and services take place more rapidly and through more connections than thought possible even a generation ago. A significant consequence of this new level of connectedness is that we lack an understanding of what this exchange-based “social” nature of cyberspace means to our recent history and all other forms of science and technology – we simply have not sufficiently studied cyberspace and the hyper-connectivity it empowers.

Connected collectivity, a concept dated to at least the early studies of physics and biology, changes things and produces cascading effects in many aspects of life we do not yet appreciate. It took decades and centuries to work out the sciences of the physical environments as we understand them today and we expect it will take many years to do the same for cyberspace.

Connected collectivity describes a characteristic of cyberspace related to shaping the environment through relevant network connections (people and organizational networks vice computer networks). As an example, cyberspace enables emergent “basins of attraction” that pull relevant thought or key people in potentially desired directions without human intent or interaction – it can be very subdued in appearance.

Stuart Kauffman described the interactive essence and outcome of this notion of collected connectivity. In Kauffman’s model, visualize randomly picking up two buttons and connecting them with a thread. Continue to randomly pick up buttons and connect them, and eventually buttons will surface that are already connected to one or more buttons. Before long, the majority of buttons are connected in one large “collective” and around the ratio of 0.5 threads to buttons, a phase transition occurs in which there is a single, very large connected collective of buttons.

Through these random processes of connecting (that could just as easily take place through exchanges), emergent structure forms through simple rules.

One of this larger collective’s dynamics is to connect and enable exchange and interactions that were not possible before the phase transition began, thus the emergent structure of the connectedness itself is a significant feature of connected collectivity. This is a powerful concept that drives much of the work in contemporary network (e.g., graph) theory (see for example, Barabasi, Linked: How Everything is Connected to Everything Else, Penguin, NY, 2003).

The study and modeling of emergence will be essential to understand connected collectivity because its structure can be so transparent as to be invisible to conventional network thinking.
If emergence can ever be controlled and thus predicted, it likely will be through better understanding and articulation of the rules of exchange and the interconnecting frameworks that empower the process of exchange and self-organizing criticality. The effects of these rules on emergence are filtered through many other factors within cyberspace that may or may not be controllable (or even knowable), but the rules we could uncover and with which we could experiment are primarily man-made or natural laws and thus potentially observable and capable of contributing to a better understanding of emergence.

The observance of emergence must be a fundamental object of study within this new science. Bak said that emergence is essentially the outcome of interactions where the results “are not observable consequences of the underlying dynamical rules.” Put another way by Morowitz: “Emergence is the opposite of reduction. The latter tries to move from the whole to the parts…The former tried to generate the properties of the whole from an understanding of parts.” Exchanges, self-organization and emergence thus offer us insightful clues as to what we should seek to explain and predict in this new science of cyberspace.

This is thus an important driving factor behind why we should do SENDS and why we so greatly need a “Science of Cyberspace.” Look for a graphic depiction of these concepts soon, right here in these blogs…

Exchange and Emergence, Part 1

By Carl Hunt

In the last few months, we have enhanced the SENDS draft paper “Beginning a Science of Cyberspace” (available elsewhere in the SENDS Substrate) with more refinements about several key processes and outcomes that cyberspace empowers through social interaction. These key processes come from the studies of complex adaptive systems, also called complexity science. The processes include exchange, self-organization and emergence.

Thinking about cyberspace in terms of emergence and the exchange-based interactions that drive emergence allows us to better visualize the changes we experience both individually and collectively as we navigate the future within cyberspace. The concept of self-organization is important because it empowers innovation and new forms of connectivity we could not predict. Part 1 of this blog entry on Exchange and Emergence will focus on exchange and self-organization, while Part 2 will tie these concepts together looking towards emergent behavior.

