The John Boyd Roundtable: Debating Science Strategy and War

The John Boyd Roundtable: Debating Science, Strategy, and War forward by Thomas Barnett and edited by Mark Safranski

It is almost a formalized tradition of the Greek philosophers for the students of notable thinkers to gather together the lectures and scribe the ideas and philosophies into a document that is the primary intellectual product passed down through the ages. The ideas and lectures of the philosophers who existed primarily within an oral tradition reflected a deeper thinking and consideration of the oratory and the power to present ideas. Though there is a dearth of such intellectual discourse in recent centuries a notable exception is John Boyd and his ideas and wide ranging philosophies.

Adherents, students, and collaborators gathered together upon the publication of Frans Osingas “Science, strategy and war: The Strategic theory of John Boyd”. Instead of lolling about like a bunch of lotus eaters on some green lawn they mounted a round table of high level discourse using the green lawn of this century and had the discussion Web 2.0 style. Fueled I am sure by copious amounts of caffeine.

What we are left with is an excellent book edited by Mark Safranski and authored by numerous individuals each giving there understanding of the history, concepts, ideas, and values of John Boyd. If the discussion occurred on the Web why then a book? The Internet as rich in collaborative atmosphere is an ephemeral library subject to the whim of time in ways that a book never will be.  Besides still to this day sticky tabs and highlighter after awhile get hard to read through. A book is for a lifetime and maybe Kindles and e-book readers someday will take over (I buy electronic versions along with paper versions of National Academies books), but today I like the paper.

As a book about a book it should also be noted that this not much different than the literary critique found in most academic journals. The bonus is that it isn’t nearly as dry. The article penned by Chet Richards discussing “The origins of John Boyd’s A discourse on winning and loosing” is the kind of in depth research that is hard to find. I am fascinated by his discussion of how the specific philosophies were brought into alignment and filled in the gaps of Boyd’s theories.

I have always been interested in how like some Greek philosopher John Boyd effectively portrayed his ideas and communicated them so diligently and never wrote a book. This is antithetical to today’s world where you write the book then get to convey your ideas if the book sells well.  Lexington Green in “Why didn’t Boyd write a book?” discusses the interactive nearing on Socratic method Boyd used with audiences. The points conveyed provide a true insight into what may be the instantiation of John Boyd’s true genius. The reason Boyd likely didn’t write a book may be so that people could continue to discuss and adapt his ideas into the future. A  point Lexington Green discusses and points out eloquently.

Fifty two pages in length I am adding it to the suggested reading list for my undergraduates and required list for graduate students. In the information technology and security realm we to often are called upon to make decisions and have never been instructed on decision sciences. The methods, concepts, operations, and effects of decisions are to important to be left to an ad hoc process. John Boyd and his OODA loop give a path to better understanding. This new book from Nimble Books gives valuable insights into the processes and concepts. That is why it is a suggested read/buy.

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