Friday, February 06, 2015

Reading :: Cognitive Development

Cognitive Development: Its Cultural and Social Foundations
By A.R. Luria

As I recently mentioned, I'm reading (and in most cases rereading) early works in the lineage of activity theory. Since AT grew out of the milieu of the Soviet Union, that means reading Soviet psychology and philosophy.

This book, Luria's Cognitive Development, is an interesting example. As Luria explains in the preface,
All of its observational material was collected in 1931-32, during the Soviet Union's most radical restructuring: the elimination of illiteracy, the transition to a collectivist economy, and the readjustment of life to new socialist principles. This period offered a unique opportunity to observe how decisively all these reforms effected not only a broadening of outlook but also radical changes in the structure of cognitive processes. (p.v)
The specific research was conducted in Uzbekistan and "Kirghizia" (p.v), which Luria characterized in this way:
the masses had lived for centuries in economic stagnation and illiteracy, their development hindered among other things by the religion of Islam. Only the radical restructuring of the economy, the rapid elimination of illiteracy, and the removal of the Moslem influence could achieve, over and above the expansion in world view, a genuine revolution in cognitive activity.
Our data indicate the decisive change that can occur in going from graphic and functional—concrete and practical—methods of thinking to much more theoretical and abstract modes brought about by fundamental changes in social conditions, in this instance by the socialist transformation of an entire culture. Thus the experimental observations shed light on one aspect of human cognitive activity that has received little scientific study but that corroborates the dialectics of social development. (
In his foreword, Michael Cole contextualizes the book further. Luria met Lev Vygotsky at a conference in 1923, and began collaborating with him in 1924, where they worked toward developing a psychology along Marxist lines. Vygotsky's focus was on mediation in individuals' psychology (xii), but the two psychologists later published a monograph suggesting that the principles could be applied to sociocultural development too (p.xiii). They saw the opportunity to study this question in places where enormous social changes were taking place—specifically, places that were being collectivized (p.xiv). They could not only develop sociocultural theory but also (ideally) find "evidence of the intellectual benefits of the new socialist order" (p.xiv). Unfortunately for Luria, "critics pointed out that his data could be read as an insult to the people with whom he had been working" (p.xiv), and that this sensitive time in the USSR's formation, that could not be allowed. The book was left unpublished for 40 years, until 1974.

I think we can understand why. When I first read this book, in graduate school, I was fascinated by the data but disturbed by the Soviet program—Luria spoke so casually of denying people their way of life and religion. I'm still disturbed by it, especially reading it alongside The Gulag Archipelago and its accounts of forced exile of entire populations. (For context, Luria's expedition started the year after Stalin gained power.) Let's keep this in mind as we go through the rest of the book.

Luria explains:
Before the revolution, the people of Uzbekistan lived in a backward economy based mainly on the raising of cotton. The kishiak (village) dwellers displayed remnants of a once-high culture together with virtually complete illiteracy, and also showed the pronounced influence of the Islamic religion. 
When the socialist revolution eliminated dominance and submission as class relations, people oppressed one day enjoyed a free existence the next. And for the first time, they experienced responsibility for their own future. Uzbekistan became a republic with collective agricultural production; industry also began to develop. The appearance of a new economic system brought with it new forms of social activity: the collective evaluation of work plans, the recognition and correction of shortcomings, and the allocation of economic functions. Naturally the socioeconomic life of these regions underwent a complete transformation. The radical changes in social class structure were accompanied by new cultural shifts. 
The extensive network of schools opened up in outlying areas that had been virtually 100 percent illiterate for centuries. Despite their short-term nature, the literacy programs familiarized large numbers of adults with the elements of modern technology. Adults in school took time-out from their everyday activities and began to master elements of simple but “theoretical” pursuits. In acquiring the rudiments of reading and writing, people had to break down spoken language into its constituents and encode it in a system of symbols. They mastered the concept of number, which had been used only in practical activities, but now became an abstract entity to be learned for its own sake. As a result, people became acquainted not only with new fields of knowledge but also with new motives for action. (p.13) 
Luria and his people "selected remote villages of Uzbekistan and also a few in the mountainous regions of Kirghizia" (p.14). The society was feudal, generally illiterate, and dependent on agriculture, mostly cotton. Islam was prevalent. Yet the region was transitioning, with "the beginnings of collectivization and other radical socioeconomic changes as well as the emancipation of women" as well as rudimentary education (p.14). Luria's team compared illiterate people with people of very modest literacy (p.15).