Let’s start with exchange. To better picture exchange in the age of cyberspace, think about it as follows:

Each node or player within a connected environment such as cyberspace resides on a matrix, although a web would be more appropriate in the age of the Internet; in fact, it is useful to think of the matrix as residing on an underlying web. The matrix accommodates hierarchical form and a position, while the underlying, interconnected web allows the nodes on the matrix virtually unlimited connectivity to any other node. The matrix simply allows us to better visualize the context of the node. Down the vertical axis of this web-enabled matrix, there is a category such as avocation or profession. Across the horizontal axis, there is another category such as age or national origins.

No category will be completely discrete due to the interconnectedness of the web of cyberspace, as well as the widely varying interests of each player (interconnecting node in this example), but the matrix also helps to visualize the process of exchange in cyberspace. Any player in the matrix (due to the underlying web) can interact with any other; new goods, services or information sources may be exchanged among two adjacent, interacting nodes or across interacting nodes elsewhere on the matrix or even to another matrix connected by the same web.

The potential for massive, open-ended exchange is a prime characteristic of cyberspace in terms of interconnectivity that has not existed before. This example does not imply that exchange is a linear relationship between a “buyer” and a “seller.” In fact, exchange is often nonlinear because the value of the outcome is so dependent on individual perceptions and factors external to the exchange. The roles the participants of the exchange are playing during the process are also important.

Since we define exchange simply as giving something in trade for something else, the process itself can hardly be simpler; but the implications can be quite complex. Its simplicity helps to favor its evolutionary success as playing a major function in propagating life both individually and collectively.

The process of exchange that results in the outcome of emergence also enjoys the benefit of another process. Exchange, whether of information, goods or services, provides the fuel for emergence through what is known as self-organized criticality.

Systems that are at the point of self-organized criticality demonstrate emergent behaviors, as documented by complexity scientists Stuart Kauffman and Per Bak (At Home in the Universe: the Search for the Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity, Oxford, NY, 1995 and How Nature Works: the Science of Self-Organized Criticality, Copernicus, NY, 1996, respectively). In fact, cyberspace acts simultaneously as a medium and a catalyst for self-organization of people and systems, as well as emergence and exchange in ways never before possible.

In Part 2 of this blog on Exchange and Emergence, we’ll look at how emergence itself pulls all of these localized, self-organizing behaviors into a more global, emergent behavior that manifests itself in typically unpredictable ways and what that means in terms of the connectivity cyberspace enables.

Addendum to Mission Statement

By Carl Hunt

After some reflection (a common outcome associated with the coevolution of thinking and producing!), we should expand explanation a bit on the mission statement. As it reads before more “coevolution” is offered by other readers, it now says:

Harness the power of the cyberspace medium to orient users and developers to the challenges of cyberspace to create a common understanding of the environment for maximum, harmonious exploitation of its connective potential.

Cyberspace, like all environments that sustain life, have their own power sources. In the physical domains of air, water, land and space, these power sources are based on physics and chemistry for the most part. In SENDS, we hypothesize that the power of cyberspace resides in the thinking and generated knowledge of the users of cyberspace. This explains the critical requirement to apply social sciences to better understand and exploit “the power of the cyberspace medium.” And, as we will explore in future blogs, these same social science-based understandings will support the Wicked Problem resolution approach that SENDS has adopted.

Speaking of WP resolution approaches, the mission statement addresses the creation of a “common understanding.” WP theory and application calls for the creation of shared understanding of a problem before attempting to resolve it (we discuss later why we don’t try to solve WP, preferring to resolve them). Common understanding (very similar to shared understanding, but not quite the same) allows us to better appreciate the qualities of cyberspace from a global standpoint. One of the interesting features of cyberspace is that we access it locally, but can interface with it globally through the massive connectivity it offers. This phenomenon is also a study requirement for SENDS as we move through the first year Pilot and beyond.

Perhaps the least understood term in the mission statement as currently written is the word “harmonious.” This word really needs the next word, “exploitation,” for maximum understanding and context. I refer you to the 1 September entry to ensure you understand what we mean by “exploitation” in the mission statement, but when taken together, “harmonious exploitation” means the blending or synergizing of discrete concepts that might not always fit together without a blending environment such as cyberspace. These concepts include security, accessibility and availability, terms often associated with Information Assurance. In fact, the concepts that are blended together in the goals of Information Assurance reflect a requirement for harmony to emerge.

