Too Big, Too Fast & Too Powerful To Ignore -- Self-Assembling Dynamic Networks Gather Momentum

London, UK - 18th October 2011, 3:05 GMT

Dear ATCA Open & Philanthropia Friends

[Please note that the views presented by individual contributors are not necessarily representative of the views of ATCA, which is neutral. ATCA conducts collective Socratic dialogue on global opportunities and threats.]

ATCA 5000 only made one forecast for 2011: Beware "Self-Assembling Dynamic Networks" and boundary-less tribalism! Little did we realise when making the forecast that this year would see:

a. The Arab Spring from Tunisia to Egypt, from Libya to Syria, and from Bahrain to Yemen;
b. Unprecedented riots and looting in London and other British cities like Manchester and Birmingham;
c. Luxury automobiles of the elite being set alight in Berlin and other German cities like Düsseldorf and Hamburg;
d. Israel's biggest protests in its history as nearly half a million people took to the streets in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa to demand social justice;
e. Chilean students and teachers' chaotic anti-government demonstrations in Santiago, Arica and Valparaiso coupled with massive confrontations with riot police;
f. India's unprecedented campaign against systemic corruption led by spontaneous grass-root protests championed by thought-leaders like Anna Hazare;
g. Labour riots in China's manufacturing heartlands where police and fire vehicles were set on fire during clashes in Zengcheng, Xintang, Chaozhou, Lichuan etc; and
h. The “Occupy Wall Street” movement in New York and across the United States spreading over the Atlantic into Europe, Asia and Oceania, with violent consequences.

What is common about these global protests is the rapid-fire way in which like-minded individuals have come together around the world -- almost in the blink of an eye -- to protest at a somewhat broken and corrupt financial and economic power system that appears to them to be favouring the ruling elite, putting the planet in peril and may have clearly run out of fresh ideas to rejuvenate itself. The incumbent leadership ignores such protests and mass gatherings at its own peril.

“Occupy Wall Street” protestor communicates his message clearly in New York

Parallels with The Great French Revolution

What we may be witnessing around the world is almost like the early stages of the Great French Revolution which began in 1789. "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche" or "Let them eat cake" is very much the response of the incumbent leaders -- as well as their advisors and financiers -- in a similar fashion perhaps to Marie-Antoinette, the Queen consort of King Louis XVI. Three years later in 1792, things looked very different, and by 1793, both of them were no more post their appointments with Madame Guillotine, along with 40,000 others.

How to Avoid Extinction?

Buckminster Fuller, the famous 20th century inventor, systems theorist, philosopher and architect, said “Quite clearly, our task is predominantly metaphysical, for it is how to get all of humanity to educate itself swiftly enough to generate spontaneous social behaviours that will avoid extinction.” The self-assembling dynamic networks phenomena demonstrate that humanity may now have finally begun to acquire the knowledge, the communication capability and transparency to attempt an answer to Buckminster Fuller’s fundamental question.

The original ATCA 5000 briefing from 29th December 2010 states:

1. SADNs: "'Self-Assembling Dynamic Networks' is one phrase we should all memorise to prepare ourselves and to understand 2011. This phrase encapsulates the defining aspect of both the year ahead and the years to come, as we embark on the second decade of the 21st century. Whether we act as individuals, families, communities, businesses, government departments or organisations, there can be no question that we have to listen, learn and adapt according to the massive paradigm shift created by self-assembling dynamic networks and their by-product: boundary-less tribalism."

2. Early Metamorphosis: "Self-assembling dynamic networks enabled via digital means are increasingly leaving their indelible mark across the globe. This is clearly the beginning and much more is to follow in the months and years ahead."

3. All Silos Penetrated: "Just like biological systems, self-assembling dynamic networks are increasingly manifest in every aspect of human thought, behaviour and endeavour in the 21st century enabled by mobile telephones and the Internet. It is no longer a question of when or where... societies, governments, businesses and non-governmental-organisations are all being buffeted by the consequences of this rising phenomenon. Geo-politics, foreign policy, domestic governance, trans-national business, financial markets and online platforms are all being subject to the vagaries of self-assembling dynamic networks in countless ways."