In Ch. 2, Luria details experiments on perception in which he showed cards with various geometric figures and asked participants to group them. Interestingly, illiterate participants did not seem to perceive based on Gestalt principles: for instance, they would not group a triangle made of lines with a triangle made of dots—but literates did (p.33). Similarly, Luria found that perceptual illusions can depend on cultural development, with literates seeing illusions that illiterates did not (p.41). "Optical illusions are not universal. ... the data clearly show that optical illusions are linked to complex psychological processes that vary in accordance with sociohistorical development" (p.43).

Ch.3 moves to the question of generalization and abstraction. Luria presented pictures of objects and asked which ones went together. Examples:

  • glass - saucepan - spectacles - bottle
  • hammer - saw - log - hatchet
  • dagger - bird - rifle - bullet (p.75)
Illiterate participants did not group these into categories, but related them in practical activity:
The main group of subjects classified objects not according to verbal or logical principles, but according to practical schemes. Nonetheless, such concrete thinking is neither innate nor genetically determined. It results from illiteracy and rudimentary types of activity that have prevailed in these subjects' daily experience. When the pattern of their lives changes and the range of their experience broadens, when they learn to read and write, to become part of a more advanced culture, the greater complexity of their activity stimulates new ideas. These changes, in turn, bring about a radical reorganization of their habits of thinking, so that they learn to use and appreciate the value of theoretical procedures that formerly seemed irrelevant. (p.79)

 In Ch.4, "Deduction and Inference," Luria discusses conceptual thinking as advanced and providing the ability to "abstract the essential features of objects and thus assign these objects to general categories [and thus] leads to the formation of a more complex logical apparatus" (p.100). He tested deduction and inference by asking participants to repeat syllogisms such as this one:
White bears exist only where it is very cold and there is snow. Silk cocoons exist only where it is very hot. Are there places that have both white bears and cocoons? (p.105)
Participants did not literally repeat these syllogisms, instead producing utterances such as these:
"There is a country where there are white bears and white snow. Can there be such a thing? Can white silk grow there?"
"Where it is cold, there are white bears. Where it is hot are there cocoons? Are there such places on earth?" (p.105)
Later, Luria asks other participants to draw inferences based on syllogisms. For instance, he asks:
In the Far North, where there is snow, all bears are white. Novaya Zemlya is in the Far North and there is always snow there. What color are the bears there? (p.108)
Participants either can't infer or simply refuse to infer. For instance, after being pressed, one replies:
Well, it's like this: our tsar isn't like yours, and yours isn't like ours. Your words can be answered only by someone who was there, and if a person wasn't there he can't say anything on the basis of your words. (p.109)
(Do you think Luria is correct in believing that this person is unable to draw inference because he is unable to escape the frame of concrete experiential thinking? Or do you think it's possible that this person is staying within the bounds of cultural politeness or even resistant to Luria's game?)

We see similar things in the next chapter, "Reasoning and Problem Solving," in which Luria gives people word problems, deliberately making them different from reality. Here's an example:
It is twenty versts from here to Uch-Kurgan, while Shakhimardan is four times closer. [In actuality, the reverse is true.] How many versts is it to Shakhimardan? (p.127)
Participants don't want to play this game:
"What! Shakhimardan four times closer?! But it's farther away!"
"Yes, we know. But I gave out this problem as an exercise." (p.127)
"How should I know how long it would take? If I had gone, I could say, but I wouldn't want to lie to no purpose, you know." (p.128)
(Does this last line sound like a veiled accusation to you?)

