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, http://www.kennesaw.edu/fec/. 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 Boyd and Strategy section, or, for those who would prefer, here's the original MS Word document (50 KB).]

Click here: Beyond Patterns of Conflict [62 KB PDF.]