One of the things I have done over the last six months has involved identifying and observing hive mind constructs in the real world. This happened in the context of examining the publicly visible process of foreign policy making. I wrote thirty three posts that are at least tangentially related to this pursuit. Hive mind constructs will eventually win out over point source propaganda, but it won’t be pretty to watch.
Shifting Priorities (2013-03-12) Taking classes in social network analysis, natural language processing, and looking to refresh my linear algebra and other related math skills.
Global Email, Global Relationships (2013-03-24) A large scale study of email usage reveals global communities.
Foreign Policy Process (2013-03-28) Initial recon of foreign policy discussion space, finding key organizations, noticing Wikistrat for the first time.
Foreign Policy Organizations & Individuals (2013-03-29) More about Wikistrat, foreign policy organizations, and my own personal network.
Exploring WikiStrat With Maltego (2013-03-30) Wikistrat is a declared hive mind, I ended up spending a good bit of time on them.
Wikistrat’s Analysts & Friends (2013-03-31) Digging deeper into Wikistrat analysts on Twitter.
Wikistrat Full Network As Of 3/30/2013 A checkpoint on what I knew about Wikistrat at this time.
Hashtags & Humans (2013-03-31) Looking at recent tweets, extracting content, and mapping discussions.
Foreign Policy OSINT Perspectives (2013-04-01) Another checkpoint, noting some influential folks as well as even more Wikistrat musings.
Think Tanks & Civil Societies Program (2013-04-02) Started looking at the @TTCSP Twitter account, discovered e-International Relations.
Opening Up To OpenIDEO (2013-04-12) I asked Wikistrat about membership, but I am not credentialed enough, and I suspect there might be some other factors that would work against me as well. OpenIDEO does some similar things and they are quite willing to engage all sorts of people.
A Whole New Perspective (2013-04-14) Wikistrat, e-International Relations, OpenIDEO – there are a LOT of collective thinking exercises out there.
Individual Reputation Metrics (2013-04-14) Noting what has happened to my online reputation, pondering where this is all headed. The underlying issue is that any individual who strays outside the bounds set by corporate America will get smeared.
Wikistrart Investigation Summary (2013-04-15) Closing the books on Wikistrat by gathering all the related posts into a single index post.
Exploring e-International Relations (2013-04-16) Starting to give this group the same sort of attention as Wikistrat, but a little more focus on what they said about themselves, to each other, and about the world in general.
Isolating Current Conversations (2013-04-17) A deep dive into the conversations of the moment for e-IR using social network analysis and named entity recognition.
Plowing Up Astroturf. (2013-04-18) I didn’t admit who this was about at the time, but many people guessed that I had been asked to look at @UniteBlue, a right wing sock puppet operation that got it’s start taking over a well regarded hashtag used by liberals.
Mining Data Science Central (2013-04-20) Checking out an off site professional network I found via LinkedIn groups. They proved to be imminently mineable.
Obtaining & Parsing DataScienceCentral Profiles (2013-04-21) I spent a couple of days slow crawling the nearly 12,000 DSC members.
Data Science Defined (2013-04-23) Some thoughts on what ‘data science’ actually means, and how it applies to the work I am doing with discussions, hive minds, and reputations.
DataScienceCentral Users: No Klout Via LinkedIn (2013-04-24) Klout scores benefit from LinkedIn activity, but there is no way to look up Klout starting with a LinkedIn account.
Choosing The Wrong Tool (2013-04-24). A visually compelling analysis of DataScienceCentral profiles. Utterly wrong, but it sure looks interesting.
Looking Forward, Looking Behind (2013-04-24) Reading the Sherman Kent Center Occasional Papers, thinking about the defunct Democratic Study Group, and how hive minds are liable to replace such functions in policy making.
Foreign Policy Recon Review (2013-04-27) I usually change direction every two years and i try to force myself to stick to a particular area each quarter. I recovered from my last lingering Lyme symptom – chronic fatigue – just about a year ago, and now my cycle for each topic is down to six or seven weeks. This one is a sort of bookend for the foreign policy discussion work.
Reputation Reconstruction (2013-04-29) Ruining the reputations of political opponents was the theme behind the schemes of Aaron Barr & HBGary Federal. If we proved nothing else over the last two years we demonstrated that trying this sort of thing on a hardened, reactive target is extremely hazardous. Provoking a hive mind … ANY hive mind … is a recipe for getting your ass kicked.
Mindfulness In Analysis (2013-04-29) The last of the Kent Center Occasional Papers on the CIA’s analytical process, Rethinking “Alternative Analysis” to Address Transnational Threats is an absolute gem. The CIA and our intel sector has, in general, struggled greatly since the end of the cold war. The monolithic, enigmatic, slow moving opponent with denied areas (Soviet Union) was gone, and fifty years of black and white choices were replaced with a rainbow of small, fast moving threats that blended in with innocuous activity. The current urge by the NSA to record everything is motivated in part by managers past the age where mental fluidity diminishes (around 50) seeking that monolithic problem they understood. It’s gone and the more they try the worse things will get for them.