Let's skip to Ch.7, "Self-Analysis and Self-Awareness." "This chapter attempts to determine the extent to which our subjects were able to treat their own inner life in a generalized fashion, to single out particular psychological traits in themselves, to analyze their interior world, and to evaluate their intrinsic qualities" (p.144). In the introduction to this chapter, Luria says,
There is every reason to think that self-awareness is a product of sociohistorical development and that reflection of external natural and social reality arises first; only later, through its mediating influence, do we find self-awareness in its more complex forms. Accordingly, we should approach self-awareness as a product of consciousness of the external world and of other people, and should seek its social roots and traits in the stages through which it is shaped in society.
The notion that self-awareness is a secondary and socially shaped phenomenon was formulated by Marx: "At first, man looked at himself as if in a mirror, except that it is another person. Only relating to Paul as one like himself can Peter begin to relate to himself as a person." Despite the fact that the notion of the social origin of self-awareness arose more than a century ago in materialistic philosophy, there have not yet been adequate attempts in psychological research to show that this view is correct or to follow the specific stages through which this phenomenon is shaped socially. (p.145, my emphasis)
The italicized portion again makes me cautious about Luria. Is Luria relying on Marx—a brilliant philosopher, but not a psychologist—to provide a psychological explanation that Soviet psychologists now only need to validate? Or is this the sort of cliche that Luria had to employ in order to be published in the Soviet Union?

As you should be able to tell, I'm ambivalent about the book. On one hand, it opens up intriguing speculation and some interesting data about cross-cultural psychology and psychological development. On the other hand, I don't like some of the premises and the methodology often seems questionable. But as a classic in the lineage of activity theory, it's an important read.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Reading :: The Gulag Archipelago

The Gulag Archipelago
By Alexander Solzhenitsyn

I first read this book the summer after my 16th birthday. It details the author's experience in the Stalinist work camps, but it also details the experience of many others who communicated with the author in the work camps or, after his release, in secret conversations and letters. Taken all together, the book recounts the history of the work camps from 1918 (before they were officially formed under Stalin in 1930) to 1956 (after Stalin's death in 1953). And it is horrifying.

There's no way I can adequately summarize the book. But I picked it up again after two things happened.

First, a fellow researcher, who had been born in the Eastern Bloc, remembered its propagandic education and asked me whether this propaganda constituted the Soviet roots of activity theory.

Second, to better understand the roots of the notion of contradiction in activity theory, I read one of Evald Ilyenkov's books, The Dialectics of the Abstract and Concrete in Marx's Capital, which was published in 1960—four years after the timespan covered in the Gulag Archipelago, two years before Solzhenitsyn published One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Ilyenkov's book, like others during the time, quotes Marx, Engels and Lenin fervently and describes opposing viewpoints contemptuously. Was he a true believer, the kind that ascribes to this trio the sort of infallability a fundamentalist Christian does to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John? Was he trying to make sure that his books would pass the censors, as Bakhtin allegedly tried to do? Or was he — frightened?

I'm going to be reading and reviewing several Soviet-era books over the next few weeks, including some that were written during Stalin's time in power, so I wanted to ground myself in the historical background. I don't want to forget that these researchers had ample reasons to quote Marx et al often, reasons that did not necessarily have to do with free inquiry. And I wanted to remember how much of the infrastructure they enjoyed, how many of the programs in which they were involved, benefited indirectly from the unfree labor in these horrid labor camps. And that's why I decided to read The Gulag Archipelago a second time.

The book deserves far more attention, but here I'll just pull out a few quotes relevant to my particular investigation.

