Intelligent Machines & Chaoplexic Warfare – DeLanda vs. Bosquet

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Writing about 20 years apart, DeLanda and Bosquet propose differing methods for interpreting modern sciences of military administration’s capacities for marshaling of the forces of chaos. For both writers, chaos is both primary condition of the fog of war and an ancillary property of matter itself. And for both, the properties of chaos are of formative consequence for the engineering of weapons and the organization of tactical and logistical military systems which seek to “order” the chaos of armed conflict.

War in the Age of Intelligent Machines

DeLanda’s work on the development of military technologies is speculative in its approach, and is directly indebted to the concept of the machinic phylum developed by Deleuze and Guattari. DeLanda develops his theory of the war machine from the perspective of a hypothetical AI attempting to elaborate the conditions of its own emergence. In so doing, DeLanda works through a study of nomadic war machines (nimble foldings of man and machine that actively subvert sedentary tendencies of the military state) that foregrounds their heuristic applicability and their migration across varying physical “structures” and abstract scales. In this sense, he is less interested in the history of human ideas at war and more interested in the conscription of human and mechanical bodies within abstract machines for organizing and engaging conflict (weapons, tactical and strategic schemas, logistical systems, etc).  This folding of the organic and the inorganic into complex, nimble assemblages is a primary characteristic of the intelligent machine, a characteristic which complicates notions of human agency and control with profound implications for the study of war and military technology and culture.

There are many points of contact between war machines and the machinic phylum. In order to chart the distribution of these points, we will consider a given war machine as composed of a hierarchy of levels, a series of components operating at successively higher levels of physical scale and organization. At the lowest level, there are weapons, both offensive and defensive. One level above, we have tactics, the art of assembling men and weapons into formations with the purpose of winning single battles. The next level is one of strategy, the art of assembling single battles into a coherent war with a given political objective. Finally, we reach the level of logistics, the art of military procurement and supply, which may be  seen as the assembling of war and the resources of the planet (fodder, grain, industrial might) that make it possible. Thus, the machines produced as the output of each level (weapons, battles, wars, etc) may be seen as units of assembly for the next level up the scale.

DeLanda’s focus is on cooperative behaviour of both inert and organic matter, positing the machinic phylum as a critical point where apparently random patterns converge into self-organizing matrices or “singularities” (think of a vortex, for example, or the challenge of implosion assembly that confronts the engineers of nuclear weapons). It follows that, for DeLanda, the emergence of war machines maps to the properties of turbulence and fluid dynamics, and the problems these systems encounter can be thought in the same terms. In this sense, the problem of the weapon artisan (the blacksmith, the gunsmith, even the operations theorist) are similar to the problems of the military commander in so far as both must track critical points or resistance and acceleration (e.g. develop abstract machines for controlling turbulence and “friction”).

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DeLanda’s analysis then takes up three metatendencies: centralized and decentralized theories of C&C and the production and logistical systems that developed in tandem with them, wargaming and game theory and their centrality in the development of nuclear strategies and doctrines, and simulation and simulacra and their significance for the development of intelligence systems. We’ll forego a thorough treatment of these tendencies in anticipation of a fully developed dissertation chapter and move on to Bosquet.

Order and Chaos on the Battlefields of Modernity

Bosquet is interested in a process of “machinic” migration comparable to DeLanda’s, however his approach is more conventional in that he is more interested in the history of ideas and less so in the anticipation of singularities. For Bosquet, technology does not emerge ex nihilo (e.g. from an unmediated encounter with an “outside”) but rather from human engagement with the world. His methodology for elaborating technology’s significance for the study of war and military technology isn’t wholly incompatible with DeLanda (citing Martin can Creveld: “behind military hardware there is hardware in general, and behind that there is technology as a certain kind of know-how, as a way of looking at the world and coping with its problems”) and he gives substantial treatment to concepts like assemblage and, in later sections of the work, cybernetics and chaos theory. However, the nuances of his approach and the specificity of his engagement with the history of military thought is enough to distinguish the work from DeLanda’s on its own terms.

The notion of a scientific way of warfare seeks not merely to capture the growing role played by science in developing and perfecting military technologies…The primary concern here is with the manner in which scientific ideas have been systematically recruited to inform thinking about the very nature of combat and the forms of military organization best suited to prevail in it. The success of modern science and technology in providing reliable predictions about the world and increasing human control over it through the discovery of fundamental laws and the construction of apparatus capable of taking advantage of them has naturally proven highly attractive to military thinkers and practitioners in search of decisiveness on the battlefield. From the eighteenth century onwards, attempts have been made to apply scientific method and insights to warfare in its totality, and many have believed, like the Baron de Jomini, that “all strategy is controlled by invariable scientific principles” only awaiting discovery by the rational mind. The scientific way of warfare therefore refers to an array of scientific rationalities, techniques, frameworks of interpretation, and intellectual dispositions which have characterized the approach to the application of socially organized violence in the modern era…Technologies are here considered not simply in terms of the material changes they have wrought but also as central conceptual and metaphorical figures around which particular scientific frameworks are organized.

Like DeLanda (and indeed, like Clausewitz and Jomini), Bosquet foregrounds chaos and develops an interpretation of various systems, techniques and “machines” military intellectuals have developed for responding to and capitalizing on the chaos of battle and conflct by rendering predictability.  Linking the multifaceted development of technologies of war to both Heideggerian enframing and Freud’s notion of ordering as “compulsion to repeat”, Bosquet argues that the process of ordering is a defining characteristic of social life and that the specific forms that ordering takes are highly consequential in their mediation of the relationship between chaos and order. And, after Derrida, he adopts the indispensable concept of “technoscience” to describe the tight symbiosis between the technologies which allow the isolation and study of physical forces and the theoretical understanding that these technologies facilitate.

The most innovative aspect of his methodology is perhaps his elaboration of the metaphor:

In order for any scientific truth to gain universal or even widespread acceptance beyond its tiny communities of expertise, it must therefore necessarily be socially and culturally reproduced and validated. This entails presenting its core ideas and notions in terms that are coherent and comprehensible to the non-initiated, generally express through the medium of language but also possibly in a visual or experiential fashion…Metaphor consists in viewing a principal conceptual domain – that is any coherent organization of experience – through the lens of another subsidiary conceptual domain….[as a mechanism of transfer] “the metaphor selects, emphasizes, suppresses and organizes features of the principal subject by implying statements about it that normally apply to the subsidiary subject” (citing Max Black). The reverse is also true in that metaphors work both ways; the subsidiary subject comes to be seen to be more like the principal subject.

Bosquet continues:

The metaphorical character of language […] is due to the fact that our language, at any given time, gives us a cross-section of our processes of concept formation or discovery…While new metaphors can modify our conceptual system, they also help us apprehend novelty. Indeed, through them we can understand the new and unfamiliar in terms of images, objects or conceptual frameworks we are already comfortable with….Metaphors can therefore constitute a means of ordering experience by imposing existing structures of meaning over the chaos and confusion produced by the eruption of novelty. It is on the basis of the new understanding afforded by metaphors that future actions can be justified and control exerted.

And so Bosquet develops his analysis from four central metaphors (the clock, the engine, the computer and the network), all of which owe their influence and generic universality to “embodiment” in both major technologies of the era and conversely, their transferal into a web of theories and practices. In this way, Bosquet’s selected metaphors “serve as both points of departure for speculation and as heuristics bolstering the theories that sprang from them.

As with DeLanda, I’m going to hold back on a more substantive treatment of those specific analyses in anticipation of a thorough development within my dissertation. Please enjoy another Taylor Swift cyberwarfare meme.

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