The Hive Mind Operating System — origin and current status
The activism I am pursuing today differs from skateboard park activism I began pursuing in the mid-1980’s in a couple of important ways.
When one aspires to bring about the construction of a public skateboard park, there are typically two bottlenecks which disproportionately inhibit progress:
- siting (where the park will be located)
Allow me to elaborate upon why this is important.
About 20 years ago I was working at Xerox, concurrently serving as Executive Director for a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provided resources and assistance to about 1,700 grassroots activists typically operating at the municipal level (Skaters for Public Skateparks).
At the time I was straddling the professional and the activist domains, borrowing from each to improve my capability in both.
To that end, I quickly realized how disciplines from the domain of operational management might help activists become more efficient and effective.
These frameworks introduce a standardized set of statistical process controls for quantifying and qualifying operational efficiency and quality.
These same “statistical process controls” provided a standardized language by which a distributed and culturally diverse organization might successfully negotiate operational improvement.
This is precisely what’s needed in the domain of activism.
A very simple example is one of which most most people are familiar: Pareto‘s law, which basically says that 80% of your problems typically come from 20% of your customers or 20% of your code, more commonly known as the “80/20 rule.“
Of course the problem with this is that it was not realistic to assume that activists would invest in educating themselves from the domain of manufacturing to become more effective.
Indeed, most steadfast activists are pursuing activism part time, and as a hobby.
What was therefore needed were the benefits of the tools, rather than the tools themselves.
There’s a “business fiction” novel called “The Goal” (by Eliyahu Goldratt) that introduces something called “the theory of constraints,” which states in simple, easy-to-understand terms a methodology for bringing about systemic improvements to productivity and throughput.
This novel introduces a few unforgettable metaphors that illustrate how the maximum throughput of a system is limited by its shared bottleneck.
For instance, the novel’s protagonist is a Boy Scout leader, and while leading some of his scouts on a hike, he tried to solve the problem of how to manage his manufacturing facility at the same time he tried to figure out how to get the scouts from getting so separated and spread out along the trail.
The problem was: he had 10 scouts, and a couple of them were strong and fast, and one of them was slow and was unfortunately carrying a bunch of canned foods, making him the slowest hiker.
The scout leader redistributed the load among the hikers, and ultimately placed the slowest hiker in front, which helped him realize that his manufacturing facility was likewise constrained to the throughput of the manufacturing system’s shared bottleneck.
At the time I had been contacting activists from around the world who had successfully navigated the process for getting a skatepark, and I asked them to send me their notes.
I received binders and portfolios, and began to spread them out so I could study the process and try and identify bottlenecks.
This helped me visualize the process as a flow, revealing how site acquisition and fundraising disproportionately inhibited the acquisition of a public skatepark.
Working with Peter Whitley and other seasoned activists, we defined a five-phase process, which is still used today in describing the “skateboard park acquisition process,” and we used it as a framework for content delivery and ultimately a playbook which contained best practices.
One of the benefits of delivering content consistent with this five-phase framework is that it delivered what Pete described as a “typology,“ which helped activists immediately orient themselves to the process, helping them recognize how far they’ve come, and what steps are necessary, and in which order.
And it was in this manner that we pieces together a playbook, entitled the Public Skatepark Development Guide, which went through two printings, is now available online, and is serving as the framework of a video series helping today’s grassroots activist quickly become more effective in their endeavors.
I retired from skateboard activism in 2008, the same year that the City of Portland formally announced a skateboard park in Portland’s Gabriel Park, which was the endeavor that got me involved and activism in the first place, in the early 1980s.
I considered it a good time to declare a sabbatical so I could consider what to do next.
What I did was: increase my presence within the domain of online activism, inclusive to my work with hackers, and I continued to reconsider the activist model, reviewing and making edits to the process where I could discern it needed modification as it was used in different domains.
I was introduced to the domain of computer and network security in the mid to late 1980s, when I was in the military, and tasked in the role of a combat communications operator, implementing technologies that came to be known as Internet technologies.
I handled classified messages and cryptography, so I was taught the disciplines of information and operational security, which made me a natural fit in the domain of hactivism, and my exit from skateboard activism coincided with my formal entry into the information security domain, managing research and product development for companies like Tripwire, Tenable, iovation (now owned by Transunion), and others.
As with skateboard activism, this enabled me to straddle two domains, borrowing from each to improve my performance in both.
For instance, as a subject matter expert in the domain of security, it was my role to define algorithms that could identify fraud and theft behaviors, which I could do because I had learned them firsthand.
Likewise, because I had insights into how the instrumentation of security products could detect hackers, I knew how to navigate the labyrinth undetected, which probably has something to do with why I was unceremoniously ejected from that domain in 2017, after about a year of helping the FBI improve their own algorithmic detection of fake accounts and automated psychological operations from 2016 to 2017.
As an interesting and ironic twist, after about six months of harassment, I was then soft-pitched an opportunity to work with someone with ties to the intelligence community, and soon found myself serving as chief technology officer (CTO), designing decentralized governance software for stateless and refugee populations.
In 2017 our team received recognition from UNESCO for our work in support of Syrian refugees, and I found myself speaking with Palestinians, Rohingya, indigenous, etc.
That company (Bitnation) became insolvent, and because I didn’t want to lay off my engineering team I defined a vehicle for achieving a financial self-supporting model, and as the engineers quit Bitnation, I hired them into my newly formed company, 214 Alpha.