On p.29, Solzhenitsyn discusses how no one was safe from arrest by the secret police, who had to fulfill their quotas, and who were under no obligation to provide a trial. "Just as the intelligentsia had never been overlooked in previous waves, it was not neglected in this one. A student's denunciation that a certain lecturer in a higher educational institution kept citing Lenin and Marx frequently but Stalin not at all was all that was needed for the lecturer not to show up for lectures any more. And what if he cited no one?" (p.29)

In discussing the Gulag's "'discovery' that the personal confession of an accused person was more important than any other kind of proof or facts" (p.42), Solzhenitsyn describes how Vyshinsky, "availing himself of the most flexible dialectics ... pointed out in a report which became famous in certain circles that it is never possible for mortal men to establish absolute truth, but relative truth only. ... Therefore, when we sign a sentence ordering someone to be shot we can never be absolutely certain, but only approximately, in view of certain hypotheses, and in a certain sense, that we are punishing a guilty person." The solution was, rather than seeking absolute evidence (it's all relative) or witnesses (these are changeable), the interrogator could find such relative proof without even leaving his office, just by making the prisoner confess. (p.43). "In only one respect did Vyshinsky fail to be consistent and retreat from dialectical logic: for some reason, the executioner's bullet which he allowed was not relative but absolute ..." (p.43)

On p.215: "Engels discovered that the human being had arisen not through the perception of a moral idea and not through the process of thought, but out of happenstance and meaningless work (an ape picked up a stone—and with this everything began. Marx, concerning himself with a less remote time ('Critique of the Gotha Program'), declared with equal conviction that the one and only means of correcting offenders ... was not solitary contemplation, not moral soul-searching, nor repentance, and not languishing (for all that was superstructure!)—but productive labor." (p.215) Solzhenitsyn cites this claim as the rationale for the work camps—and he also says that Marx never had to work!

On p.325: He argues that the lie has become the form of existence. "There exists a collection of ready-made phrases, of labels, a selection of ready-made lies. And not one single speech nor one single essay or article nor one single book—be it scientific, journalistic, critical, or 'literary,' so-called—can exist without the use of these primary cliches."

Read it? Definitely. I'm glad I did at 16, and I'm glad I did again, to remind myself to look for those cliches in the next few weeks.

Reading :: Science, Strategy and War

Science, Strategy and War: The Strategic Theory of John Boyd
By Frans P.B. Osinga

A few days ago, I reviewed Daniel Ford's slim book on John Boyd, A Vision So Noble, which grew out of his MA work. It referenced this book, which was evidently Osinga's dissertation. Osinga was an F-16 pilot and served in the Royal Netherlands Air Force.

Osinga's focus is on another former pilot, John Boyd. As discussed in the earlier review, Boyd was a pilot who went back to school to become an engineer, then became an autodidact military theorist whose readings included Tzu and Clausewitz but also Maturana, Bateson, Polanyi, Kuhn, and Popper. "Some regard Boyd as the most important strategist of the twentieth century, or even since Sun Tzu," Osinga tells us (p.3), although "on the other hand, his work has invited dismissive critique" (p.1). Complicating this legacy is the fact that Boyd's body of theoretical work is made up of "four briefings and an essay"; the briefings are slide decks that Boyd revised throughout his life. (You can see the originals at the John Boyd Compendium.) The slide decks are meant to be presented rather than read as standalone documents, and thus pose a problem for those who want to better understand Boyd's thought.

To preserve Boyd's thought, Osinga takes on the task of contextualizing these primary texts: he contextualizes the challenges that Boyd addressed; digs into archives such as interviews with Boyd; and uses the archives to identify some of Boyd's sources (Boyd was not meticulous about citing) so he could read those sources himself. It's a lot of work, and the result is—based on my limited understanding of the subject—a strong account of the major claims Boyd made and an argument for taking these claims seriously.

