Robert Coram, 'Boyd' wrote:Boyd knew he had to be independent and he saw only two ways for a man to do this: he can either achieve great wealth or reduce his needs to zero. Boyd said if a man can reduce his needs to zero, he is truly free: there is nothing that can be taken from him and nothing anyone can do to hurt him.
I got in to Boyd in 2011 or 12 or so, starting with "Science, Strategy, and War: The strategic theory of John Boyd" by Frans P. Osinga. This book is top three most influential books on how I think, perhaps *the* top book. He's credited with the "OODA Loop", but precisely 98% of people reduce his work to the OODA Loop, and reduce the OODA Loop to what they think of when they combine the words "Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action". Most people think "yeah yeah, read stuff, look at stuff, make a call, do it, do it all over again, got it. Duh!" #facepalm In Boyd's work, the loop was almost an aside, it wasn't necessarily central to his thinking (because arguably nothing was central!).
Most people try to understand Boyd (also, everything) linearly, in the same way they think about the OODA loop (start at the left, go right). My response to people who ask me "well, what's Boyd's main core insight/takeaway?" is "that that kind of thinking is why the JSF program and Vietnam were total cockups". I've always struggled to convey why his work is important and worthy of study, mostly because so few people think anything is worth studying. They want the tl;dr, the tweet-thread recap. Boyd didn't write any books or papers, he just gave presentations, and IIRC he refused to present for anything less than some large number of hours (sometimes he'd lecture for 12, 14 hours). His method was to dive in, and spiral. One of his lectures was called "The Conceptual Spiral". He'd start at one point, and work his way around, and then go one level deeper, and then go up two levels...
What probably inspires me most about Boyd is that his work is a synthesis of a boggling amount of material from a boggling spread of disciplines. The philosophy of science, to biology, to traditional military theory, to ancient military theory, to organizational sociology, to ...
From my notes, John Boyd's work is the result of understanding:
.2nd Law (Need energy input to increase order)
.Godel's Incompleteness Theorem (you can't know everything about a system from within the system)
.Chaos/Complexity Theory (somy systems are inherently unpredictable/indeterminate; interesting behavior far from equilibrium; tipping points; emergent behavior)
.Autopoesis (cognition (neurons) are shaped by interaction with the environment; interaction with outside world is required for cognition/life)
.Adaptations (adaptation to environment is required for survival)
Robert Coram, 'Boyd' wrote:It was obvious from Boyd's phone calls that he was not only spending a disproportionately large amount of his retirement pay on books but was reading them all.
Boyd got me on to Eastern philosophy of skill/practice (Musashi, Takuon, The Japanese Art of War), which is where I started to internalize the notion of "learn the numbers to forget the numbers" (Waitzkin), meaning, you drill the basics until they settle and submerge in to the unconscious, then you tackle the next level of conceptual complexity that requires a reflexive intuition of the previous levels of cognition. Fingerspitzengefuhl, in the terms of blitzkrieg.
This is the first line I ever highlighted from Boyd stuff - at the time, it sent chills down my spine and I actually remember where I was when I read it:
Frans P. Osinga, Science, Strategy and War wrote:Strategy abhors a vacuum: if the strategic function is lacking, strategic effect will be generated by the casual, if perhaps unguided and unwanted accumulation of tactical and operational outcomes.
This one on organizational theory is nice:
Science, Strategy and War wrote:"Robust systems are characterized by 'rich patterns of tight, moderate, and loosley coupled linkages: chains of interdependency branch in complicated patterns across nearly every actor in a broad network of interactions, [these patterns] protect the organization against shock by providing multiple paths for action...
"Structurally, the theme is self-organization...small teams operating relatively autonomously pursue entrepreneurial opportunities and share know-how among each other. Meanwhile, the shared values of corporate culture in belief systems provide tight but internal and perhaps even 'tacit', control as a form of protocol."
Sounds familiar. Also:
SS&W wrote:He who us willing and able to take the initiative to exploit variety, rapidity, and harmony - as basis to create as well as adapt to the more distinct more irregular quicker changes of rhythm and pattern, yet shape focus and direction of effort - survives and dominates.
In a tactical sense, these multidimensional interactions suggest a spontaneous, synthetic/creative, and flowing action/counteraction operation, rather than a step by step, analytical/logical, and discrete move/countermove game.
Directly from one of Boyd's presentations wrote:What is strategy?
A mental tapestry of changing intentions for harmonizing and focusing our efforts, as a basis for realizing some aim or purpose in an unfolding and often unforeseen world of many bewildering events and many contending interests.
What is the aim or purpose of strategy?
To improve our ability to shape and adapt to unfolding circumstances, so that we (as individuals or as groups or as a nation-state) can survive on our own terms.
What is the central theme and what are the key ideas that underline strategy?
The central theme is one of interaction/isolation while the key ideas are the moral-mental-physical means towards realizing this interaction/isolation.
How do we play to this theme and activate these ideas?
By an instinctive seesaw of analysis and synthesis across a variety of domains, or across competing independent channels of information, in order to spontaneously generate new mental images or impressions that match up with an unfolding world of uncertainty and change.