food for thought

Marc Stiegler
Thu, 18 Nov 1999 16:03:03 -0700

If my earlier message seemed I was "optimistic", it was an error of
transmission :-) Fifteen years ago I detailed a strategy whereby an
opposition force could electronically bring down the command/control system
for US Army Corps/Division-level units, leaving a huge percentage of our
deployed forces dead in the water (that command/control system has been
superceded twice since then, and last I time I checked did not include the
delightful flaw I leveraged in that early proposal).

Though the message was not intended necessarily to be optimistic, it was at
least inclined to be a bit humorous despite the serious component. Whether
China would wait to extract their profits or not would of course depend on a
bunch of situational conditions, including your observation that the war
could start by accident, in which case they'd be as surprised as we were,
and thus unable to exploit any foreknowledge. Also, if the war were strictly
an electronic encounter, they might choose to forgo the profits and go
straight after the financial system. But if Jiang decided they were really
going to just go toe-to-toe with Taiwan, and take back the "rebellious
province" at all costs, it would be a national decision, and the profits
would be quite valuable for funding the battle (physical war being really
really expensive). People who have studied this more than I hypothesize that
it would indeed be possible to fully fund some campaigns with the proceeds
from the derivatives markets (of course, this assumes the campaign goes as
planned..."To win a war takes billions. To lose a war takes all you've

I am optimistic in the following sense: attacking the civilian computer
systems of the United States would, I believe, have many parallels with the
Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor: it would be breathtakingly successful, and
create a substantial short-term impairment to our strength. But it would be
a blow from which we would recover with surprising speed, and once we
recovered, we would surprise everyone again with the consequences of uniting
the enraged power of the people of America behind a single goal.

Attacking our military computer systems at a key moment is, of course, an
entirely different matter, and one which I hope appropriate people lie awake
worrying about. Had my life-path not been diverted in another direction by
Xanadu and Amix, I might be one of those people today :-)


----- Original Message -----
From: <>
To: Marc Stiegler <>
Cc: <>; <>; <>
Sent: Thursday, November 18, 1999 12:05 PM
Subject: Re: food for thought

> > The good news is, China wouldn't attack the financial
> > services sector ...[until] ... they'd extracted their
> > profits.
> Marc:
> You seem to be making two profoundly questionable "rational actor"
> assumptions.
> First, you seem to assume that their attack would be globally optimized.
> More likely is that some local general will initiate an attack on purely
> tactical grounds without considering profit extraction at all.
> Second, you assume that the initiator's perceived source of value lies in
> the financial services sector.  Were *I* to mount this attack, I'ld nail
> the markets, initiate a run on the federal reserve, then take out the
> east and west coastal power grids, then the major telephone switching
> nodes.  If I were serious, I'ld do it in January or February. When it was
> all over you'ld be using dollars for wallpaper, not commerce. Remember
> happened when the Great China Railway was nationalized?
> As recent info-warfare simulations against COMPACFLT demonstrated pretty
> conclusively, this is all within the realm of what the right 7 to 9 person
> info warfare team could accomplish. Warships without coordination and
> soldiers whose supply chains cannot be organized aren't very useful.
> Given your background in command and control systems, I'm surprised at
> optimism.  Am I missing something?
> Jonathan S. Shapiro, Ph. D.
> Research Staff Member
> IBM T.J. Watson Research Center
> Email:
> Phone: +1 914 784 7085  (Tieline: 863)
> Fax: +1 914 784 7595