Osinga starts by orienting us to terms of art in military theory: military theory itself ("the aggregate of theories, doctrines, and beliefs belonging to a particular individual, community or period," pp.8-9); operational art ("the body of knowledge dealing with the use and behavior of military forces in a military campaign aimed to achieve strategic or operational level military objectives," p.9); doctrine ("the aggregate of fundamental methods of fighting, often tacit or implied," p.9); and strategy (referencing Clausewitz, "the use of tacit and explicit threats, as well as of actual battles and campaigns, to advance political purposes," which "provides the conceptual link between action and effect and between instrument and objective," p.9).

Strategy, he adds, "concerns both organization and environment"; "affects overall welfare of the organization"; "involves issues of both content and process"; exists on different levels (e.g., corporate strategy and business strategy in the same firm); and "involves conceptual as well as analytical exercises" (p.10). And "Strategy abhors a vacuum; if the strategic function is lacking, strategic effect will be generated by the causal, if perhaps unguided and unwanted accumulation of tactical and operational outcomes" (p.10). Strategic theory involves four levels:

  • "a level that transcends time, environment, political and social conditions and technology"
  • "a level that explains how the geographic and functional complexities of war and strategy interact and complement each other"
  • "a level that explains how a particular kind of use of military power strategically affeects the course of conflict as a whole"
  • "a level that explains the character of war in a particular period" (p.12)
With that background established, Osinga argues that "Boyd's work comprises a specific intellectual response to the military problems of the US armed forces in the immediate aftermath of the Vietnam War and his arguments are colored by this predicament in the sense that he aimed to change a specific mindset and a doctrine that, in his view, was dysfunctional" (p.16). 

In Ch.2, Osinga overviews Boyd's military life to trace how his thoughts about strategy emerged. Boyd was drafted into the US Army in 1946, attended USAF pilot training in 1952, flew 22 combat sorties in the F-86 Sabre during the Korean War (1953), attended and became instructor at the Fighter Weapons School (1954), and published a manual on fighter maneuvers, Aerial Attack Study, in 1960. 

Let's pause there. In Korea, "What intrigued him was that despite flying in F-86 aircraft with a lower ceiling, a wider turn radius and slower maximum speed than its rival, the Russian Mig-15, the kill ratio was 10:1 in favor of the F-86 during the Korean War" (p.22). One explanation might have been training, but that didn't explain everything, especially since the North Korean pilots often had numerical superiority. Boyd realized that the "bubble canopy ... provided a distinct advantage over the constrained view" of the Mig-15, but he believed there was an additional element (p.22). 

At his next post, the USAF Fighter Weapons School, he focused on air combat tactics. He acquired the name "40 second Boyd" because he routinely "bet that he could beat any pilot within 40 seconds in a 1 versus 1 air combat set-up, a bet that he usually won" (p.22). He also wrote Aerial Attack Study, "an encyclopedia on air-to-air combat" that is still being used (p.22). 

In 1960, Boyd went to Georgia Tech to pursue a degree in industrial engineering. While studying the Second Law of Thermodynamics, "he discovered that he could explain air-to-air combat in terms of energy relationships, in which altitude is potential energy to be traded for speed—kinetic energy—and vice versa. Turns became energy-consuming maneuvers ... and engine power an energy provider ..." (p.23). He could express these relationships with equations and plot the outcomes with graphs. "By overlaying and comparing such graphs of different fighters the speed/altitude areas of relative advantage became immediately obvious" (p.23). Yet these calculations required substantial computer time, so once Boyd graduated in 1962, he got a post at Eglin Air Force Base and proceeded to covertly use the USAF Systems Command computers to finish his research. The result was EM theory, which "revolutionized fighter design" (p.23). This work landed him at the Pentagon, where he helped to develop the next generation of fighters (p.23). 

At the Pentagon, Boyd saw that the win-to-loss ratios for fighters had plummeted from the 10:1 in Korea to ratios as low as 1:1 in Vietnam (p.24). Boyd, along with others, argued strongly for dedicated tactical fighters that could transition between maneuvers quickly (p.25), leading to the development of the F-16 (which Osinga flew) and the F-18. 

