Archive for the 'Complex systems' Category

The Kamikaze: sabotage of the system

As the V-1s and V-2s started flying off from Pennemuende to London, fire control systems were confronted with a new kind of threat.  The flight of the rockets was highly predictable, and the control systems quickly adapted, or learned, how to deal with them. 

A different case was the Kamikaze fighters.  Apart from patriots they were the response of the human mind to the confrontation with the machine: to introduce the element of unpredictability.

In the Pacific the fight was between fire control systems and humans that were finding ways to exploit the weaknesses.  One can see the flying object as an integral part of the system, as the element that is trained, measured and subject to prediction.  The Kamikaze pilots were part of the system, but they modified their role to be saboteursSaboteurs tend to emerge within systems that become complex and unfathomable.

Capt'n Crunch Bosun Whistle

Hackers used the Captain Crunch whistle to trick the telephone system.  Sabotage can turn out to be more than just pranks.  The emergence of computer viruses understands the computing system as an organism, and exploits its weaknesses in control and self-preservation for self-reproduction and propagation.  SPAMers do the same with the e-mail system.   Social Networks experience the “tragedy of the commons” when its controls are abused and turned against them.

As the complexity of online and mechanical systems grows, it is important to ask what the new role of the human could be.  How can human spontaneity counter sabotage and unpredictability?  Maybe the role of the human operator becomes that of a policeman. 

It is telling that interactive game-like applications are developed to model complex systems with real-world analogies.  In the graphic environment human operators take the role of supervision and security.  Threats are represented by an unfamiliar entity with an odd behavior, which allows the operator to react quickly to sabotage. 

The shooter-game is merged with complex systems to leverage the capacity of the human to react to unpredictable behavior in anyone of its components.  But at the same time sabotage is a process that makes systems more resilient and purposeful.  It is the venom that brings the cure.

Sabotage is the intentional introduction of noise into the system, and human participation in feedback is the most effective way to regain control.


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