Monday, December 03, 2007

Monkey Mondays: Robotic Monkey Overlords!

Would you believe that brain signals from monkeys in North Carolina can control a pair of robot legs in Japan?

Read about it here!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

If It’s Going to Be…

Imagine any one of the battles during, say, the Revolutionary War. Gentleman’s wars, at the time, consisted of two uniformed military elements marching towards one another and firing inaccurate rifles, cannons, and other instruments of destruction. When I saw my first movies depicting this form of warfare I was stunned, thinking that popular military theory for engagement at that time in history was grossly inefficient.

This mode went on through the 18TH and 19TH centuries—the War of 1812, the Civil War and such. It wasn’t until later in the 19TH century that a new element started to find itself into the vernacular of warfare: Initiative. In personal behaviour, initiative is the ability and tendency to initiate: to start an action, including coming up with a proposal and giving or helping without first being requested to do so.

I’ve always equated the development of initiative with the period that John J. Pershing served actively in the United States Army. Born John Joseph Pershing on 13 September 1860, “Black Jack,” as he would come to be known, graduated from West Point in 1886, serving in the Spanish-American War, the Philippines Insurrection, and the Mexican Expedition through his service during World War I.

It was during the period of Pershing’s influence in the U.S. military and abroad that the concept of initiative would develop. Instead of lining up in columns and rows and marching towards another military unit lined up in the same fashion, initiative dictates that you do just what it suggests—move to the enemy, to contact. Oddly enough, the underlying concepts for the military doctrine of initiative can be seen in doctrines long before its coming of age in the 20TH century. Sun Tzu is known to teach that the commander calculates, in part, battlefield conditions prior to entering armed foray. General Clausewitz popularized the notion of battlefield geometry amongst his contemporaries. General Nathanial Bedford Forest, from the (American) Civil War era put it simply: Be there “the firstest with the mostest.”

Initiative is a force multiplier—a single person’s dedication amplifies the efforts of many in a single group of people organized for the same purpose. It also sets the stage for higher levels of economics to take effect and add to the synergy of the team.

Continuing with the analogy, initiative built into a formidable concept after The Great War and morphed into something that helped General George S. Patton command his troops through Europe in World War II and gain more ground than any other army in history. He did this, in part, because of the indoctrination of initiative into formal military education and the manifestation of initiative into the main battle tank—an awesome feat of military weaponry if ever one existed. Initiative would go on and help form the basis for the Airland Battle doctrine that reigned during the Cold War…but that is a discussion for another time.

Remember this: Take the initiative…because if it is going to be, it is up to you to make it happen.