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Swine Flu as System Perturbation

Cross-posted at Dreaming 5GW

Rule Set – System Perturbation – New Rule Set

Going back to some of my very first considerations of Fifth Gradient Warfare (Fifth Generation Warfare at the time), this very simple three part progression is the main concept that informs the process of the directed manipulation of systems that is at the heart of 5GW.  The attention that is being given to the Swine Flu outbreak offers a very good opportunity to explore the utility of this process.

The Bad:

The worst of all system perturbations is exemplified by the Black Swan scenario. This is a system perturbation that is completely unexpected and because there a no rule sets or few weak rule sets that have been established to deal with such situations, the chaos that is created is potentially massive. It may be so massive, in fact, that the system never recovers, that new rule sets aren’t able to be created or are even weaker than before, making the system even more fragile. The H5N1 Bird Flu (or other pandemic illness) is sometimes talked about as such a system perturbation due to fears that no matter what preparations are made ahead of an outbreak, the health system will be quickly overwhelmed and cease to be effective regardless of the response. While the Swine Flu doesn’t seem to be, at this point, as dangerous as Bird Flu, it is behaving in a manner that is consistent with how a Bird Flu type pandemic might begin.

The Not Quite as Bad:

While a Fifth Gradient actor might well engineer a Black Swan type system perturbation scenario in order to influence the creation of new rule sets, there is an alternate approach known as ‘Boiling the Frog’. In this sort of scenario the system perturbation is very controlled in scope in order to place calculated stresses on a system. The point of this may be to cause a collapse of systems much like a Black Swan event, but it can also serve a different agenda that highlights the ability of Fifth Gradient doctrines to be used on multiple sides of a confrontation or conflict. In this kind of situation 5GW doctrine may be used in order to strengthen as much as weaken rule sets. Swine Flu offers an opportunity for this kind of 5GW manipulation.

Using Swine Flu to turn a Black Swan Grey:

Because Swine Flu appears to be very similar to Bird Flu yet, less dangerous (at least at this point), it offers a 5GW actor (who may have potentially created such as system perturbation or may merely seize the moment) the opportunity to stress and manipulate the infections disease response system in order to strengthen those parts of the system (rule sets) that are effective, eliminate or repair the parts of the system that are ineffective, and create new rule sets that cover situations that hadn’t been considered before (for example, the most infectious part of the Swine Flu so far has been the uninformed panic it has inspired on users of Twitter. Filters for such occurrences are being created by the community and will doubtless come into use on Twitter and in other social networking platforms in future situations).

Consider the Anthrax letters that followed in the wake of September 11, 2001. While they were undoubtedly the work of a very angry and disturbed individual, the response they caused served more to strengthen the system than it did to permanently disrupt the system. Now mail is scanned for agents such as Anthrax and potential targets of such attacks are much more aware of the risks as well as the correct response to a potential attack. Additionally, law enforcement now has the experience of responding to such attacks and what is involved in tracking those who would perpetrate those sorts of attacks.

Swine Flu offers the potential for a similar sort of  ‘practice run’ for an outbreak of pandemic influenza. The rule sets involved will now be subjected to real-life stresses that cannot be createdby any ‘simulation’ and will involve, by necessity, all aspects of the response system at the same time. Only at such times can the true strengths and vulnerabilities of the system be recognized.


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