Fourth Generation disruptions

What applies to one field often applies to many. I thought this excerpt from Martin van Creveld’s Technology and War was interesting both in its own right and as it applies to the cultural war:

In practice, the difference between war and the deadliest games practiced by men consists precisely of the fact that, in war, the element of pure unbridled force is always present. Like a bolt of lightning coming out of a clear sky, it threatens to crash through the network of rules. Historically speaking, there have been many places and times when war began to resemble a game. Whenever this happened, there were people aplenty who chose to interpret the phenomenon as a sign that civilization was advancing, that eternal peace was possible, perhaps even that the millenium was about to arrive. On each of those occasions, however, sooner or later somebody came along who did not operate on the same code. Brandishing his sharp sword he tore apart the delicate fabric, revealing war for what it really was.

Nemesis, when it came, took different forms. The Hellenistic states, which had dominated the eastern Mediterranean, were laid low by the Romans who, to quote Polybius, were singularly inclined to use force (bia) in order to solve any problem. The jousts and other military games being played at the courts of France and Burgundy were rudely disrupted by Swiss pikemen and Spanish arquebusiers coming from “barbaric” countries on the fringe of civilization, nations that had never been properly feudalized. The European ancien régime was brought to an end when the French Revolution mobilized huge hordes of men and, unable to train them in the good old rules, hurled them forward at the enemy in formations that contemporaries regarded as crude but very effective. As might be expected, those who survived these eruptions often engaged in a spirited debate as to whether they involved progress or a reversion to barbarism. Though a disinterested historian writing long after the event might point out that they most probably represented both, this was scant consolation to the victims at the time.

To read the signs, our age also displays these symptoms. Partly because of the nuclear threat, partly because of the modern fascination with advanced technology per se, and partly for deeply rooted socio-ideological reasons, weapons are being turned into toys and conventional war into an elaborate, but fundamentally pointless, game. While games can be nice while they last, in our age too there is a real danger that they will be upset by barbarians who, refusing to abide by the rules, pick up the playing-board and use it to smash the opponent’s head. Let him who has ears to listen, listen: the call Lucifer ante portas already reverberates, and new forms of warfare are threatening to put an end to our delicate civilization.

It’s not an accident that there are similarities between the 4GW we are seeing throughout the Middle East and the 4GW we are seeing in the form of GamerGate. Both are reactions to overwhelming and irresistible centralized power; ISIS/DAESH could no more stand up to the US military in conventional battle than the average game player could influence the game media or the average SF novelist could expect to hit the New York Times bestseller list and be end-capped at Barnes & Noble without the support of a major New York publisher.

But technology and decentralization has allowed the Fourth Generation forces to bypass the conventional strong points. ISIS can coordinate global strikes from deep cover operatives anywhere in the world; a power not even the Emperor of Rome or the Queen of the British Empire possessed. A single gamer like Pew Die Pie has a bigger following than any game journalist. And, well, you already know about the Hugo Awards and the New York Times bestseller list has been rendered moot by Amazon’s.

This is a time of change, in both military and societal terms. As is usually the case, the change will NOT take the form that is expected by those who control the conventional forces, indeed, on the basis of past transitions, we can safely predict that those who have been most dependent upon the conventional models are the most likely to find themselves on the wrong side of techno-historical progress.