Cao Cao did nothing wrong

“I will rather I wronged all the people under the heavens than for all the people under the heavens to wrong me.”

Cao Cao

I listen to every episode of the Cognitive Crucible, but I don’t always post about them. It’s only if something jumps out at me.

And this time, I almost made it through the last two episodes without jotting anything down, and they both got me as they came to a close.

In episode #111, John Bicknell speaks with Dr. Victoria Coleman on her role as the Chief Scientist for the United States Air Force.

Good episode, I was enjoying it, and just as it was closing, two interesting things happened. First, when John started the “lightning round,” where he says a word or phrase and has the guest respond with whatever comes up, he offers “video games.” Dr. Coleman responded that she doesn’t play video games, but understands the importance.

Ok, nothing crazy there.

But then, when asked to recommend a book, Dr. Coleman offered the Chinese epic Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

There it is.

At the risk of oversimplifying, Romance of the Three Kingdoms is an epic novel that tells the tale of Chinese unification in the second and third century. Think A History of the Peloppenesian War meets Game of Thrones.

What struck me here, though, was the fact that this is a title and a series that many readers of this blog will know from the video game series that is based on the novel. I first learned of the treachery of Dong Zhuo, the brotherhood of Liu Bei, Guan Yu, and Zhang Fei, and the ferocity of Lu Bu through playing the game as a kid (and as an adult). It’s one of the games that introduced me to the idea of palace intrigue and political warfare.

Incidentally, I had used a screen grab from one of the games as the header for a recent post on irregular warfare and the role of diplomats. Diplomacy (and treachery) plays a critical role in Romance, and it seeemed fitting.

If you’re not paying attention to gaming, you’re missing out. Which is why I scribbled the note down here. In the space of just a few moments, there was a serious connection missed between these two things – an epic Chinese novel and video games.

And innovation is connecting.

Now onto episode #112 with Jake Sotriadis.

Another fine episode, this one on the concept of future studies. Almost finished it, and then at the ~43:00 mark they wrap up with the “concept of the right answer”:

“When we’re talking about problems in the strategic environment that are linked to human nature, you realize very quickly that you’re not going to be able to “quant” your way – if you will – out of the problem.”

Thank you.

No matter how many people point this out, senior leaders demand we put a number on it.

There has to be another way.


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“You picked the wrong diplomats”

That’s a line from Ambassador James Jeffrey from the most recent Irregular Warfare Initiative podcast.

There’s a lot in this episode. What I found particularly interesting was a light dissection of the culture at the State Department from a seasoned diplomat. It’s one thing for a defense official to bemoan peculiar aspects of another agency, but another when it comes from someone who has spent much more time within it.

Worth the listen for that alone.

Episode 60 of the Irregular Warfare Podcast explores both the recent history and the future character of insurgency. Our guests begin by arguing that insurgency will play an important role in great power competition, although states’ objectives will change from the transformational nation-building goals of the post-9/11 era to more hard-nosed security and political objectives. They then argue that despite perceived recent failures in counterinsurgency in cases such as the US intervention in Afghanistan, insurgencies rarely win—this has led insurgent groups to adopt new theories of victory. Lastly, our guests discuss policy implications, especially how to balance military and civilian means to counter insurgency.

INSURGENTS RARELY WIN: ADAPTATION IN THE FACE OF FAILURE

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Sing to me of a time long past

There was the leak, then the hint, and now the announcement.

There are some games that I play simply because I enjoy them, and there are others that teach lessons.

This is one of them. This is Game of Thrones.

I’ll be playing when it comes out and I’m looking forward to going through it for a third time, this time, teasing out whatever I can.

I’ve referenced Tactics Ogre in the past on topics ranging from military deception (2013), war advice (2014), the permanence of death (2014), and proxy wars (2021).

Off the top of my head, there’s room to explore irregular warfare, great power competition, propaganda, rumors, loyalty, military careerism, and more.

This one goes deep.

There’s so much more to pull – and I’m excited to get the chance. Look for more this November.


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Tactics Ogre Reborn, almost official

the knights of lodis

There was the hint.

And now it’s almost official.

Still no announcement, but it looks like I know how I’ll be spending the winter.

There is so much to pull out of this game.