So, in conclusion of this expanded discussion on the mission statement (as currently written), we offer that we propose SENDS will enhance the potential for users and developers alike to better understand cyberspace and exploit all it potentially offers us. We can accomplish that goal through a harmonious synergy of secure but accessible entry points into the environment that maximizes the connective potential cyberspace lays before us. There’s a huge social component in those ideals and that’s why SENDS and Wicked Problem resolution techniques seem to complement each other so well. More on that later…

SENDS: Defining the Mission

By Carl Hunt

The rationale for SENDS appears in both the public and protected parts of the SENDS Substrate, so I won’t dwell on that here. The purpose of this initial blog entry is to try to concisely define the mission of the project consistent with discussions we’ve recently had with our government sponsors. We want to make sure all of us who support SENDS have a common mission statement in mind when we think about where SENDS is now and where it needs to go.

As we all know in military, government and business, it’s important to be clear about the challenges we face and the objectives we set before ourselves to overcome those challenges. That’s also a great tactic in applying the value of transdisciplinary perspectives that the study of Wicked Problems (WP) advises for us. More on applying those WP perspectives in upcoming blogs, however…

We proposed at the initiation of the Pilot Project in June, 2010, that Scientific Enhancements to Networked Domains and Secure Social Spaces (SENDS3, or interchangeably, SENDS) enhances cyberspace operations and defense through a collaborative, multidisciplinary, interagency approach that enforces the principles of science at its very core across the entire enterprise. This statement articulates the main ingredients of the mission, but it’s admittedly tough to “inspire the troops” with these kinds of words (and equally difficult to remember, as well!). We need something easy to say and easy to recall that reflects the core mission. In keeping with the real requirement of accomplishing the mission, we’ve started to say something like the following that gets the point across quickly (that is still open to refinement, by the way: feel free to help):

Harness the power of the cyberspace medium to orient users and developers to the challenges of cyberspace to produce a common understanding of the environment for maximum, harmonious exploitation of its connective potential.

There are many underlying requirements (often thought of as goals and objectives) that will support the accomplishment of this mission and we will discuss, argue and build on those requirements within the pages of the SENDS Substrate in coming months. Right now, it’s most important to state what we are trying to do and what the outcome of our efforts should look like. Plus, you can say this in an elevator and it fits easily on a cocktail napkin!

I should also add one point about the term “exploitation”. Unfortunately, because of the military setting in which both cyberspace and SENDS have originated, the word exploitation raises eyebrows, particularly among those familiar with military information operations (IO) disciplines. IO speaks to something called computer network operations that includes defense, exploitation and attack of adversary computer networks (spelled out in DoD’s Joint Publication 3-13). Exploitation in that sense includes tactics such as actions or intelligence collection techniques that gather and examine data from target or adversary information systems or networks. That is not what we mean in the context of defining the mission of SENDS.

SENDS is rooted in better understanding the complexity of networks, including social networks as empowered by computer-based systems. In complex systems theory, we talk about the differences between exploring complex systems and exploiting them. These are the images you should have in mind when we talk about “exploitation of (cyberspace’s) connective potential,” not the military definition related to computer network exploitation. Axelrod and Cohen in their fine book, Harnessing Complexity (Free Press, 1999), offer a detailed discussion of both exploration and exploitation in complex adaptive systems.

In SENDS, we want to emphasize the notion of maximizing the payoffs of what has already been learned in the exploration phase of searching for solutions (or resolutions in the sense of Wicked Problem theory). We intend to emphasize the value of both exploration and exploitation, but it is in the exploitation phase that we see the return on investments from our explorations.

So, we have the beginning of a mission statement, not without some controversy already, which helps us focus on what SENDS is and what we want to do with it. Welcome to the SENDS Substrate: stay tuned for more!