The name “214 Alpha” borrows from a “cross hive” research collaboration I’d launched and managed among hacktivists, trolls, and on-line activists a few years prior.
We rewrote the self-governance software from scratch, in the first rewrite distancing ourselves from blockchain, and now we are on our fourth major software revision, which reflects the rapid state of evolution in the domain of “decentralized software.”
Our software provides the basis of self-governance, inclusive to a peer-to-peer community bank, and runs on Apple iOS, Google Android, desktop, and IOT devices such as smart meters and smart appliances.
But I have learned that the action isn’t in software or technology; the bottleneck has to do with activating human capital, down at the grassroots level.
The people who are most capable of delivering a viable and practical solution are typically the people who care of the least about technology, and the most about how to launch and sustain a persistent and resilient activist endeavor, through the activation of human capital.
As I had learned as a skatepark activist: the people most capable of successfully navigating this endeavor are women, as I affectionately call them: “the moms.”
Of course this doesn’t mean that men are not capable, it’s just that men tend to lack the wisdom necessary to create enduring activist endeavors, they tend to be too steeped in ego, and frankly don’t know when to shut up and let others take the stage.
In contrast, women between the ages of about 40 to 70 are ideal: they tend to be thick-skinned, they are used to being talked over by men trapped at the intersection of ignorance and arrogance, and they’ve learned how to activate human capital without ready access to money (known as gift economy).
They are used to getting the job done within impossible constraints, and accustomed to having the product of their successful endeavors inauthentically claimed by men.
Again, there are exceptions to the rule.
I am intimately familiar with many exceptions, where men are authentically capable of servant leadership, and where women conduct themselves as men, claiming the work of others as their own, and stepping all over their sisters.
Point being: the rule is not hard and fast, but 80/20: 80% of the most effective activists tend to be about 20% of those involved, and almost all of them are older women.
Returning to the bottlenecks which inhibited the acquisition of skateboard parks:
- siting (where the park will be located)
Current endeavors are not limited to skateboard parks, and many of them are more related to the acquisition of social and communal services that are beginning to vanish from society as the lowest fifth of our culture’s economic distribution hits the skids.
This changes things, so no longer are we technically needing to find a location (siting), which therefore favorably changes the financial constraints.
Something I learned in the domain of online activism and hacktivism, as well as skateboard park activism was the strength of activating a virtual affinity group, with membership spanning several geographies.
Even 20–25 years ago we would orchestrate and launch what we called “skatepark jihads,” designed to flood a city, its media, and it’s municipality with information.
These “jihads” delivered significant throughput to one or two activists who were in the target in geography, giving them something like what the military calls a “force multiplier.”
As Executive Director I would frequently travel to some of these small towns and cities, which elevated the perceived credibility and value of the community’s solitary activist.
Currently we refer to these activities as “omni-channel,” which relates to the orchestration of virtual resources in support of real world activism, more commonly known as “eyes in the skies meets boots on the ground.”
Alas: and that metaphor brings me full circle to how I had been introduced to this model in the first place: in the military.
As a combat communications operator, we were deployed into certain environments where there were threadbare resources on the ground, but we were protected by “our guardian angels,” representing a hybrid model where ground resources orchestrate their execution with forces overhead.
There are many derivatives of this omni-channel approach, and the execution of light-weight omni-channel models can accelerate the acquisition of resources without the ordinary dependency upon physical amenities and the requisite acquisition of money.
For instance, in this brief video I discuss how a modern version of the original five-phase skate park acquisition model has been modified to reflect recent experiences, currently called the Community Activation and Launch Methodology (CALM):
As you can see, the video outlines how activation of “soft capital” (normally known as a gift economy) can help activate the requisite human capital necessary to launch and sustain an activist endeavor against steep odds.
By no means do I believe the optimization of this “CALM” model has achieved diminishing returns.
In the last few years I have continued my collaboration with fellow activists in various Asian and eastern European nations, which has helped us consider continued modifications to the framework, in particular to identity verification methodologies that allow us to maintain operational continuity in the context of high attrition and those who constantly “shed their skins.”
What I like is that we’ve been able to make use of mainstream methodologies from the domain of manufacturing to continue to improve the efficacy and efficiency of what we used to call the “hive mind operating system.”
The greatest challenge we currently face is that the model necessitates people to be nerds to achieve full effectiveness, so we continue working on how to deliver this “hive-mind operating system” with the ease of a well-told joke.
Bluntly: too few have the chops to sit and read some long winded bullshit on the Internet about how some guy reused manufacturing disciplines to help orchestrate more effective activism.
Most people need to see the benefit of the tool rather than understand the tool’s function, so we continually test and modify the model within the context of hoaxes and pranks online, generally referred to as “trolls.”
This same “hive mind operating system” is how a diverse community of volunteer pranksters orchestrates their efforts so they can deliver viral pranks into the arms of the media, which is an achievement considered a trophy within some circles.
The embrace of irreverent humor is intentional: it keeps egos in check, and humor is how people can more easily remember that which is esoteric.
Additionally, the shared investment in the creation of an inside joke brings about the requisite conditions for achieving and sustaining what we call a “delay tolerant execution,” which means that we are able to continue operational continuity during complete radio silence.
If you’ve spent months and even years orchestrating pranks with a subculture of fellow comedians, you are able to relax into a certain energetic symbiosis that enables you to relax into a shared operational state, even if no actual communication is being pursued.
And it’s in this manner we are able to continually improve, even under duress, and even while in a state of “radio silence.”