It also resulted in the A-10, which was not a tactical fighter but a tank killer; Boyd researched the A-10's needs by interviewing German WW2 experts on the subject, and that led him to study strategy and tactics in general (p.26) and setting him on the path as a military theorist.

At the same time, Boyd was working on A New Conception for Air to Air Combat, in which he addressed the fact that in a fly-off, the YF-16 (which would become the F-16) and YF-17 (which would become the F-18) had been predicted to be a close match based on EM theory, yet the YF-16 clearly outperformed the 17 in actual tests. The YF-16 could perform tighter turns, allowing them to slip inside the YF-17's turn circle while still gaining energy and maintaining high turn rates (p.26). Critically, Boyd argued that "we should operate at a faster tempo than our adversaries or inside our adversaries [sic] time scales ... such activity will make us appear ambiguous (non predictable)..." (p.27, my emphasis). This insight was the kernel that led to later elaboration of the OODA loop. What's important to note here is why higher tempo is better: not because one can outpace the adversary, but because one can appear ambiguous and confuse and disorder the adversary. 

Let's skip a bit. Boyd drew eclectically from a range of theorists as he developed his new understanding of warfare. "Boyd argued for non-linear tactics, avoiding and bypassing enemy positions, venturing deep into enemy territory without too much concern for one's flanks. The prize was not territory but time, surprise and shock. Such tactics would force the enemy to react. They would create the impression US troops were everywhere and could strike anytime anyplace" (p.45). "Boyd's ideas were translated after a decade of lectures, briefings and debates in Marine Corps doctrine" (p.47). 

These ideas relate to the OODA Loop. Osinga quotes the explanation of "a young captain" who attended Boyd's briefings:

Colonel Boyd observed that in any conflict all combatants go through repeated cycles of an observation – orientation – decision –action (OODA) loop […]The potentially victorious combatant is the one with the OODA loop which is consistently quicker than his opponent (including the time required to transition from one cycle to another). As this opponent repeatedly cycles faster than his opponent, the opponent finds he is losing control of the situation […] his countermeasures are overcome by the rapidly unfolding events and become ineffective in coping with each other. He finds himself increasingly unable to react. Suddenly, he realizes there is nothing else he can do to control the situation or turn it to his advantage. At this point he has lost. In essence his command circuits have been overloaded, thereby making his decisions too slow for the developing situation […] all that remain are uncoordinated smaller units incapable of coordinated action. The enemy’s defeat in detail is the eventual outcome. (qtd on p.49; my emphasis)
The method requires "continuous high-tempo operations, a focus on creating and exposing flanks and rears, and on weaknesses instead of enemy's strengths ... [and] mission tactics of Aufragstatik, for the party which can consistently operate the longest without new orders will inevitably have the greater advantage over an opponent awaiting orders after every action" (p.49). (cf. Alberts and Hayes.)

In Ch.3, Osinga tackles "Science," specifically examining OODA's roots in Polanyi, Kuhn, Popper, Godel, Weiner, Skinner, Heisenberg, Prigogine, and Piaget. Osinga notes the move away from Cartesianism and toward systems thinking.

Ch.4, "Completing the Shift," overviews Boyd's move to a new worldview, drawing a contrast between "traditional" and "emerging" views (see table on p.88, or if you don't have a copy, p.124 of Osinga's dissertation). Essentially, Boyd moved from a modernist to a postmodernist viewpoint, examining self-organization and non-linear interconnectedness (p.88). Boyd is influenced by Prigogine here, and later—deeply—by Maturana and Vela (p.92), particularly their discussions of autopoeisis and structural coupling (p.94).  Boyd writes: "Orientation is the schwerpunkt. It shapes the way we interact with the environment. ... Orientation shapes the character of present observations-orientation-decision-action loops —while those present loops shape the character of future orientation" (p.94).

