Rhizomatic militaries need distributed communication networks

We continue our exploration of the blog of Jeff Vail.

For context, see our P2P Encyclopedia entry on Swarming, with theory and examples.

From his own analysis of concrete cases and recent defeats of this tactic, we choose the concluding excerpt:

“The success of a rhizome swarm depends in large part on its ability to communicate and affect the “pulse” of swarm operations coherently. Hierarchal forces that utilize swarm tactics (i.e. most historical examples) utilize hierarchal command and control to decide and communicate when and where to swarm, to mass forces. However, dependence on such hierarchal methods presents a great risk to any rhizomatic structure: the potential to involuntarily transition to hierarchy. Even the clearly rhizomatic Black Block in Seattle relied upon the hierarchy of cellular phone networks to affect their rhizome command and control. Word of mouth networking and other rhizome means of communication are effective, but potentially too slow and exposed for use in swarm warfare. The dependence on existing hierarchal communications systems is, at present, the Achilles ’ heel of any rhizome swarm—I know from personal experience just how easy it is for hierarchal militaries to deny such communications networks at will. In fact, it may not be an exaggeration to state that the future potential of rhizome militaries will rest on the need to identify and utilize a non-hierarchal communications vehicle… However, this need also represents an opportunity: due to the nature of swarm warfare, it is an ideal candidate for using a completely open communications network. It doesn’t matter if a hierarchal force intercepts the communications that result in the pulse of a swarming opponent—they will neither be able to process the rhizomatic nature of the information (i.e. flash mobs), nor will they be able to react fast enough to counter the pulse before it has disbursed.”

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