4. Key Questions: "How do traditionally established entities and institutions counter the worldwide threats of self-assembling dynamic networks whilst harnessing the global opportunities they provide? As these newly emerging self-assembling dynamic communities have an ever-rising direct impact on our daily lives -- our so-called touch-and-feel reality -- how do we take note that the 21st century world has changed beyond compare? Given that the metamorphosis is now pregnant with opportunities and risks, how does one police self-assembling dynamic networks?"

5. Key Features: "The key features of self-assembling dynamic networks are as follows:

a. Asymmetric power
b. Unintended consequences
c. No central control
d. No intelligent blueprint or formalised design
e. Rapid scaling
f. Unprecedented speed
g. Trans-national synchronicity
h. Total transparency
i. Creation of boundary-less tribalism
j. New order born out of chaos"

6. Point of Control: "The fundamental issue is this: in the context of self-assembling dynamic networks, it is difficult to identify a central point of control, because there may be none! This is the definition of distributed architectures of which mobile telephones and the Internet as well as social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are prime examples. This brave new world of self-assembling dynamic networks takes us much further than the earlier generation of internet applications such as search engines, online shopping and banking. It creates an interface between cyberspace and the real world which we all inhabit."

7. Tribalism: "Predominant characteristic of tribes throughout time is the need to share and to communicate ideas, thoughts, observations and views. Digital networks achieve this objective by connecting like-minded members of such new tribes across continents! As the principal players move around the arena, a self-assembled dynamic network structure emerges that no single player can control. Digital networks have taken tribal behaviour to a whole new level of collective consciousness: dynamic self-assembling tribes that come into existence almost instantaneously. Human civilisation has gone from local to national and from national to trans-national tribal behaviour and congregation enabled by digital catalysts."

8. Strength: "With the growth of the Internet and with its capacity to communicate any and every idea or thought to anyone on the planet 24/7, we have created the ultimate platform for tribal behaviour. Human beings are social animals and need some form of community. Since the time our ancestors gathered together in caves for protection and food we have formed tribes and exhibit tribal behaviour. As civilisation has advanced our tribes have become more numerous and specific. They have developed into institutions, communities and sovereign nations. Now they are manifest as digital tribes, which can be created instantaneously as self-assembling dynamic networks."

9. Big Society versus Digital Tribalism: "The rise of modern civilisation with its secularism and isolationism has done much to break down the traditional tribal bonds. Social observers underscore our weakening traditional tribal influences, noting that young people's lack of enthusiasm to join community groups today can be translated as a lack of social responsibility. However, the conclusion that young people don't want to participate in tribal behaviour does not hold true. They do! It’s just that the format and structure of 21st century trans-national tribal networks is somewhat different from local community participation. It can be described as social networking at one level and a vigorous digital market for the exchange of ideas at another level."

10. Asymmetric Power of Digital Jungle Drums: "The power of social networking, combined with mobile telephony and handheld access to the Internet, can literally change any political, business or social landscape rapidly. In addition, social networking in some ways is virtually poised not just to dominate digital networks, but also to redefine and refine them. In essence, what social networking can do combined with self-assembling dynamic tribal structures is to mobilise a shared interest very quickly. It can become a viral mechanism for the transfer of new ideas via peer-to-peer communications. This is no different from old fashioned jungle drums, which have evolved in the 21st century, but the principle remains the same. In effect, every digital tribe becomes a self-constructed transient media channel with unbelievable asymmetric power! Very different from traditional fixed media channels with massive set up, advertising and maintenance costs as well as regulatory frameworks and strict codes of conduct that limit their appeal, reach and richness. How relevant are those traditional media to the youth, who represent humanity's future.


"The phenomenon of self-assembling dynamic networks manifest as boundary-less digital tribes is accelerating and gaining critical mass. We overlook the ability of digital networks to galvanise strong tribal behaviour with asymmetric global power at our peril. Critics of the explosion of digital tribal networks point to their negative aspects:

. Lack of privacy, ie, 100% transparency;
. Capacity for the viral spread of rumour and mis-information;
. Proliferation of useless digital noise alongside useful information; and
. Breakdown of traditional tribalism.

Whilst noting the asymmetric threats posed by digital networks, including hijack and distributed denial of service attacks, it is important to remember the much larger asymmetric opportunity. Digital tribes can be beneficially harnessed as a vehicle for desired socio-economic, geo-political and environmental metamorphosis. As change agents, digital tribes may prove to be second to none."


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