October 31, 2005
Beyond Patterns of Conflict?
By Chet Richards
As many readers of this site know, John Boyd was
heavily influenced by the ideas of the Austrian-American mathematician
Kurt Gödel, particularly, the notion of incompleteness. Although
Gödel worked in the rarified realm of foundations of mathematics, the
notion that no even moderately complex mathematical system can be complete
formed a critical element in the development of Boyd's strategy.
This implies, Boyd deduced, that no description of reality can completely describe reality (apologies to mathematicians - Boyd drew on Gödel as
a source of ideas and was not trying to apply his theorems directly
to the problems of strategy). In other words, gaps in our knowledge can never be closed. Indeed, in a good theory, answering one question usually generates several more.
Fair enough, but what about Boyd's own work?
Obviously it cannot be complete, either. In the spirit of Gödel,
then, here are some questions for further research into some of the
issues raised in
Patterns of Conflict
and Boyd's other briefings. Comments, elaborations, and suggestions
for further topics are welcome. [DNI Editor's note: This document was originally
prepared for a strategy seminar sponsored by the Cox Family Enterprise
Center at Kennesaw State University,
It contains embedded PowerPoint charts from Boyd's briefings.
Unfortunately, some of the fonts in the briefing charts did not make
the transition gracefully. I think they are still readable, but the
original charts are available in our
Strategy section, or, for those who would prefer, here's the
MS Word document (50 KB).]