Halfway through this chapter, Osinga draws the threads together, arguing that Boyd presented a unifying vision.

  • At the grand strategic level, it presented a unifying vision, a coherent paradigm, and an "agreeable ideology which fosters internal unity and offers a 'moral high ground' for creating alliances. It favors cooperation" (p.100). 
  • At the next level, the strategic aim is to "Diminish adversary's capacity while improving our capacity to adapt as an organic whole, so that our adversary cannot cope while we can cope with events/efforts as they unfold" (Boyd qtd in Osinga p.101). 
  • At the grand tactical level, Boyd argued for operating inside the adversary's OODA loops, creating mismatches between the adversary's observations and the conditions to which it must react. Doing so makes one appear unpredictable, keeping the adversary from adapting or coping with the unfolding strategic design (p.101). 
  • At the tactical level, Boyd said that units should "OODA more inconspicuously, more quickly, and with more irregularity" and "repeatedly and unexpectedly penetrate vulnerabilities and weaknesses exposed by that effort" (qtd in Osinga p.101). 

Now Osinga gets to Ch.5, where he overviews Boyd's "Core Arguments." Here, he follows the structure of the slide decks in Boyd's A Discourse on Winning and Losing. Essentially, he tries "to provide the content of his slides in reasonable prose" with little commentary (pp.128-129). As a side note, I sometimes had a hard time distinguishing between Boyd's original text from the slides and Osinga's interpretation throughout; I would have liked to see these set off visually. Rather than march lockstep through this section, let me pick out some of the more important things.

In Patterns of Conflict, Boyd synthesizes principles of guerrilla warfare and Blitzkrieg, arguing that one should avoid battles, instead focusing on shattering cohesion, generating surprise and shock, and paralyzing effort (p.164). Forces must be able to maintain internal harmony, operating in "a directed yet more indistinct, more irregular and quicker manner than one's adversaries," concentrating and dispersing inconspicuously and/or quickly (p.164).

Boyd also emphasizes moral conflict, arguing that a force must "create, exploit, and magnify" menace, uncertainty, and mistrust in the enemy, generating "many non-cooperative centers of gravity" and magnifying internal friction (p.171). Simultaneously, he argues that the force should set up internal "counterweights" of initiative, adaptability, and harmony (p.172). Adversaries must be isolated from allies and each other, morally, mentally, and physically (pp.178-179).

In Ch.6, "Exploration and Refinement," Osinga presents the other five briefings, again presenting rather than commenting on these briefings. As in the last chapter, I'll hit what I thought were the highlights.

In Organic Design for Command and Control, Boyd argues (in Osinga's paraphrase) that "interactions in various forms are the glue that binds the various nodes of a social system together" (p.192). In Boyd's own words, "interactions represent a many-sided implicit cross-referencing process of projection, empathy, correlation, and rejection" (qtd in Osinga p.192). Osinga argues that "this insight into the nature of interactions is the first step toward a definition of orientation" (p.193). Boyd again: "Orientation, seen as a result, represents images, views, or impressions of the world shaped by
genetic heritage, cultural tradition, previous experiences, and unfolding circumstances." (qtd in Osinga p.193).

Boyd then synthesizes the two statements: "Orientation is an interactive process of many sided implicit cross-referencing projections, empathies, correlations, and rejections that is shaped by and shapes the interplay of genetic heritage, cultural tradition, previous experiences and unfolding circumstances." (qtd in Osinga p. 193).

Orientation, as Boyd says elsewhere, is the Schwerpunkt or center of gravity. He argues that if a force can "create many non-cooperative centers of gravity" in the adversary, that force can magnify friction because the adversary must focus inward, thereby creating confusion and disorder (qtd in Osinga p.195). Thus, as Boyd argues in Strategic Game of ? and ?, "The Strategic Game is one of Interaction and Isolation" (qtd in Osinga p.209, Boyd's emphasis).

