One of the things I have done over the last six months has involved identifying and observing hive mind constructs in the real world. This happened in the context of examining the publicly visible process of foreign policy making. I wrote thirty three posts that are at least tangentially related to this pursuit. Hive mind constructs will eventually win out over point source propaganda, but it won’t be pretty to watch.
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Links and short descriptions of various sequential endeavors and their findings
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Monolithic corporate forces heavily invested in the status quo are wrestling with networked humans and finding they face a sort of memetic Devil’s Snare. Their struggles may seem to be momentarily successful, but they are only educating their opponent as to their strengths and weaknesses.
The concept of the corporation didn’t really take off until the Catholic church relaxed usury laws three centuries ago. Compound interest depends on exponential growth and humans have pretty much hit the wall in terms of what our environment will support. Any one of climate change or peak oil could undo the perception that we are all consumers living in a conglomeration of free markets. Those two have arrived pretty much simultaneous with a financial sector meltdown and we are entering a period where our society will wind down to the Earth’s solar maximum. A value system based on exponential growth will not survive a disproof by counter example, and Mother Nature responds to neither paper injunctions nor heartfelt supplications.
Some of those networked humans are starting to realize that they need not tear down the corporatocracy by hand and they are already thinking about how and what to preserve. What role does a hive mind play in this? What role can it play when electrical power is intermittent and the supply chains needed for electronic devices are interrupted?
Having had some success in domestic policy decision making, with Progressive Congress News being the final result, I thought I would see if there was anything that needed doing in the realm of foreign policy. Wikistrat, [allegedly]the world’s first Massively Multiplayer Online Consultancy (MMOC), was something that was immediately visible once I graphed my personal contacts. I wrote six posts about them as I mapped their network.
Foreign Policy Process – I graphed my contacts in the foreign policy field, I found a bunch of the top organizations and subscribed to their news feeds, and then I noticed the Wikistrat group.
Foreign Policy Organizations & Individuals – two of Wikistrat’s 156 experts were LinkedIn contacts for me. I explored the subset of members who had Twitter accounts and speculated as to what additional information could be learned about them with just social media as a starting point.
Exploring Wikistrat With Maltego – Starting with the Twitter accounts of the roughly two dozen Wikistrat members, I extracted the information from current discussions of one of the busier members, hunting for signs of issue focused communities of which the Wikistrat analysts are members. I didn’t make any great discovery, this is just an exposition on the process I used.
Wikistrat’s Analysts & Friends – I extracted the list of well connected contacts for the identifiable analyst Twitter accounts. A small connected network was revealed, but it broke down as soon as I removed the organizational role accounts that were found. This fits my expectation – Wikistrat analysts have rich interactions, but they didn’t self-organize with Twitter as a base and it seems likely they don’t participate in public theater in support of their conclusions.
Wikistrat Full Network As Of 3/30/2013 – I finally had a full Wikistrat map – the names of every member and their associated profile on the company web site. Some had LinkedIn or Twitter accounts, with the professional network being found for 40% of members and Twitter accounts being located for 20%. Overlap of LinkedIn and Twitter accounts was rare – only 2% – 3% show this pattern. I applied Named Entity Recognition to the profiles on both Wikistrat and LinkedIn. I thought I might be able to identify geographic clusters, employment clusters, or education clusters. The Wikistrat profiles are very regular in their layout, but quite resistant to the efforts of the Alchemy and OpenCalais NER products. A hand coded script with a little regex could be applied to the Wikistrat profiles, but I have not continued down that path.
Hashtags & Humans – I retrieved the most recent dozen tweets for all of the Wikistrat analysts, then extracted the hashtags they were using. I found that there were some hashtags that were congregation points, but that it was more common for there to be clusters of related tags.
Maltego provides a slider that allows four different volumes of information to be returned from a transform, their term for a query. The settings are 12, 50, 255, or 10,000. Twitter related transforms often stop at 100 entities, a limit enforced by Maltego publisher Paterva’s servers. Named Entity Recognition services are tuned for actual language and don’t perform terribly well on bodies of text with specific formats, nor were they all that useful in terms of picking out entities from tweets. Once tweets were available, hashtag extraction produced useful information, but there are performance constraints here as well.
Technical performance considerations aside, this process did reveal useful information, and some old wisdom from noted social network analyst Yoga Berra are still quite applicable today:
A detailed index of sources and data types to support source awareness and intelligence collection.
What constitutes an open source of intelligence? How many of these sources do you consult in the course of your work? And what format do they take? i-intelligence has put together a Taxonomy of OSINT Sources to support source awareness, intelligence collection and general information literacy.
These questions are not without merit. They inevitably pop up in the course of a seminar or consulting assignment. To help answer them, the i-intelligence team has pulled together a “Taxonomy of OSINT Sources”. The taxonomy is intended to serve a number of purposes:
ROBERT STEELE: A large company paid me to write this in 2004, ostensibly as a white paper to be delivered to then newly-appointed DNI John Negoponte. In fairness to that company, even if they were honest on this point and not just buying my playbook, the prime contract they won with the Open Source Center (OSC) then being managed by Doug Naquin was designed to fail — OSE has never understood OSINT as HUMINT, and is further handicapped by the CIA’s Clandestine Service forbidding them from engaging Subject Matter Experts (SME) outside their narrow online surfing and translation lanes. Together with my white paper faxed to then DCI John Deutch, and my memorandum to Vice President Joe Biden, this remains one of my most useful documents for actually creating a national Open Source Agency.