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Fantastical Tactical Operations

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Episode 70 of the Kojima Frequency.

There’s a great conversation in this episode on the fantastical elements of the Metal Gear series.

I first got into Metal Gear because my upstairs neighbor had the game on the original NES and introduced it to me. I didn’t have an NES yet. The game seemed very “military.” My upstairs neighbor was a cop which somehow made the game seem more legit.

In the game, my job was to infiltrate this base, avoid detection, and use all kinds of special equipment.

The game was difficult and the plot was simple.

I fell in love with it instantly.

I was young, and I liked it because it felt somehow, realistic.

If there were fantastical elements of the original games, they never made an impression on me when I was young. It seemed to be a straight-laced military game.

❗️

Years later, when Metal Gear Solid was announced for the Playstation, I felt excited and validated. Most of my friends at the time didn’t know about the earlier games. They thought this was something new. I felt like an insider because I had played the original.

I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, but from the early videos and articles I read in gaming magazines, I figured I’d be getting some kind of military infiltration simulation.

Something like the earlier games.

And that’s what I got.

Until the fight with Psycho Mantis.

Then, the game started getting weird.

I remember playing through the torture scene with Ocelot. My friend got up to get his turbo controller to help. And as if on cue, this happened.

I didn’t quite know what to make of it. I didn’t understand it.

The further I went into the game, the weirder it got.

I didn’t know why, but I liked it.

When Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty was released, I was already in the Army. I bought the game on release day and played through the tanker mission. But then work got in the way and I never finished it.

More years passed, and a friend sent me a copy of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater for my birthday when it came out, but it stayed in the shrinkwrap.

Too busy.

It’s only after MGSV came out that I returned to the series, and I’m better for it.

What I find fascinating about the series today is the way that everyone seems to have a personal relationship with it, but each is different.


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The Magic of Monkey Island

monkey island image nostalgia blue sky light

First time listening to the Triple Click podcast.

I’m a big Monkey Island fan, and I’m glad I’m not the only one who found the opening nostalgic when I originally played it, and the same is true today.


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Remember the basics of CQC

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A very short piece over at From the Green Notebook on the importance of giving practical advice to your mentees.

The one thing I wish I had known before I started my last job is that, in mentoring relationships, the mentee is almost always looking for practical advice – not cosmic wisdom. 

The One Thing Series: Mentoring Through the Gauntlet

Sometimes you don’t want a soliloquy on the Philosopher’s Legacy, when all you need to know are the basics of CQC.


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Flow

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I read Flow years ago. If you haven’t, you’ve probably heard of the concept.

And if you haven’t heard of the concept, you’ve probably experienced it.

What is “flow?”

Flow denotes the wholistic sensation present when we act with total involvement. It is the kind of feeling after which one nostalgically says: “that was fun”; or “that was enjoyable”; It is the state in which action follows upon action according to an internal logic which seems to need no conscious intervention on our part. We experience it as a unified flowing from one moment to the next, in which we feel in control of our actions, and in which there is little distinction between self and environment; between stimulus and response; or between past, present, and future.

Play and Intrinsic Rewards (1975)

A recent episode of Very Bad Wizards examined the article that initially discussed the concept, titled Play and Intrinsic Rewards (1975).

If the idea is completely alien, it is worth reading the article, and maybe the book. Once you understand the concept of flow, it becomes clear that if you want to get anything done, you need to be able to focus your time and attention. Blocking out your time becomes essential.

But there was something else I took away from the episode and reading the article. It’s the way that the research was conducted. It’s not overly quantitative. It’s not sorcery.

We started our study by talking to a variety of people who have invested a great deal of time and energy in play activities.

After these pilot talks, a standard interview and questionnaire form was developed and administered to 30 rock climbers, 30 basketball players, 30 modern dancers, 30 male chess players, 25 female chess players, and 30 composers of modern music.

Today, this type of study would likely be deemed too simplistic.

But if the results are legit, then who cares?

The best ideas come from old books.


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Let the AI do it for you

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What if you could just let the AI do it for you? Just feed it the prompt, and let the AI give you a 98% solution?

Hmm…

AI prompt discussion begins at the ~51:00 mark.

You can try a version of this yourself here.


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