Yet, just as Engestrom argues that contradictions are engines of change, Boyd argues that "The presence and production of mismatches are what sustain and nourish the enterprise of science, engineering, and technology, hence keep it alive and ongoing — otherwise there would be no basis for it to continue. (qtd in Osinga p.225).

Orientation, clearly, is a critical part of the OODA loop. And since this chapter is called "Exploration and Refinement," we can see a refined version of the OODA loop on p.231 (or see the dissertation p.270). Unlike the simplified OODA loop that we usually see in secondary literature—a loop that seems to simply focus on tempo as it cycles in lockstep—this one elaborates feedback loops at each state and details subcomponents of Orientation. The entire loop is a "cross-referencing process" (Boyd, qtd in Osinga p.232).

In Chapter 7, "Completing the Loop," Osinga provides the commentary that he withheld from Ch.5-6. The OODA loop, he argues,
represents and means more than a decision process, and the model contains more for victory than information superiority and speed. The OODA loop is much less a model for decision-making than a model of individual and organizational learning and adaptation in which the element of orientation—made up of genetics, experience, culture—plays the dominant role in the game of hypothesis and test, of analysis and synthesis, of destruction and creation. (p.235, my emphasis)
He goes on to address misconceptions. First, yes, one usually wants to get "inside" the adversary's OODA loop; but this doesn't just mean "out-looping," it also means "altering the tempo" (p.235) because "Changing OODA speed becomes part of denying a pattern to be recognized" (p.236).

Second, focusing on speed misses the critical interrelationship between "physical action and the mental and moral component": if one has access to more timely information, but cannot react as quickly, the advantage is lost. (e.g., imagine an army with up-to-the-minute intelligence but a bureaucracy that makes operational decisions hourly or daily). (p.236)

Third, tempo is not the only control dimension. (p.236).

Beyond that, Osinga argues, narrow interpretations of OODA miss the critical issue of "developing, maintaining and reshaping one's orientation" (p.236). Osinga argues that "it is essential to have a repertoire of orientation patterns and the ability to select the correct one according to the situation at hand while denying the opponent the latter capability. Moreover, Boyd emphasizes the capabilityy to validate the schemata before and during operations and the capability to devise and incorporate new ones, if one is to survive in a rapidly changing environment" (p.236, Osinga's emphasis).

(Related note: I've noted in recent studies that participants sometimes relate to rapidly changing environments by developing relatively stable patterns and stable sets of transformations.)

The remainder of Ch.7 discusses Boyd's legacy in fourth-generation warfare (Hammes, Lind, Arquilla and Ronfeldt). 

Okay, so what can we take from this? As I mentioned in the previous review, I'm interested in the question of how Boyd has developed this systemic "model of individual and organizational learning and adaptation" to increase what activity theorists would call internal contradictions. Activity theory comes from a lineage of educational psychology, and it has traditionally focused on decreasing rather than increasing contradictions, ideally resulting in more harmonious work and positive learning outcomes. Yet AT has moved into workplace research, IS research, UX research, and other areas that are not specifically focused on education—and that often encompass competitive relationships. Surely some of these linkages between activity systems aim at disruption, but to my knowledge, AT has not been applied to examining them. 

Along these lines, ever since Engestrom introduced the idea of the activity network in third-generation activity theory (3GAT), we have been examining interactions between activity systems. We have even discussed how different activity systems have to match cycles. (For instance, in my undergraduate field methods class, we regularly discuss how student organizations have synchronized their transformation cycle to the school year.) But I can't think of many AT studies that discuss the question of interfering cycles, let alone deliberately interfering ones. 

Can OODA be applied productively to AT? If so, would the application be a synthesis? Or would it be more fruitful as an analogical application? 

In any case, if you're interested in Boyd's work, Osinga's book is probably the best and most comprehensive overview. I recommend it.