Global Problems, Global Network (2013-05-01) LinkedIn interface changes now provide an easy way to map connection locations.
Analytic Bridge vs Data Science Central (2013-05-01) I mined DataScienceCentral and then noticed that AnalyticBridge was very similar. I later found that they were merging, which was not apparent when I wrote this article.
Data Science Growth (2013-05-05). Hacker is a fair enough description of what I do for a living but the word has a lot of negative connotations. I am going to finish one more class, then start applying the label data scientist to myself. There are two million openings in this area and it’s biased towards managers – those who understand both business and technology. I appear to be in the right place at the right time for once.
Infomous Word Cloud Tool (2013-05-05) An easy to use tool does named entity recognition and then draws a concept map with the information.
LinkedIn Network Progression (2013-05-06) I regrew my professional network and then I started testing the boundaries on LinkedIn, finally getting myself temporarily suspended the day I wrote this. Systems like Twitter and Digg have been utterly fouled by ideologically motivated e-warriors who censor their opponents by gaming the anti-spam features. A little bit of that exists on LinkedIn but you have to push really hard before anything happens. My suspension is temporary and now that I understand the boundaries it’s highly unlikely to be repeated.
Musings On Cognition (2013-05-07) Some thoughts on reputation economics, attention conservation, and the thus far unexamined network of Scribd document creators, curators, and readers.
2,800 Random Anons (2013-05-20) I poached Aaron Socio‘s Facebook friends after his arrest last November and now I have over 2,800 friends, 85% of whom sport some sort of token of Anonymous. I have spent some time examining what they talk about and who influencers are, but this was a purely visual, right brain sort of activity, so I have not written about the specifics.
There are a variety of hive mind constructs, from the closed, monolithic, credentialed Wikistrat to the open ‘supercluster’ of groups that make up Anonymous. Although they did not use the phrase “hive mind” even the CIA has taken up some of the same methods Anonymous uses in an effort to sharpen their analytical work in the face of the new threats the 21st century has brought.
The infrastructure, handlers, and members of such groups can be attacked. A system may go down, a high profile individual might be removed from play, and either of these happenings can serve to splinter a given group. An attacker who is open about motives and methods will be destroyed outright, as was seen with HBGary and the careers of those involved, or badly damaged and left with long term exposure to future retribution, as was seen with a range of actors from Stratfor to the U.S. government itself.
There are a wide variety of means to communicate with a hive mind, ranging from a face to face conversation with a well regarded handler, to whispering to group members using an open public channel such as Twitter or pastebin. Informal, secretive hive minds are in general less well governed than declared groups with a known focus, and they can be baited into taking actions which are against their own interests. Such communications may be confusing for the group in the moment, but they are examined in great detail after the fact, and if the source is identified there will be retribution. The response often reveals hidden relationships and communication channels, as actors and assets which are not normally visible come into play.
Propaganda techniques are evident within and around any hive mind watering hole, but no longer the sole province of state actors or large, well funded entities. A single talented individual can produce and promote themed content, achieving a response completely out of proportion with the individual’s resources. Banksy is one of the premier examples of this. Adbusters serves as an aggregator for such work and they are credited with triggering Occupy Wall Street in the fall of 2011. The @Adbusters Twitter account has this to say regarding their culture jammer network:
We are a global network of meme warriors who aim to catalyze an unexpected moment of truth–a global mindshift–from which the consumerist forces never recover.
Monolithic corporate forces heavily invested in the status quo are wrestling with networked humans and finding they face a sort of memetic Devil’s Snare. Their struggles may seem to be momentarily successful, but they are only educating their opponent as to their strengths and weaknesses.
The concept of the corporation didn’t really take off until the Catholic church relaxed usury laws three centuries ago. Compound interest depends on exponential growth and humans have pretty much hit the wall in terms of what our environment will support. Any one of climate change or peak oil could undo the perception that we are all consumers living in a conglomeration of free markets. Those two have arrived pretty much simultaneous with a financial sector meltdown and we are entering a period where our society will wind down to the Earth’s solar maximum. A value system based on exponential growth will not survive a disproof by counter example, and Mother Nature responds to neither paper injunctions nor heartfelt supplications.
Some of those networked humans are starting to realize that they need not tear down the corporatocracy by hand and they are already thinking about how and what to preserve. What role does a hive mind play in this? What role can it play when electrical power is intermittent and the supply chains needed for electronic devices are interrupted?
It’s just over a hundred miles descent from the peak Kilimanjaro to the floor Ngorongoro. A modern jet will traverse that path in ten minutes, while a strong man on foot will need ten days. Another day’s walk west lies Olduvai, which is both the cradle of our species and the source of the name for the theory that industrial civilization is a single transient pulse. As for me, I have ten weeks of a math intensive class ahead and I have some other things I must consider, so you will not see much of me during this time. Take the opportunity to think on what I have revealed here … and what has been explicitly left unsaid.