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Life imitating code...open warfare

Open source warfare...an allusion I could have done without.

There are some open-source allusions that I'd rather not see. I've quoted from John Robb (the military analyst, not the now-wealthy Zimbra-ite :-), and today I wish I didn't have to. But open source is creeping into the military lexicon, and here's why:

"What we are seeing is the empowerment of the individual to conduct war," ...While the concept of asymmetric warfare dates back at least 2000 years, to the Chinese military strategist Sun-tzu, the conflict in Iraq has redefined the nature of such struggles....As events are making painfully clear, Robb says, warfare is being transformed from a closed, state-sponsored affair to one where the means and the know-how to do battle are readily found on the Internet and at your local RadioShack. This open global access to increasingly powerful technological tools, he says, is in effect allowing "small groups to?declare war on nations."

Need a missile-guidance system? Buy yourself a Sony PlayStation 2. Need more capability? Just upgrade to a PS3. Need satellite photos? Download them from Google Earth or Microsoft's Virtual Earth. Need to know the current thinking on IED attacks? Watch the latest videos created by insurgents and posted on any one of hundreds of Web sites or log on to chat rooms where you can exchange technical details with like-minded folks.

Robb calls this new type of conflict "open-source warfare," because the manner in which insurgent groups are organizing themselves, sharing information, and adapting their strategies bears a strong resemblance to the open-source movement in software development.

Well, except for the small point that no one is dying in the open-source software movement. The stakes in the technology world are very small, compared to the real world of warfare and conflict.

So, while I think the comparison is apt, it's one that I'd rather do without.